Legislation that would streamline the registration process for broker-dealers and advisors in Florida is one step closer to becoming law, with the state senate following the lower chamber in voting to approve the measure, which now awaits the governor's signature.

The bill, which the senate unanimously approved this week, would make Florida a so-called "notice-filing" state, meaning that remote independent broker-dealers and advisors looking to do business in the Sunshine State would automatically be approved upon filing their registration application.

Backers of the bill say it is a much-needed and long-overdue step to end extended registration delays associated with out-of-state firms and in-state advisors who are switching broker-dealers.

The Financial Services Institute has been lobbying heavily for the measure, and has devoted considerable resources to working with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to arrive at acceptable language for the legislation and, in the interim, to streamline the application-review process.

The FSI boasts that its work with Florida regulators has helped reduce the typical review process from several weeks to four or five days, but even that delay is still "unacceptable," according to the group.

In a statement, FSI President and CEO Dale Brown said the bill, when it is signed into law, would mark a "historic step" for the group and its members, a triumph of advocacy that would resolve a problem the group says has far-reaching effects well beyond Florida, and indeed impacts any financial services firm with affiliates in that state.

"We applaud the elected officials and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation who all came together with our members to make positive difference," Brown said. "This is exactly how government/private partnerships should work to serve our mutual constituencies. And it shows how much FSI's members can accomplish when they work together and speak with one voice."

Under the current system, out-of-state firms looking to set up a branch office in Florida, or registered advisors either relocating within the state or changing broker-dealer affiliations, have had to suspend services while they wait for Florida regulators to review their registration application.

The pending legislation would provide for an online application process, with registrations automatically approved upon filing, so there would be no disruption in their practice. If an application was then found to be deficient, broker-dealers would have 30 days to resubmit their filing with Florida regulators.

FSI anticipates the bill to be signed into law later this month.

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