If you’re looking to raise money for your private company, chances are that you’ve at least heard the term “broker-dealer.” However, if you’re new to the process, you might not be too familiar with what they do and why they are a key component of the fundraising process.
Simply put, a broker-dealer is an agent that assists you in raising capital for your private company. Broker-dealers can be small, independently working firms or ones that operate as part of large banks and investment firms. Both are subject to registration with the SEC and must join a “self-regulatory organization” such as FINRA. If a broker-dealer is not registered they can face penalties enforced by the SEC. You can check a broker-dealer’s registration here: https://brokercheck.finra.org/.
For private companies looking to raise money, working with a broker-dealer will be a key part of their capital raising activities. Certain states require issuers to work with a broker-dealer to offer securities, so working with a broker-dealer allows issuers to maintain compliance with the SEC and other regulatory entities. Ensuring that issuers are compliant with all regulations is essential to a successful round of capital raising and good business practices. If issuers are not compliant, they can face penalties from the SEC including returning the money raised.
Broker-dealers are intermediaries in a fundraise transaction between the private company and the investors. As such, they are mandated to perform a variety of compliance activities. If you retain a broker-dealer, they will first be responsible for performing due diligence on your private company. This is important so that there are no false representations to investors. Investor protection is one of the main responsibilities of the SEC, so the broker-dealers must ensure they are performing appropriate steps to ensure the information presented to investors is accurate, appropriate, and not misleading.
Once the broker-dealer has completed the due diligence, they work with private companies to prepare appropriate information to share with investors and set timelines. This can involve liaising with your legal counsel to ensure the offering documents are complete and to ensure what type of investors they can approach with your offering. Each country has its own regulations around how you can approach investors, which is why it is important to have a good broker-dealer and legal counsel in each region you intend to offer your securities.
There are different types of investors that can be approached depending on jurisdiction and securities regulations. They include Venture Capital, Private Equity firms, Institutional investors, or individuals. While most of these are professional investors, the individual investor group is further broken down into accredited/sophisticated investors and the general public. Accredited investors have to meet income or wealth criteria to invest in accredited investor offerings (Regulation D type of offerings in the USA). The popular mechanisms in the USA to present your offering to the non-accredited or general population (over 18 years) are Regulation CF and Regulation A+.
As the broker-dealers reach out to investors and find interested participants, there are steps that they have to perform to ensure that the investor is appropriate for the company. Typical checks that broker-dealers have to conduct on investors can include performing identification verification, anti-money laundering checks, assessing the suitability of the investment to the investor, and doing accreditation checks.
With the help of a broker-dealer, companies can raise the funding their company needs while being confident that they are maintaining compliance with the regulations that are in place. With over 3,700 registered broker-dealers in the United States alone, every issuer looking to raise capital can be confident of finding at least one well-suited broker-dealer that meets their needs.