Roll the Dice as a Stockbroker

Roll the Dice as a Stockbroker

Stockbrokers have one of the few jobs where it's possible to earn literally millions or nothing at all.

When you succeed in this field, the money rolls in. "A good broker can make as much money as six lawyers," says Nick Hunter, executive director of American Investment Training, an Islandia, New York-based firm that helps prepare candidates for the Series 7 licensing exam, which all securities salespeople must pass.

Find a Sponsor

To take the Series 7 exam and become a registered representative, you need a sponsor. In the securities market, broker/dealers are responsible for the actions of their registered representatives, explains Frank McAuliffe, senior vice president of the National Association of Securities Dealers, which is now part of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Many broker/dealers offer training programs for new employees. Fidelity Investments spends up to four months training its representatives on its systems, the Series 7 and the companion test for all states that require it -- the Series 63. "We provide employees with the time to study, and pay for the training," explains Donna Cotten, Fidelity vice president of talent acquisition. "Additionally, we do not require employees to reimburse us."

If you can't find a sponsor willing to pay you to study, you may be tempted to turn to a firm that sponsors test takers for a fee. Be aware that brokers may sponsor only candidates they employ. Collecting a fee to sponsor someone you don't intend to employ is against the rules, and companies caught doing it are sanctioned, McAuliffe says.

If you're having trouble finding a sponsor, check the library for Standard & Poor's Securities Dealers of North America, a $935 directory that lists contacts at 5,000 American and Canadian firms.

Can You Pass?

The exam requires a score of 70 to pass. What happens if you flunk? At Fidelity, you're likely to be offered a customer service representative position that doesn't require a license. "If an employee fails the exam and is in good standing, we allow the employee to apply for other positions," Cotten says. "If a nonlicensed customer position is open, this is typically a good match for the employee and Fidelity."

Once you pass, be prepared to starve. "A new broker will make no real money for six months to one year," Hunter warns. And while some stockbrokers earn their living on the golf course or by giving seminars, most use the phone to find new clients. They make hundreds of calls daily, until they build a book of business or quit in frustration.

If you work at a large firm, the calls may be warm rather than cold. "At Fidelity, we have a pool of information about our customers already," Cotten says. "We can take that customer information and make that outbound call to see if they'd like to hear more information about a product."

Another option is to attach yourself to a bank, which you can do by applying directly or going through a company that provides registered representatives to banks.

Will You Last?

Don't go into the field if you're not confident you will succeed. Even if you are confident, the odds aren't tremendous that you'll stick with it. Half the employees around you are probably filling seats left vacant by someone who wasn't right for the job.