How to Become a Financial Advisor

financial advisor speaking with clients
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To fill their ranks of financial advisors, the major Wall Street firms used to run extensive financial advisor training programs, mainly for recent college graduates, but many of these have been dismantled to save costs. Entering the field thus is becoming more difficult. Instead, firms increasingly rely on recruiting experienced financial advisors from competitors.

Becoming a Financial Advisor

When securities firms do train new financial advisors, they usually seek experienced ​financial services industry professionals who are looking for a career change.

Moreover, becoming a financial advisor today often requires intensive networking aimed at finding an established individual practitioner or team willing to take on an apprentice, to help in serving and/or expanding their book of business

Also, cultivating an influential workplace sponsor with influence and connections in the right places can be a ticket to entering the financial advisory field from other positions in financial services. 

Previous certification and experience as a financial planner can be an especially useful background for someone interested in making the transition to becoming a financial advisor. Indeed, a growing number of financial advisor teams and practice groups are seeing the value in bringing financial planning specialists on board as members.

Note that many financial advisor practices, including those in the employ of leading securities firms, effectively develop into family enterprises, with children or other relatives of the founder or lead advisor being brought in to assist with, and eventually inherit, the practice.

 

Education

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is expected for a financial advisor. Coursework in finance, accounting and/or economics is helpful, though not required. Strong quantitative and problem-solving skills are vital, but so are verbal and sales skills. An MBA can give you a leg up in the hiring process, depending on the firm and the situation, as might a degree in legal studies or law.

In any case, compensation (see below) is tied strictly to performance, not to academic credentials.

Certification

Becoming a financial advisor requires passing the Series 7 exam offered by FINRA and meeting continuing education requirements. You must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm (that is, your employer) to sit for the Series 7 exam. In some firms, for certain more senior financial advisor positions, and in some states, one or more additional credentials may be required.

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