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 operate in a number of ways, depending on how much control the client wants to have:

  • discretionary - you'll manage all investments and make decisions on your clients' behalf, buying and selling shares on the stock market
  • advisory - you'll advise on appropriate investments but will only act on the orders of your client
  • execution-only - you'll engage in investment activities on explicit request from your clients and won't offer any advice.

In all cases, you'll deal with your clients directly and manage their wealth portfolios. Stockbrokers are expected to manage existing clients and develop new business.

Types of stockbrokers

  • Full service broker - you'll provide a personal service to your clients and pass on important information that won't be available to those without the full brokerage service. Usually you'll receive commission if the client invests in the stocks your firm specialises in. You'll deliver personalised research and recommendations on investments.
  • Discount broker - you'll just carry out orders from your clients and won't offer advice, analysis or research services.
  • Online broker - you'll support your clients in carrying out their own research by providing them with charts, investment news and a selection of stocks for them to consider. Contact with clients is not personal and they generally have a good knowledge of the stock market.

Responsibilities

As a stockbroker, you'll 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
  • provide advice on investments and make recommendations (depending on the type of stockbroking service you're providing)
  • proactively look for clients, sell your services and manage those relationships. You'll do this through a combination of networking and cold calling
  • regularly update your clients on the state of their portfolio and new investment opportunities
  • 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.

It's likely that you'll work on commission and it's very important that you remember your duty of care, which has a fiduciary quality, towards all your clients, which means that clients have placed the utmost trust and confidence in you to manage and protect their money and investments.

Salary

  • 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.
  • With a combination of success, experience and length of service, stockbrokers can earn base salaries between £100,000 and £150,000, often with significant bonuses and commission.

Salaries can vary based on experience, success, qualifications and the length of service within the brokerage firm and the type of firm that you work for.

The sector also offers 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.

Working hours

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.

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 is office based, with constant use of computers, laptops and phones. It can be a noisy working environment. You'll have regular meetings in and out of the office, requiring excellent 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.

Qualifications

Employers will look for candidates with a good degree. The following degree subjects, in particular, may increase your chances of success:

  • accountancy
  • business studies
  • economics
  • finance
  • management
  • mathematics/statistics.

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.

Professional qualifications may also improve your employment prospects. These are provided by organisations such as the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society.

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.

Skills

You'll need to demonstrate:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills, including strong negotiating skills
  • the ability to operate in a lively and fast-paced environment
  • natural sales ability
  • decision-making skills
  • strong numeracy skills
  • analytical and research skills
  • the ability to work independently but also as a part of a team
  • project and time management skills
  • presentation skills
  • a disposition for taking risks
  • confidence and the ability to be assertive
  • problem-solving ability
  • IT competence
  • the ability to process and retain information quickly
  • a willingness to travel.

Working knowledge of a second language is also useful, particularly if you want to work with overseas clients.

Work experience

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.

Work experience in sales and customer-facing roles is also an advantage.

Employers

The majority of employers are based in the City (of London) and include:

  • investment banks
  • fund management firms
  • specialist brokers
  • private banks.

Firms adhere to a set of standards, specified by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Information about the firms can be checked on:

National newspapers publish various top lists of firms in the City.

Look for job vacancies at:

It's important to build a network of personal contacts, who can identify new opportunities.

Professional development

All UK stockbrokers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As a trainee stockbroker, you'll learn on the job, working alongside qualified stockbrokers, and will study towards industry-recognised qualifications.

Qualifications are provided by organisations such as the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society. Examples include:

  • CFA UK Level 4 Certificate in Investment Management (IMC)
  • CISI Level 4 Diploma in Investment Advice.

Many firms will offer to pay for the course and the exams, give you time off to study and later fund your professional body membership.

In addition, employers run workshops and seminars as part of on-the-job training. The workshops cover various topics relevant to the job, like financial markets and changes in legislation and regulations.

There are also various events and conferences organised by firms, which provide opportunities for networking.

As your career progresses, it's possible to study for more advanced professional qualifications such as the CFA Program or the CISI Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification.

Career prospects

Career prospects depend on your performance and establishing good 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 or fund management roles. With further experience, it may be possible to set up your own firm or to become a partner within your existing employment. A partner will deal with a client base consisting of higher net worth clients, which attracts greater prestige and rewards.

Some stockbrokers, less able to deliver sales targets, may move sideways to become investment analysts.

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