The RIA is the advisory FIRM. Is just that if you want to go through all the compliance, costs, etc to set up an RIA firm you can do that - or if you don't own the firm, you would become an IAR of a firm. As SC mentioned, there are a number of RIA's that do set up their own proprietary funds... though most don't from what I've seen. IAR's can certainly sell insurance and they can earn commissions. They can also sell Fee Based planning as well. RIA firms sometimes also have a sister entity that does the insurance & annuities. Some also have a BD channel that does that business. Hope that helps.