Previously, we have talked about KYC or Know Your Client. KYC is a rule from the non-profit Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), created in the United States in 2007, in response to the growing fears of economic collapse that could come from underregulated securities firms. One part of the FINRA rule set created in 2012 is KYC (Rule 2090). Another is Rule 2111 (Suitability). It is important to mention both of these rules, as the topic for today, KYP, or Know Your Product, directly relates to them in their effort to protect investors.
The KYC rule dictates that in the event of opening or maintaining an account for an investor, a broker-dealer is required to verify the investor’s identity by matching the provided material from the investor to government records. This aids the government in fighting money laundering and other financial crimes, as a broker-dealer must also review their finances for evidence of these types of crime. It also allows potential customers to evaluate broker-dealers as FINRA tracks the brokers in good standing with their organization. Finally, with suitability, a broker-dealer must use reasonable effort to understand the risk tolerance and facts about a potential customer’s financial position. This means understanding the types of products and plans an investor is comfortable making, as people of different ages and levels of wealth have different plans for their money. For instance, younger adults typically have a higher risk tolerance as they have a longer-term time horizon to work with their money. On the other end, older adults have lower risk tolerance. There is no one type of investing that works for every person, as each person has a different set of circumstances dependent on their life experiences.
Where KYP comes in is a further step past just KYC and suitability. You may know the client their investment preferences, but if you do not understand the product you are investing in for your client, that information is essentially useless. Under KYP, a broker-dealer, “must understand the structure and features of each investment product they recommend. This includes costs, risks, and eligibility requirements. The KYP requirement applies to both the firm and the individual.“
KYP expands on the suitability requirement from FINRA by requiring a full understanding of each investment so that it fits an investor and their specific risk tolerance more effectively. This involves:
- The risk level of the investment, meaning its liquidity, “price volatility, default risk, and exposure to counterparty risk”
- Any costs associated with fees or embedded costs
- The financial history and reputation of the issuer or parties involved
- Any legal and regulatory framework that applies
Just as it is important to know your client and understand what types of investments are suitable for regulatory and business purposes, it is important to understand the products you recommend.