Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales AgentsBillions of dollars circulate through securities exchanges daily. Investors buy bonds, stocks, and other financial products known as securities. Investment banks, hedge funds, pension funds, and individuals buy securities. 50 percent of American families own stock. Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents make a majority of security trades and purchases. The responsibilities of agents who sell securities depend on their specialty.
Stock brokers constitute a majority of security sales agents. Stock brokers sell securities to individuals, often referred to as retail investors. Since about 20 percent of securities are owned by people making small investments, most investors are considered retail investors, so they usually hire a broker instead of making purchases directly from a securities exchange. Before a transaction, investors talk to their brokers about what type of securities they would like to buy, and the broker notifies a trader at their firm. Companies that trade securities are usually very big, so traders usually find other customers at their firms who want to sell securities other customers are interested in. If this is not the case, traders make purchases directly from an exchange. Brokers receive fees for security transactions.
Finding new clients is vital for stock brokers, so new brokers spend a lot of time finding new clients, often making cold telephone calls. Many also network and join civic groups to find new clients. Many brokers also organize investment seminars and give speeches at community centers such as libraries. Some firms give brokers lists of previous clients. Once a broker has established a clientele, they can receive customer referrals.
Investment bankers find companies that need to raise capital and investors interested in buying these companies' debt, usually bonds, or equities, usually stocks, and then investment banks prepare these transactions in what is known as underwriting. Investment bankers find new companies to provide underwriting services to and sell investors securities.
One of the most vital consulting services offered by investment banks is preparing companies to publically trade their stock. When companies go public they institute an initial public offering (IPO). Before going public, companies must meet strict registration requirements. Corporate finance divisions sell company securities to rich investors. They also consult businesses interested in selling bonds, a security where investors buy debt but are repaid with interest to raise capital.
Investment banks, through their mergers and acquisitions divisions, consult companies preparing for mergers or acquisitions with other companies. Investment banks usually consult companies involved in either an acquisition or merger to ensure the transaction goes through.
Sale agents and traders working for investment banks sell investors securities. These professionals usually sell securities for commissions and do not offer businesses consulting services. They usually cold contact potential clients over the phone. If an investor wants to buy a security, the trader usually places an order on a securities exchange. Some traders work for banks buying and selling securities. Since markets change rapidly, if a trader does not make a trade at a certain time, a lot of money can be lost. However, if a trader purchases securities when they are highly valued, a lot of money can be made for clients.
Some sales agents work on a securities exchange floor. These agents place orders on a firm's computers after a request has been made by one of their clients. After the requested purchase has been entered into the computer, floor brokers negotiate the price with their colleagues, and notify sales agents of the final price. Independent brokers do not work for individual firms; instead, they buy securities for their own portfolios and the portfolios for others that hire them or other floor traders. Specialists, also known as market makers, work on the floor and specialize in a particular commodity or security and help traders by quoting prices and buying excess securities, or selling securities when specific amounts to meet demand are not listed.
Financial services sales agents offer a variety of financial and insurance products. They help clients reach their financial goals, and some sell credit cards to companies.
Work EnvironmentProfessionals working in the financial services industry are under considerable stress since their managers are very demanding, they only get paid from commission, and trading is very fast paced.
Stock brokers and investment professionals usually work 40 hour weeks, often working nights and weekends. Many securities salespeople work in online or discount brokers call centers taking orders over the phone and offering advice. Some call centers are open 24 hours a day.
Investment bankers, usually those who have just begun their career, specializing in merger, acquisitions, or corporate finance, work long hours including nights and weekends, and they usually travel extensively since they work with foreign clients. Usually professionals with experience travel more since they spend more time communicating with clients.
Sales and trading professionals usually work 40 hour weeks, far less than investment bankers, and they do not travel as much as investment bankers. However, their jobs are very stressful since their pay is commission based, and it is very difficult to predict what the market will do, so not timing trades right can result in big losses. Traders have very stressful occupations since their decisions can result in the loss of a lot of money. Exchange workers also have very stressful occupations since they also work on the exchange floors, but they usually only work during the hours the market is open.
Trading floors are noisier and busier than investment banks, and those who work on trading floors are under a lot of stress since such large amounts of money can be lost instantly. However, professionals working on trading floors are usually very experienced.
Professionals selling financial services usually work 40 hour weeks in nice offices. They spent a lot of time at seminars and meeting with clients outside their offices. Certain agents selling financial services work for banks, providing services to customers directly approaching the bank.
Education and TrainingObtaining a bachelor’s degree is a good start to finding work in the securities, commodities and financial services field. Entry-level positions for those with education in economics, accounting and finance are essential. Interns have important opportunities to obtain experience before graduation, which could lead to full-time offers later on.
Getting an MBA (Master’s Degree in Business Administration) is often needed to be considered for upper-level employment. This degree is essential because it exposes prospects to the real world of business practices. An MBA may lead to better earning potential as well.
Entry-level jobs often include high intensity on-the-job training. Some larger firms can offer real-world application to selling strategies and instruction. Other departmental training allows young employees to learn how the business works and gives them a broader base for understanding the business.
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PayFor a median wage, securities, commodities and financial services sales agents earned around $71,720 (May 2012). The upper 10 percent of earners can make as much as $187,200 annually. On the low end, the bottom 10 percent will earn about $32,030.
Some opportunities for employment will include a commission scale, which is based on the value of products sold. Most companies will pay a minimum salary, plus commission. Once a client base is developed, the commission scale increases and the salary will decrease.
For investment bankers in areas of corporate finance, as well as mergers and acquisitions, a base salary will be paid with the opportunity for a large bonus upon completion of the business. At the highest levels, bonuses are significantly higher than base salary.
Job OutlookAverage growth – around 11 percent – is expected in this area over the next ten years. The consolidation of the financial services industry has been a factor in slowing the growth of employment. Overall jobs in the finance and insurance industries are expected to hit about nine percent growth over the next ten years.
As the economy improves, investment banker services such as aiding initial public offerings will be in strong demand. As the world economy improves, employment growth in America is an expected beneficiary.
One area of expected strong employment growth will be for commodities brokers and traders. In recent years, this area has experienced stronger growth than financial services sales agents. Large-group investors are making strong gains in the market place, especially in the area of retirement funds. As commodities transactions grow it will increase employment in the area of sales agents.