Securities and commodities sales agents, also known as brokers, stockbrokers, registered representatives, account executives, or financial consultants, perform a wide range of financial services. Sales agents known as floor brokers negotiate, sell, and forward the purchase price of securities and commodities purchased in securities exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange. Other sales agents, known as dealers, buy securities directly from other dealers and resell them to customers at a profit. Securities and commodities sales agents may also explain stock market terms and trading practices, offer financial counseling or advice on the purchase or sale of particular securities, and design an individual client’s portfolio. Most sales agents provide services to individual clients. Others specialize in institutional investors, such as banks and pension funds, and concentrate on specific products, such as stocks bonds, options, annuities, or commodity futures.
The personal qualities of securities and commodities sales agents are often more important than their educational background. They must have exceptional sales ability, well-developed interpersonal and communication skills, and a high degree of self-motivation. Other important attributes include self-confidence and the ability to handle frequent rejections. Some employers check applicants’ credit history and background to make sure they have no outstanding blemishes.
In 2002, securities and commodities sales agents earned a median annual salary of $60,990. The middle 50% earned between $36,180 and $117,050. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of securities and commodities sales agents:
- Securities and commodity contracts intermediation/brokerage – $78,140
- Other financial investment activities – 75,110
- Management of companies and enterprises – 54,730
- Nondepository credit intermediation – 43,220
- Depository credit intermediation – 39,870
Training and Education
A majority of securities and commodities sales agents have a college education. Most employers do not require specialized degrees, but most prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration, economics, or finance. Many employers prefer to hire workers who have achieved success in other professions, such as real estate or insurance. In fact, most entrants to this profession transfer from other occupations. Securities and commodities sales agents must obtain a State license, which requires passing an examination and furnishing a personal bond, and they must register with the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD). In order to register with NASD, they must pass the General Securities Registered Representative Examination and, usually, the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination. After two years, they can take additional exams in order to sell mutual funds, insurance, and commodities. Large firms usually offer classroom instruction and on-the-job training, and most securities and commodities sales agents continue to attend trainings throughout their careers to update their knowledge and skills. Most sales agents advance by acquiring more accounts, particularly larger ones.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of securities and commodities sales agents is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Continued rise in personal incomes will create demand for advice from these agents. While Internet stock trading will grow, the majority of transactions will still require the expertise of these workers. Baby boomer investment has been made easier with government programs such as the 401(k) and the Roth IRA. The growing number of women in the workforce will create higher household incomes, and the self-directed nature of most investment programs will require the advice of securities and commodities sales agents.