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Securities, Commodities, and Financial Sales Agent Jobs and Career Information


The following are just a few of the highlights of career in securities, commodities and financial sales.

  • Employment opportunities in this field are expected to grow along with the average for all jobs through 2012. Because successful sales agents often have high earnings, competition for entry-level positions is likely to be intense.
  • Important qualifications for this profession include, personal motivation, good interpersonal and communication skills, an ability to make sales, and a college degree.
  • In order to sell securities and commodities, beginning agents must pass a licensing exam.

Securities, Commodities and Financial Sales Career Overview

When buying or selling stocks, bonds, shares in mutual funds, insurance annuities, or other financial products, most investors, including individuals as well as large institutions, use the valuable services provided by securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. Clients may also seek out such agents for advice on estate planning, investments, or other financial endeavors.

Registered representatives, financial consultants, account executives, along with securities and commodities sales agents (also called stockbrokers, or brokers), perform a variety of tasks specific to their particular job duties. For instance, when an investor desires to buy or sell a security, the order may be passed on by the sales agents through their firm’s computers to the floor of a securities exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange. At this point, securities and commodities sales agents known as floor brokers, work with other floor brokers negotiating the price, making the sale, and forwarding the ending purchase price to the first sales agents. Many securities, such as bonds and over-the-counter stocks, are traded on an exchange. However, if this is not the case, then the broker sends the order to the firm’s trading department. At this time the request is turned over to other securities sales agents, known as dealers. The dealers use funds from either the trading department or the firm to buy and sell securities directly from other dealers. Their intention in doing this is always to resell the security to a customer at a profitable price. The customer is then notified of the final cost after the transaction has been completed.

Many other related services are also provided by securities and commodities sales agents for their customers. They may offer financial counseling or advice on the purchase or sales of specific securities, explain stock market terms and trading practices, or design an individual client’s financial portfolio including, securities, corporate and municipal bonds, certificates of deposit, life insurance, annuities, mutual funds and other investments.

Investment goals differ greatly among particular clients. Long-term investments may be appealing to some, while others may want to invest in speculative securities, hoping the price will promptly climb. Securities and commodities sales agents base the objectives to fit the needs of each of their clients. In so doing, they provide specialized information about the advantages and disadvantages of a distinct investment. Agents also pass on up to date price quotes on all securities, and give information on the activities and financial positions of the cooperation distributing them.

While some securities and commodities sales agents specialize in institutional investors, such as pension funds and banks, most serve individual investors. Sales agents working for large institutions primarily focus on a specific financial product such as stocks, bonds, annuities, options, or commodity futures. The sale of new issues, such as corporate securities issued to finance the progression of a new processing plant, may also be handled by sales agents.

Locating clients and building up a sound customer base is one of the most important parts of a sales representative’s job. As such, new securities and commodities sales agents spend much of their time searching for customers. These contacts are made through business and social contacts as well as through telephone solicitation, adult education courses, and public lectures. Some agents, especially those working for brokerage firms, may be given a list of people with whom the firm has done business with in the past. And others, such as those replacing retirees, may inherit a list of clients. Once an agent has become established, an important and significant source of new business often comes through referrals given to others by satisfied customers.

Financial services sales agents sell a vast assortment of banking and related services. Upon contacting a potential customer, agents explain their services and work to determine the client’s financial needs. Services such as inventory financing, loans, certificates of deposit, lines of credit, mutual funds, deposit accounts, or investment services are discussed. Aside from working with individuals, financial services sales agents may also petition businesses to participate in consumer credit card programs. Agents working in financial services who serve all of the financial needs of a prosperous individual or business are often called relationship managers or private bankers.

The financial services industry is becoming mottled with the products and services of banks, insurance companies, and securities firms becoming almost indistinguishable. In addition, the jobs of agents are becoming increasingly more important as the competition between firms continues to build up.

The working conditions of most securities and commodities sales agents are fairly stressful. Within their office most have computer access that provides them with the latest information on security prices. Unanticipated changes in the economy, can cause various increases in sales activity. During such times of chaos and frenzy, agents may experience heightened pressure and anxiety.

Most established securities and commodities agents work a standard 40-hour work week. However, it is very common for new agents to work long hours in an attempt to strengthen their clientele base. New agents and brokers must also spend a significant amount of time learning all of the services, and products specific to their firm. It may also be necessary for beginning agents and brokers to pass qualification exams in order to sell other products, such as insurance. Securities and commodities sales agents may also work weekends and evenings in an effort to accommodate their clients.

Some securities sales agents, may work in call centers. These agents are most often employed by a growing number of discount or online brokerage firms. For these agents, much of the day is spent on the telephone taking orders from clients, or offering counsel and expertise on different securities. Because many of these call centers operate on a continuous 24-hour a day shift, agents working in this type of environment must be flexible.

Financial service agents are generally free to work 40 hours a week with normal business hours. And, they normally work in a less stressful, more comfortable office setting. Some agents offer service to walk-in customers and working entirely inside of a bank. However, some financial service agents may spend a considerable amount of time outside of their office. Their time may spent attending civic functions, meeting with current and prospective clients, or participating in trade association meetings.

In the year 2002, about 300,000 jobs were held by securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. Commodity contracts, securities, and other financial investments and related actives comprised more than half of these jobs. One in five worked in depository and non-depository credit intermediation, including savings institutions, commercial banks, and credit unions. Securities and commodities sales positions can be found throughout the United Sates. However, many of these jobs are concentrated within large securities and investment banking firms stationed in New York City. Only one in 8 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents was self employed in 2002.

Careeer Training and Job Qualifications

It is important for securities and commodities sales agents to have a college education, especially those who may be interested in working as part of a larger firm. As part of their college education, agents acquire a understanding and familiarity of economic trends and conditions which is vital to an agents success and to their contribution to a firm. Because of the importance placed on postsecondary education, the majority of employees within this occupation hold college degrees. Specialized emphasis as part of academic training is rarely necessary, but courses in finance, economics, and business administration are helpful.

Many employer focus more on an agents personal qualities and skills rather than their academic training. Because of this it is important for applicants to develop a strong sales ability, as well as good interpersonal and communication skills. Agents should also have a strong desire to succeed, be self-motivated, and able to deal with rejection. A clean record, and a good credit history may also be important to some employers.

Because maturity and the ability to work independently are essential to this area of work, many employers favor applicants who have achieved success at other jobs. And many firms prefer to hire candidates with sales experience, predominantly those who have worked on commission in similar areas such as real estate or insurance. Consequently, most new employees transfer into this occupation from other professions.

In order to meet State licensing requirement securities and commodities sales agents are generally required to pass an examination and, in some situations, to provide a personal bond. Sales agents must also register with the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. as representatives of their firm. Qualification for registry includes passing the General Securities Registered Representative Examination (serious 7 exam) and being employed by a registered firm for at least 4 months.

In addition, a second examination is required by most states. This subsequent exam is called the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination. A measurement of knowledge regarding customer protection requirements, record keeping procedures, and securities business in general is tested through this exam. Correspondence courses are available to those who wish to enroll as preparation for the securities exam. In order to sell mutual funds, commodities, and insurance, brokers are encouraged to take additional licensing exams within in two years of practicing.

In most firms, a training period of about 4 months is provided to give on-the-job training to new employees. This training helps securities and commodities sales agents meet the registration requirements for certification.

In large firms, classroom instruction may be provided. In such cases, trainees are given lessons in effective speaking, securities analysis, and other fine points of selling. In order to give new employees a broad perspective of the business, many securities firms will rotate them throughout different departments. Some firms may also pay for various courses offered by business schools and other associations. In some situations on-the-job training may be quite extensive and last up to 2 years. Sales agents working in small firms often receive training both in outside institutions and on the job.

There are a wide selection of financial products and services made available by brokerage firms. As such it is important that securities and commodities sales agents understand and be familiar with the basic features and traits of each of these products and services. Many brokers find that continual training and education either through their firm, or as part of an outside institution is helpful in keeping up on new financial products, and in improving their method of sales. A knowledge of computers and computer programs is also highly important. Because the securities sales industry is extremely computerized and habitually changing, it became mandatory in 1995 for all registered securities and commodities sales agents to go to regular continuing education classes in order to maintain their licenses. Such classes offer information on computer-based training, as well as company training on new products and services.

Securities and commodities sales agents find advancement in their earnings and reputation as the number and size of the accounts they handle increases. Agent who as beginners handled the accounts of individual investors, may go on to manage sizeable institutional accounts, such as those of pension funds and banks. Some brokers, after taking a series of tests, become portfolio managers. In this position they are given more authority, and are able to make bigger, more influential investment decisions regarding an account. And some experienced sales agents go on to supervise other sales agents as branch office managers, while at the same time continuing to provide services for their own clients. A select few advance to top management positions or become partners in their firms.

College graduates are usually chosen over others to work as financial services sales agents in banks and other credit institutions. A degree in business administration, focused on finance, or a liberal arts degree that includes courses in economics, marketing, and accounting, is especially fitting for this type of job. Most financial services sales agents acquire specific skills significant to their jobs through on-the-job training, and are often supervised under the direction of a bank officer for a period of time. However, those interested in selling mutual funds and insurance products may need formal training and may have to pass some of the exams required of securities sales agents.

Job and Employment Opportunities

The employment growth rate for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents is expected to grow at an average rate through 2012. It is expected that with increasing incomes people will progressively seek advice and services from securities, commodities, and financial service agents, in an effort to reach their financial goals. The need for brokers as a part of every transaction will most likely be replaced by an growing volume of trade in stocks over the internet. Even so, employment growth is expected to continue, because the majority of transactions will still require advice and services provided by securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents.

It is expected that much of the increase in investments will come from the “baby boomer” generation. Government retirement plans, and the participation of more women in the workforce is expected to bring higher household incomes, a greater number of self-directed pensions, and large amounts of investment money. This should in turn cause a greater demand for sales agents and financial advisors.

Globalization and the increasing complexity of investment products is also likely to be a factor for increased demand of agents and brokers. As businesses and individuals become more sophisticated about investing, they become more exploratory as to their options and the prospect of future markets. Products which are not traded online, must be bought or sold through brokers. And the demand for such persons should continue to grow.

Recession in the stock market or economy can negatively affect susceptible employment opportunities for brokers. Beginning brokers experience a high turnover rate as they are often unsuccessful at establishing a substantial clientele even in times of economic stability and growth. However, once established, securities and commodities sales agents become very attached to their profession due to the substantial time spent in training, and the high earnings. Competition in this field is intense, especially in larger companies where there are often more applicants than jobs. Beginning brokers should find more opportunities for employment in smaller firms.

It is expected that the number of jobs available to financial services agents in banks will multiply at a faster-than-average rate. This will likely be due to the expansion of products being offered through banks as they strive to compete with other investment firms.

Historical Earnings Information

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents made median annual earnings of $60,990 in 2002. And between $36,180 and $117,050 was earned by the middle half. Earnings of over $300,000 a year can easily be made by financial services sales agents who are very successful.

In 2002, Industries employing the largest numbers of securities and financial services sales agents made annual earnings as follows:

  • Securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage – $78,140
  • Other financial investment activities – $75,110
  • Management of companies and enterprises – $54,730
  • Non-depository credit intermediation – $43,220
  • Depository credit intermediation – $39,870

A commission based on the amount of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, insurance and other products sold, is usually paid to stockbrokers who provide tailored service and direction with respect to a client’s personal investments. Commission earnings are likely to be high when there is a great deal of buying and selling going on. They will be lower during times of recession or slumps in market activity. In order to insure agents with a steady income, many firms provide a minimum salary based on the commissions agents can be expected to earn. However, the utmost income stability will be had by securities and commodities sales agents who can provide their clients with the most comprehensive financial services available. Most trainees working for firms are paid on a salary basis until they have a chance to develop a sufficient clientele. Training brokers and agents are gradually weaned off of the salary as commissions begin to take over. A still small, but growing number of full-service brokers are paid a percentage of the assets they manage. This fee often correlates to a certain number of trades.

Discount brokerage firms often pay their brokers and agents working telephone and online trading serves a salary, which is sometimes enhanced by bonuses that reflect the overall success and profitability of the office. Financial services sales agents are also usually paid by salary. However, commissions or bonuses from their sales are starting to make up a larger share of their income.