Stockbrokers buy and sell stocks, shares and other securities on behalf of private and commercial clients, through a stock exchange or over the counter, in return for a fee or a commission
As a stockbroker, you'll manage and look after your clients' investments, acting as an intermediary between them and the stock exchange.
Depending on your client base, stockbroking can be:
- institutional - services are provided to accounts you manage for groups or institutions. These include insurance companies and pension funds. Institutional clients are generally quite knowledgeable and independent from the broker - they can also use different stockbrokers for different markets. Institutional broking brings higher revenue for the stockbroking firm.
- retail (individual) - services are provided to retail investors, who are generally wealthy individuals and with whom stockbrokers work directly.
Stockbrokers provide different levels of service, depending on how much control the client wants to have over their investment decisions:
- execution-only - you'll engage in buying and selling activities on explicit request from your clients and won't offer any advice or guidance on potential risks or suitability
- advisory - you'll provide a fuller service, advising on appropriate securities to deal in, but will only act on the orders of your client
- discretionary - you'll have complete authority to buy and sell shares on your clients' behalf. You will determine what their investment aims are so that you can make the right decisions for them.
Stockbrokers are expected to manage existing clients and develop new business.
Stockbroking is a regulated financial service activity and you must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to advise on and deal in securities (e.g. stocks and shares).
Tasks vary depending on the level of service you're providing (execution only, advisory or discretionary), but you'll typically need to:
- keep up to date with the latest financial and tax legislation
- monitor stock market performances
- stay informed regarding the latest financial news and reports to understand the movements in the market and the drivers of change
- carry out specific market research and analysis
- write reports and newsletters summarising the market research you've done
- manage and review your clients' portfolios
- provide advice on investments and make recommendations
- regularly update your clients on the state of their portfolio and new investment opportunities
- proactively look for clients, sell your services and manage those relationships. You'll do this through a combination of networking and cold calling
- give presentations to clients at conferences and networking events
- ensure that you understand your clients' needs, enabling you to make appropriate suggestions for their investments
- be honest and provide all information, including risks. As a broker you cannot exaggerate or provide misleading information.
- Newly qualified brokers in a large bank can expect to be offered a base salary of around £25,000, plus commission.
- In more boutique investment companies in London, salaries for junior brokers start from £40,000 plus a bonus on top of the base.
- Experienced stockbrokers can earn base salaries of between £100,000 and £150,000, often with significant bonuses and commission.
Salaries vary based on your experience, success, the type of firm that you work for and your length of service. The sector also offers substantial bonuses for reaching specific targets.
Other benefits may include health and travel insurance, private medical coverage, gym membership, travel expenses, professional body membership fees, tuition and exam fees, and study leave.
You can expect to work long days, with a typical day lasting from around 7am to 6pm. This is to cover the world's financial markets as they open. (The London Stock Exchange trading hours are 8am to 4.30pm.)
You are likely to work unsociable hours in order to establish contacts with your clients in different time zones. Some companies will require you to travel abroad and you might be absent from home for a couple of nights a week on a regular basis.
Weekend work might occur, while part-time work is rare. Self-employment is possible.
What to expect
- In addition to the long working hours, you'll be expected to switch between tasks quickly to meet deadlines, which can be challenging.
- The work usually takes place in a large, open-plan office, using computers, laptops and phones. It can be a noisy working environment.
- You'll have regular meetings in and out of the office, requiring time-management skills and the ability to plan.
- Many jobs are available in London, although there are also opportunities in major UK cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.
- A business dress code is expected.
You'll usually need a good degree to train as a stockbroker. The following degree subjects, in particular, may increase your chances of success:
- business studies
Although not essential, further study in a relevant subject may be helpful. Search postgraduate courses in finance and investment.
A higher degree like a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) may increase your chances of securing a more senior position. Search for MBA courses.
Employers often expect you to hold a relevant professional qualification from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) or the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society UK, or be willing to study for one once you start work.
It may be possible to move into a trainee stockbroker role from a related area of work such as banking, accountancy or insurance, or via experience as an investments administrator or investment analyst.
You may also be able to get into the profession through a Level 4 investment operations apprenticeship or a Level 6 financial services professional degree apprenticeship. Apprenticeships combine work with part-time study for professional qualifications. Search Find an apprenticeship.
You'll need to have:
- excellent communication, presentation and interpersonal skills
- strong negotiating and sales skills
- the ability to operate in a lively and fast-paced environment
- problem-solving and decision-making skills
- strong numeracy and IT skills
- the ability to process and retain information quickly
- analytical and research skills
- the ability to weigh up risk in order to make judgements on investments
- the ability to work independently but also as part of a team
- project and time management skills
- self-motivation, drive and the determination to succeed
- confidence and the ability to be assertive
- the ability to remain calm under pressure
- honesty and trustworthiness
- a willingness to travel.
Working knowledge of a second language is also useful, particularly if you want to work with overseas clients.
You'll need a good understanding of how financial markets work. Internships and placements offered by the major players can bring you up to speed with the current trends in the market and its jargon.
Getting a relevant internship in your first or second year of university is critical - it's very hard to get an interview without that experience. Internships are offered by investment banks and firms of stockbrokers, for example. Current opportunities are usually available on individual company websites.
Employers also look for sales experience, either retail/customer facing or business-to-business (B2B).
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Typical employers include both large and small specialist brokerage firms, financial houses and banks.
Although many employers are based in the City (of London), there are opportunities available in major cities throughout the UK. Brokerage houses have offices in, for example, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.
Nearly all financial service activities in the UK must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can search the Financial Services Register to find a list of firms and what activities they have permission to undertake.
National newspapers also publish various top lists of firms in the City.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) - Jobs
- company websites.
Specialist recruitment agencies also advertise vacancies.
It's important to build a network of personal contacts who can help you identify new opportunities.
All UK stockbrokers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and you'll need to register with the FCA as an 'approved person'.
As a trainee stockbroker, you'll learn on the job, working alongside qualified stockbrokers. You will also study towards industry-recognised qualifications.
Relevant professional qualifications include:
For a full list, see the FCA's Appropriate Qualification tables.
Many firms will pay for the course and the exams, give you time off to study and, later, fund your professional body membership.
Employers may run workshops and seminars as part of on-the-job training. The workshops cover areas such as financial markets and changes in legislation and regulations. Firms also organise events and conferences, which provide opportunities for networking.
As your career progresses, it's possible to study for more advanced professional qualifications such as the CISI Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification, a postgraduate-level specialist qualification, or the CFA Program, a Masters-level qualification awarded by the CFA Institute.
Career prospects depend on your performance and establishing a strong network of contacts.
After successfully completing your training, you can take on larger client portfolios. There are then options to take on responsibility for a larger team.
Experienced stockbrokers can move into account, relationship or fund management roles. With further experience, it may be possible to set up your own broking firm or to become a partner within your existing employment. A partner will deal with a client base consisting of high-net-worth clients, which attracts greater prestige and rewards.
There are opportunities for high salaries plus substantial bonuses and commission for successful stockbrokers with the right combination of skills and experience.