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Securities and Financial Services Sales Workers

Securities sales workers. Most investors--whether they are individuals with a few hundred dollars or large institutions with millions to invest--call on securities sales workers when buying or selling stocks, bonds, shares in mutual funds, or other financial products. Securities sales worker often are called registered representatives, account executives, or brokers.

When an investor wishes to buy or sell securities, sales workers may relay the order through other firms' offices to the floor of a securities exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange. There, securities sales workers known as brokers' floor representatives buy and sell securities. If a security is not traded on an exchange, the sales workers send the order to the firm's trading department, which trades it directly with a dealer in the over- the-counter market. After the transaction has been completed, the sales worker notifies the customer of the final price.

Securities sales workers also provide many related services for their customers. Depending on a customer's knowledge of the market, they may explain the meaning of stock market terms and trading practices; offer financial counseling; devise an individual financial portfolio for the client including securities, life insurance, tax shelters, mutual funds, annuities, and other investments; and offer advice on the purchase or sale of a particular security.

Not all customers have the same investment goals. Some individuals may prefer long-term investments designed either for capital growth or to provide income over the years; others might want to invest in short-term securities that they hope will rise in price quickly. Securities sales workers furnish information about the advantages and disadvantages of an investment based on each person's objectives. They also supply the latest price quotations on any security in which the investor is interested, as well as information on the activities and financial positions of the corporations issuing these securities.

Securities sales workers may serve all types of customers or they may specialize in one type only, such as institutional investors. In institutional investing, most sales workers specialize in a specific financial product such as stocks, bonds, options, annuities, or commodity futures. Some handle the sale of new issues, such as corporation securities issued to finance plant expansion.

Beginning securities sales workers spend much of their time searching for customers--relying heavily on telephone solicitation. They may meet some clients through career and social contacts. Many sales workers find it useful to get additional exposure by teaching adult education investment courses or giving lectures at libraries or social clubs.

Financial services sales workers. Financial services sales workers call on various careeres to solicit applications for loans and new deposit accounts for banks or savings and loan associations. They also locate and contact prospective customers to present their bank's financing services and to ascertain the customer's banking needs. At most smaller and medium-size banks, branch managers and commercial loan officers are responsible for marketing the bank's financial services.

Working Conditions

Securities sales workers usually work in offices where there is much activity. They have access to "quote boards" or computer terminals that continually provide information on the prices of securities. When sales activity increases, due perhaps to un-anticipated changes in the economy, the pace may become very hectic.

Established securities sales workers usually work the same hours as others in the career community. Beginners who are seeking customers may work much longer hours, however. Most securities sales workers accommodate customers by meeting with them in the evenings or on weekends.

Financial services sales workers generally work in a comfortable, less stressful office environment. They generally work 40 hours a week. They may spend considerable time outside the office meeting with present and prospective clients, attending civic functions, and participating in trade association meetings. Employment

Securities and financial services sales workers held about 203,000 jobs in 1990. In addition, a substantial number of people in other occupations sold securities. These include partners and branch office managers in securities firms as well as insurance agents and brokers offering securities to their customers. Securities sales workers are employed by brokerage and investment firms in all parts of the country. Many of these firms are very small. Most sales workers, however, work for a small number of large firms with main offices in big cities (especially in New York) and approximately 14,000 branch offices in other areas.

Financial services sales workers are employed by banks, saving and loan associations, and other credit institutions.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Because securities sales workers must be well informed about economic conditions and trends, a college education is increasingly important, especially in the larger securities firms. In fact, the overwhelming majority of entrants to this occupation are college graduates. Although employers seldom require specialized academic training, courses in career administration, economics, and finance are helpful.

Many employers consider personal qualities and skills more important than academic training. Employers seek applicants who have good communication skills, are well groomed, and have a strong desire to succeed. Self-confidence and an ability to handle frequent rejections also are important ingredients for success.

Because maturity and the ability to work independently also are important, many employers prefer to hire those who have achieved success in other jobs. Some firms prefer candidates with sales experience, particularly those who have worked on commission in areas such as real estate or insurance. Understandably, most entrants to this occupation transfer from other jobs. Some begin working as securities sales workers following retirement from other fields.

Securities sales workers must meet State licensing requirements, which generally include passing an examination and, in some cases, furnishing a personal bond. In addition, sales workers must register as representatives of their firm according to regulations of the securities exchanges where they do career or the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD). Before beginners can qualify as registered representatives, they must pass the Securities and Exchange Commission's General Securities Examination, or examinations prepared by the securities exchanges or the NASD. Large national brokerage firms may require a second examination--the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination--that allows sales workers to do career nationwide. These tests measure the prospective representative's knowledge of the securities career, customer protection, and recordkeeping procedures.

Most employers provide on-the-job training to help securities sales workers meet the requirements for registration. In most firms, the training period takes at least several months. Trainees in large firms may receive classroom instruction in securities analysis, effective speaking, and the finer points of selling; take courses offered by career schools and other institutions and associations; and undergo a period of on-the-job training lasting up to 2 years. In small firms, sales workers generally receive training in outside institutions and on the job. Many trainees take correspondence courses in preparation for the securities examinations.

Securities sales workers periodically take training, through their firms or outside institutions, to keep abreast of new financial products as they are introduced on the market. Training in the use of computers is important, as the securities sales career is highly automated.

The principal form of advancement for securities sales workers is an increase in the number and size of the accounts they handle. Although beginners usually service the accounts of individual investors, eventually they may handle very large institutional accounts such as those of banks and pension funds. Some experienced sales workers become branch office managers and supervise other sales workers while continuing to provide services for their own customers. A few representatives advance to top management positions or become partners in their firms.

Banks and other credit institutions prefer to hire college graduates for financial services sales jobs. A career administration degree with a specialization in finance or a liberal arts degree including courses in accounting, economics, and marketing serves as excellent preparation for this job.

Financial services sales workers learn through on-the-job training under the supervision of bank officers. Outstanding performance can lead to promotion to managerial positions.

Job Outlook

The demand for securities sales representatives fluctuates as the economy expands and contracts. Thus, in an economic downturn, the number of persons seeking jobs usually exceeds the number of openings-sometimes by a great deal. Even during periods of rapid economic expansion, however, competition for securities sales training positions-- particularly in larger firms--is keen because of potentially high earnings. Job opportunities should be best for mature individuals with successful work experience. Opportunities for inexperienced sales representatives should be best in smaller firms. The number of securities sales represented is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000. Most job openings however, are expected to be created by workers who transfer to other jobs, retire, or stop working for other reasons. Due to the highly competitive nature of securities sales work, many beginners leave the field because they are unable to establish a sufficient clientele. Once established, however, securities sales workers have a relatively strong attachment to their occupation because of high earnings and the considerable investment in training.

Faster than average employment growth is expected among financial services sales workers as a result of the continued expansion in banking services and the need to finance an increasing level of commercial activity.

Employment of securities sales workers is expected to expand as economic growth, rising personal incomes, and greater inherited wealth increase the funds available for investment. Growth in the number and size of institutional investors will be particularly strong as more people enroll in pension plans, set up individual retirement accounts, establish trust funds, and contribute to the endowment funds of colleges and other nonprofit institutions. In addition, more workers will be needed to sell securities issued by new and expanding corporations and by State and local governments financing public improvements. Job opportunities should be best for mature individuals with successful work experience.

The demand for securities sales workers fluctuates as the economy expands and contracts. Thus, in an economic downturn the number of persons seeking jobs usually exceeds the number of openings--sometimes by a great deal. Even during periods of rapid economic expansion, however, competition for securities sales training positions is keen because of potentially high earnings.


According to the Securities Industry Association, earnings of full-time, experienced securities sales workers who served individual investors averaged about $75,300 a year in 1990. The relatively small number of sales workers who handled institutional accounts averaged about $254,400.

Trainees usually are paid a salary until they meet licensing and registration requirements. After registration, a few firms continue to pay a salary until the new representative's commissions increase to a stated amount. The salaries paid during training usually range from $1,100 to $1,500 a month.

After candidates are licensed and registered, their earnings depend on commissions from the sale or purchase of stocks and bonds, life insurance, or other securities for customers. Commission earnings are likely to be high when there is much buying and selling and lower when there is a slump in market activity. Most firms provide sales workers with a steady income by paying a "draw against commission"--that is, a minimum salary based on the commissions which they can be expected to earn. Securities sales workers who can provide their clients with the most complete financial services should enjoy the greatest income stability.

Financial services sales workers are paid a salary; some receive bonuses if they meet certain established goals. Average earnings of financial services sales workers are considerably less than those of securities sales workers.

Related Occupations

Similar sales jobs requiring specialized knowledge include insurance agents and real estate agents.

Sources of Additional Information

Further information concerning a career as a securities sales worker is available for $1 from:

Securities Industry Association, 120 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10271.

Career information also may be obtained from the personnel departments of individual securities firms. For information about job opportunities for financial services sales workers in various States, contact State bankers' associations. Or write directly to a particular bank to inquire about job openings. For the names and addresses of banks in a specific location as well as the names of their principal officers, consult one of the following directories, which are published twice each year:

The American Bank Directory (Norcross, GA., McFadden career Publications).

Polk's World Bank Directory (Nashville, R.L. Polk & Co.).


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