Pros and Cons of a Career in Investment Sales
Investment sales professionals buy, sell and trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, and other types of investments on behalf of clients and the companies for which they work. Take stock of the following pros and cons of a becoming an investment sales professional to see if it is the right career for you.
|Pros of an Investment Sales Professional Career|
|High earning potential (median salary of about $72,070)*|
|Healthy job outlook (11% growth predicted from 2012-2022)*|
|Entry-level positions typically only require a bachelor's degree*|
|Opportunities for advancement and promotion*|
|On the job training is usually provided*|
|Work in an exciting, fast-paced environment*|
|Cons of an Investment Sales Professional Career|
|Large portion of salary is often commission based*|
|Long hours may include nights and weekends*|
|Very demanding and stressful work*|
|Companies may terminate employees who aren't promoted within a given time frame*|
|Frequent exams may be necessary to keep up certifications*|
|A master's degree is often required to advance to a senior position*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Investment sales professionals buy, sell and trade a wide range of financial products to new and existing clients. They may also perform trades for the companies at which they're employed. To execute trades, these individuals need a high level of knowledge about investment products and market trends, as well as the ability to make rapid trading decisions. Obtaining new clients is often an important aspect of an investment sales professional career, and networking and cold calling potential clients may be a necessary part of the job. Additionally, as an investment sales professional, you'll have to build relationships with clients and communicate financial information to them. Since you'll be advising clients with varying levels of expertise about financial matters, it's important to be able to assess their knowledge and determine the best selling strategies.
The work environment can be highly stressful, often requiring long hours, including nights and weekends. Additionally, some companies terminate employees who don't satisfactorily perform in the first couple of years, which can add to the stress of the position. Most investment sales professionals work in NYC where the major investment banks are located. Investment sales professionals who work for online investment firms often work at 24-hour call centers, where they perform their duties on rotating shifts.
Job Prospects and Salary
Overall employment in the finance and insurance industry was predicted to grow 9% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), due to increased consolidation between corporations. The BLS also indicated that job growth among securities, commodities and financial services sales agents was predicted to increase 11% during the same decade. Although the use of online stock trading sites may restrict job growth, the overall employment outlook is strong. Keep in mind, however, that competition for these jobs is often fierce, because many qualified individuals are drawn to the high salaries.
As of May 2014, the BLS reported that securities, commodities and financial services sales agents earned a median annual salary of about $72,070. The lowest paid 10% of these professionals earned a median annual salary of around $32,170 or less, while the top 75% earned a median yearly salary of about $141,780 or more (salary data for top 10% of earners was unavailable in 2014). It's important to realize that most companies pay a low salary and a high commission, making performance an essential part of earning potential.
What Are the Requirements?
Most jobs within the financial services sales industry require a bachelor's degree in finance, business or a related field. To obtain a senior-level position in the industry, however, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is often needed. Extensive on-the-job training is also provided at many investment firms. This training often covers the policies and procedures of a particular firm and provides knowledge about the range of investment products offered.
Depending on the type of financial products you sell, you may be legally required to obtain licensure. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers licenses that give the holder the right to sell a wide range of investment products and services. To obtain licensure, potential agents are generally required to pass a series of exams, and continuing education classes or exams are often necessary to remain licensed.
To succeed in the fast-paced world of investment sales, professionals often possess the following skills and attributes:
- Mathematical abilities to assess the profit potential of deals
- The ability to rapidly make large financial decisions regarding trades
- Customer service skills to obtain clients and convince them to make investments
- The ability to perform in a fast-paced and demanding environment
- The knowledge and analytical abilities to determine which products to buy and sell, and when to perform the transactions
What Employers Are Looking for
Employers generally require that investment sales professionals meet the educational requirements and have the ability to pass the appropriate licensing exams. Additional requirements could include strong communication skills, investment knowledge and experience. Job postings obtained in April 2012 can provide insight into the qualifications employers commonly seek:
- A large financial organization in Boston, MA, seeks a registered investment advisor/sales executive. This position engages employees in a targeted sales approach involving face-to-face meetings, group presentations and attendance at industry conferences. Five years of sales experience, a bachelor's degree and active FINRA General Securities Representative (Series 7) and Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination (Series 63) licenses or the ability to earn them within 90 days of hire are required. The employer prefers candidates who hold an MBA and professional designations.
- A financial services provider is looking for a financial investment representative to work in their NH office. Responsibilities include building client relationships, driving sales of investment products and acting as a liaison with business partners. To be considered for this position you'll need to hold a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience and a current FINRA Series 7 license. The ideal candidate will also have a FINRA Series 63 license, a Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66) license and experience in financial services sales.
- A financial services company in New York seeks an investment services associate to work in wealth management. Requirements include 2-3 years of experience in investment services and excellent communication and interpersonal skills. A bachelor's degree and a FINRA Series 7 license are preferred.
Standing Out in the Field
The BLS indicates that earning an advanced degree in business or economics is a good way to stand out from other job seekers in the competitive financial services industry. An MBA is a common requirement for high-level positions in the financial sector, and it could also lead to higher compensation and large signing bonuses.
Complete an Internship
If you want to get a leg up before completing your education, consider working as a summer intern at an investment firm during your last year of college. These internships can provide you with real-world experience to assist you in building your resume. Additionally, successful interns could be offered full-time jobs after they graduate.
Obtaining certification can also enhance your qualifications and improve your professional standing, according to the BLS. One type of certification you can earn is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, sponsored by the CFA Institute. To attain it, you'll need to pass three comprehensive exams focused on areas such as economics, financial markets, asset valuation and portfolio management. To take these exams, you'll need a bachelor's degree and four years of related work experience.
Alternative Career Options
If you'd prefer to provide investment advice, rather than solicit clients and execute trades, a career as a financial analyst could be a better fit. Similar to investment sales positions, most employers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions and a master's degree for more advanced positions. The BLS projected 23% employment growth for financial analysts from 2010-2020, which is faster than average. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that financial analysts earned a median annual salary of around $76,000.
Personal Financial Advisor
Individuals interested in providing financial advice to people on a one-on-one basis might enjoy careers as personal financial advisors. Financial advisors usually hold a bachelor's degree, although an advanced degree and certification (such as the Certified Financial Planner credential) can enhance job prospects and advancement opportunities. The BLS projected faster-than-average job growth for personal financial advisors, with overall employment predicted to increase 32% from 2010-2020. These professionals earned a median annual salary of around $66,000, as of May 2011.
Insurance Sales Agent
If you'd like to work in sales but you'd prefer not to sell investments, consider a career as an insurance sales agent. These professionals find potential clients and sell them insurance policies. To become an insurance sales agent, you'll need at least a high school diploma and the ability to qualify for state licensure. The BLS predicted job growth for insurance agents would be 22% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average. As of May 2011, insurance sales agents earned a median annual salary of about $47,000.