If you can handle a fast-paced and challenging financial environment, using your excellent communication, negotiation and analytical skills, working as a stockbroker may be the career for you
Stockbrokers are individuals who buy and sell stocks and other securities for retail and institutional clients, through a stock exchange or over the counter, in return for a fee or a commission.
Depending on the client base, stockbroking can be:
- institutional - services are provided to fund managers and other financial institutions. 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 - services are provided to retail investors, who are generally wealthy individuals and with whom stockbrokers work directly.
Stockbrokers also operate in a number of ways:
- discretionary - you'll manage all investments and make decisions on clients' behalf, buying and selling shares on the stock market
- advisory - you'll advise on appropriate investments without directly making the decisions, and you won't be involved in the direct purchase of assets. In institutional broking this is the main way in which you'll operate
- executive - you'll engage in investment activities, only on explicit request from your clients.
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 - involves creating a list of recommended stocks to send to your clients, without backing this up by your research.
- 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.
As a stockbroker, you'll need to:
- keep up to date with the latest financial and tax legislation
- stay informed of the latest financial news 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
- proactively look for clients, sell your services and manage those relationships (in the business this is referred to as 'client service and recruitment'). 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 fiduciary duty 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.
Salaries can vary based on experience, qualifications and the length of service within the brokerage firm and the type of firm that you work for.
- Newly qualified graduates in a large bank can expect to be offered a base salary of £25,000, plus commission, which varies between 15% and 20% on top of the base.
- In more boutique investment companies in London, salaries for junior brokers start from £40,000 plus a bonus of 20% to 25% on top of the base.
- With experience and length of service, stockbrokers can earn base salaries between £100,000 and £150,000, often with a significant bonus.
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.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You can expect to work long days, with a typical day lasting from 6:30am to 6:00pm. 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 stressful.
- The work is office based, with constant use of computers, laptops and phones.
- You'll have regular meetings in and out of the office, requiring excellent time-management skills and the ability to plan.
- Opportunities tend to be in cities and large towns.
- International travel is likely.
- A business dress code is expected.
- If you're successful and establish good contacts, you'll have a relatively secure future in the field.
- Career progression is likely and you will be given the opportunity to grow within the business.
- The sector is still male-dominated. However, larger organisations and banks invest in widening the participation of female employees.
Most employers will be searching for candidates with good undergraduate degrees. You may have an advantage if your first degree is in:
- business studies
Entry at junior level is available for newly qualified undergraduates.
A higher degree like a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) can increase your chances of securing a more senior position. Search for MBA courses.
Professional qualifications can greatly improve your employment prospects. These include:
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Investment Management Certificate (IMC)
To gain an advantage many people decide to obtain the first level of CFA qualification before applying for jobs.
Previous sales experience can also increase your chances of getting a job, as can a working knowledge of a foreign language.
Following a successful online application, you'll need to pass a further two to three interviews.
Interviews might take the form of a presentation and questions afterwards. Large banks run their assessment centres to shortlist candidates before the final interview stage.
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
- 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
- assertiveness and problem-solving ability
- IT competence
- the ability to process and retain information quickly
- a willingness to travel.
Work experience in sales and customer-facing roles is an advantage. Experience in stockbroking is not necessary as many firms offer the necessary training.
Internships and placements offered by the major players can certainly 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.
You can get in touch with the department in your university responsible for sourcing internships and placements, however information of current opportunities is available from individual company websites.
The majority of employers are based in the City (of London) and vary from large investment banks to small boutique brokerages.
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:
Building a network of personal contacts gives you an advantage in identifying new opportunities and often secure you the first interviews.
Competition for available vacancies is strong, but so is the turnover with many people finding it difficult to achieve the required sales targets.
All UK stockbrokers must be regulated by the FCA.
Additional qualifications related to the job and considered part of continual professional development (CPD) include the CFA, IMC and qualifications achieved through the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).
If you haven't obtained some of the professional qualifications previously mentioned, you will be expected to undertake those. 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.
There are also various events and conferences organised by firms, which provide opportunities for networking.
Successful stockbrokers can build up a broad network, which might enable them to subsequently set up their own firm or to become a partner within their 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.