Unlike many other financial jobs, financial advisor roles are commonly available outside of major financial centers. Therefore, working as a financial advisor may appeal to those individuals not interested (or unable) to live and work in New York, London, or other large cities. Because they interact with the public, financial advisors are usually located fairly close to their clients. This means that most large financial advisory firms have offices in both large cities and smaller metropolitan areas. Some firms even allow employees to work remotely, which creates the possibility of living and working in areas not traditionally associated with the financial industry. Common employers in the financial advisory business include large brokerage firms discount brokerage firms and independent registered investment advisors and private banking firms. Both large and small firms offer advantages and disadvantages; which one is best is largely a matter of individual preference.
As with most jobs in finance, financial advisors generally have at least a college degree. Although some advisors also have a graduate degree, these are not as much of a requirement to be a financial advisor as they are for some other finance roles. However, most financial advisors are required to have securities industry licenses such as the Series 7 & 63. Earning these licenses involves studying for and passing several exams and then conducting continuing education and complying with ethical standards. Also common among some financial advisors is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. This designation is particularly common among independent advisors who offer not only stock and bond sales, but also complete financial planning and sometimes tax advice. Because they often look at a client's entire financial picture, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designations are also relatively common among some advisors, although they are certainly not a prerequisite for entry to the field.
These jobs are generally found at the large "wire house" firms such as Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch. Jobs can also be found at firms such as Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, and Raymond James. At the larger firms, individuals generally enter on the ground floor and complete a training course where they learn the basics of the financial industry, gain an understanding of how the business and the firm works, and study for and attain their Series 7 & 63 licenses. Individuals may then begin working for an established broker before eventually finding their own clients and building a book of business. The work is difficult initially with a lot of cold calling on prospects; therefore, successful stockbrokers must be able to handle rejection well. The rate of attrition among new stockbrokers is fairly high due to the demanding nature of the work and the difficulty of getting started. However, once established financial consultants can earn a very comfortable lifestyle while managing their client portfolios and achieving satisfaction from helping their clients meet their financial goals.
While most stockbrokers work at relatively large firms, many certified financial planners work at small firms, either for themselves, with a partner, or as an employee. For that reason, these jobs tend to appeal to individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit or that enjoy working in a relatively small office. While many certified financial planners have a Series 7 & 63 license, many also study for and complete the CFP program and CPAs are also common. Once established, the role of a certified financial planner is similar to that of a financial consultant at a large firm; individuals help guide their clients' finances in order to meet the clients' financial goals. One difference is that some certified financial planners take a broader view of their clients' finances in order to encompass tax planning, estate planning and similar issues in addition to investments.
Private bankers deal with extremely wealthy individuals. At many private banks, the minimum account size might be several million dollars, and it can sometimes be much higher. Private bankers can work at a firm that specializes in high net worth individuals, while many "regular" brokerage firms and banks also have special divisions that focus solely on their wealthiest clients. Like financial consultants and financial planners, private bankers work with their clients to plan investments and work towards financial goals. However, because most clients have already attained great wealth, these jobs sometimes focus more upon preservation of wealth then on creating wealth. Tax planning and complicated financial strategies also play more of a role with high net worth clients than with ordinary clients. In some cases, private bankers may also find themselves providing unusual services such as helping a client manage their art collection or finding somebody to pay the bills and provide maintenance on the clients' many houses. Private bankers are particularly in demand in Asia and other emerging markets where the ranks of the very rich are swelling rapidly. Because more and more people in these countries are attaining the kind of wealth which requires a private banker, the potential growth of this field is excellent.
Because competition for some of these roles is less intense than for some other finance roles and because individuals have the flexibility to work from a variety of locations, a career as a financial advisor might be appealing to some job seekers. Before considering such a career, it is important to make sure that you have the intestinal fortitude and people skills necessary to survive the initial stages of developing a client base. If you do, a financial advisory career can provide financial rewards as well as the satisfaction that comes from seeing clients meet their financial goals.