Putting it as simply as possible, this job entails selling financial services and products to clients ranging from individuals to large institutions. Sales Agents can sell stocks, bonds or any number of financial instruments and will earn a commission for their firm and, quite often for themselves. There are different specialties under this job category, each having its own job responsibilities.
A stock broker is the most common type of sales agent. His job is to give advice and make recommendations on particular investments such as what stock to buy, what bond is best for your portfolio or if it is wise to invest in a certain mutual fund. Once the client comes to an agreement with the broker, the broker will send the order to the floor of the securities exchange and the order will be executed. The broker is paid by charging a commission for his efforts. Naturally, being a skilled salesman is an important aspect of this job. You must be willing and able to talk to people, explain an investment opportunity and not have your feelings crushed when the prospective client says “no thanks” and hangs up the phone.
Investment Bankers are also sales agents. Their role is a bit different than that of a stock broker. They work to raise money for start up companies. Established companies also may be looking for additional funds for ongoing operations, product development or expansion. This can come in the form of debt (bonds) or equity (stocks). Underwriting, as the process is called, involves issuing the debt or equity and then selling it to institutions or the general public. Funds are turned over to the client and the Investment Banker receives a commission for his services. Other functions of an Investment Banker include helping private companies go public. An Initial Public Offering (IPO) is underwritten by the Investment Banking firm and stock is issued and then offered for sale to the public. Investment Bankers do multi-million and billion dollar deals in which the Firm and Investment Banker’s commissions are incredibly lucrative.
Specialists, or Market Makers are a select few members of this job categorization. The final link between the time an order is placed and executed, Specialists help make a market in a particular stock. They hold a large number of shares in their account and are able to buy or sell shares depending on the demand. They try to reach a state of equilibrium where there are an equal number of buyers and sellers and the stock does not fluctuate wildly.
Finally, Financial Services Sales Agents work with the public as well as businesses on a variety of financial issues. They may help with banking services like checking, loans and certificates of deposit (CD’s) or offer advice on retirement savingst and estate planning.
Stress is almost unavoidable in this job category. In exchange for a chance to make a very good living, employees must put in long hours, take verbal abuse and face daily rejection cold calling for new business. Giving bad advice and costing a client money adds to the stress of working in a highly competitive environment. New workers are usually paid a salary as they learn the ropes. Unless you start producing and earning commissions for the firm (and yourself), you will be considered “dead weight” and find yourself out of a job.
Training and Education Requirements
People who enter this field usually have a degree from a business school. They may have majored in accounting or another specialized area of business or just have a general Bachelor of Science degree.Earning a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) will help you advance faster and get a higher rate of pay. It is common for Wall Street firms and other financial institutions to want to teach new recruits to do things their way. As such, there usually is a great deal of on-the-job-training required in addition to a formal education. Experience in the real world, particularly, proven sales performance, transfers well to this profession. The financial world is ever changing and requires an ongoing learning process. Continuing education, including taking classes, attending conferences or seminars and listening to lectures is part of the job.
Salary and Wages
The median annual wages in this field, according to the latest 2008 statistics issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was $68,680. Senior Sales Agents, with large institutional clients and big individual accounts can easily earn into the millions. This is a commission-based occupation, so, the more you can sell, the more you can earn.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
A Series 7 Exam is required for all Brokers and Investment Advisers. Taking a test given by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is standard fare for this job. This test will allow you to become a registered agent and be able to perform the functions of a broker. Many other licenses and certifications are specific for selling different financial products.
To work in this field, you must register and be a member in good standing with the National Association of Security Dealers. While not a prerequisite for employment, depending on their particular background and job description, many of those employed in this field are also members of Banking, Insurance and Financial Planning Associations.