Sales Assistant Career Overview: A sales assistant helps financial advisors (or brokers) better manage their time by handling routine client inquiries.
Education: A bachelor’s degree normally is expected. Coursework in finance, accounting and/or economics is helpful, though not required.
Certification: Certification is required to become a registered sales assistant who can accept and process unsolicited securities trade orders placed by clients. At a minimum, registered sales assistants must pass the Series 11 exam offered by FINRA and meet continuing education requirements. Larger securities firms, however, require much more rigorous qualifications, insisting instead upon the same Series 7 and Series 66 exams that their financial advisors must pass.
Duties and Responsibilities: A sales assistant screens telephone calls to financial advisors and solves operational problems, such as issues with statements, deposits, checks and credit card transactions. A sales assistant thus has large influence over client satisfaction and financial advisor time management and productivity.
Typical Schedule: A 40 hour workweek, or something close thereto, is typical for a sales assistant.
What’s to Like: Those with excellent people skills often enjoy the constant interaction with clients. Troubleshooting for clients gives the job focus and clear yardsticks for success.
What’s Not to Like: Supporting a busy financial advisor with a large roster of clients means a constant stream of telephone inquiries and constant time pressure to resolve problems.
Salary Range: Compensation is highly variable, depending on the firm and the size and profitability of the financial advisor’s book of business. Salary and bonus for a seasoned sales assistant typically ranges between $30,000 and $60,000. According to The Wall Street Journal (“Merrill Plots Raid on a Vulnerable Rival,” October 2, 2012), the typical base salary at industry leader (in terms of the number of financial advisors) Morgan Stanley is about $40,000.
Advancement: As you go up the learning curve, look for openings supporting more seasoned and successful financial advisors, with the goal of gaining a commensurate increase in pay if one brings you aboard. Much less frequently, a sales assistant (especially one who is registered) can use his or her sales support experience to become a financial advisor. While this path makes logical sense, there may be cultural barriers in some firms to taking it. Another leading option is to use your daily contacts with brokerage operations areas of the firm to move there.
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