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Becoming a Financial Planner in Arkansas

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, recent economic development in Arkansas is responsible for the fact that the average per capita personal income in the state has approached national levels. The urban counties of the state show the highest average per capita personal income, with residents of Jefferson and Shelby Counties enjoying an average per capita personal income higher than the national averThe Arkansas Labor Market’s Long-Term Industry and Occupational Projections show an increase of 14.64 percent in the number of jobs available to personal financial advisors in the state during the current ten-year period ending 2018. A similar increase of 14.66 percent in the number of jobs for insurance sales agents, including life insurance producers who sell fixed annuities, is also expected in the next few years.

U.S. Census Bureau figures show that a significant portion of Arkansas’ population, about 14.3 percent, was over age 65 in 2009. This is considerably higher than the national average of 12.9 percent. With a large segment of Arkansas residents approaching retirement age, a demand is created for prudent and responsible retirement planning services from financial planners who specialize in this important area of expertise.

Population projections published by the University of Arkansas’ Institute for Economic Advancement forecast a sizeable increase in the number of children ages 0 to 19 in the state by 2030; from 760,509 in 2000 to 1,039,230. Arkansas offers 529 College Savings Plans that include a direct-sold program, the GIFT College Investing Plan; as well as an advisor-sold plan known as the iShares 529 Plan. The latter plan debuted in 2007 and was the first 529 plan to feature exchange-traded funds exclusively. Enrollment numbers have increased by about five percent at most Arkansas colleges and universities in recent years, and families now need help more than ever to understand the tax-deferred options available to them as they look to establish college savings plans for their children.

According to Forbes magazine’s 2006 survey, four of the world’s richest people lived in Arkansas. This included three members of the Walton family, founders of Wal-Mart, each of whom had a net worth of over $15 billion. The US Census Bureau reports that in 2009, the counties with the highest median household incomes in Arkansas were Benton County, Grant County, Pulaski County, and Washington County. Financial planners serve many residents of these areas of the state, as wealthy families often need expert advice in managing wealth, developing estate plans, and refining investment strategies.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Arkansas

Investment adviser (IA) firms and firm representatives (IAR) in Arkansas must register with the Arkansas Securities Department. An IAR works to represent an investment advisor, and must pass the following examinations:  the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination (Series 65 examination); or the General Securities Representative Examination (Series 7 examination) in combination with the Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66 examination). Registration in Arkansas is done through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system.

Examination waivers may be granted to aspiring IARs who already hold the following certifications or professional designations: Certified Financial Planner (CFP) of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.; Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) of the American College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts; and Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) of the Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc.

Although it may not be Wall Street, Arkansas has its share of heavy hitters when it comes to investment advisory firms. One of the largest off-Wall Street investment banking firms, Stephens, Inc., can be found in Little Rock. Others include First Command Financial Services in Little Rock; Edward Jones with offices in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs and Jonesboro; as well as Raymond James and UBS Financial Services, both with offices in Little Rock.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Arkansas

Agents of broker-dealers are also required to register with the Arkansas Securities Department. Applicants must pass at least two securities examinations that test their knowledge of the Arkansas Securities Act and the Rules of the Arkansas Securities Commissioner. These exams, better known as the Securities General Knowledge Examination (Series 7) and the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination (Series 63), are offered at Prometric testing centers in Little Rock and Fort Smith. To complete the process, broker-dealers who employ these agents must then submit a Form U-4 Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration through the Central Registration Depository System (CRD).

Once registered, agents must submit to continuing education requirements that must be fulfilled after being licensed for two years, then every three years thereafter. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires a Regulatory Element course, as well as a Firm Element provided by the broker-dealer firm. Both of these elements are intended to keep registered agents abreast of changes in regulations, investment products, and sales protocols.

How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Arkansas

The Arkansas Insurance Department licenses producers to sell life insurance and/or fixed annuities. Pre-licensing education, amounting to 36 hours of classroom instruction, must be taken before applicants are qualified to take the Arkansas Insurance Department Licensing exam. Once licensed, insurance providers must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years, with three of those hours specific to ethics classes.

Licensed life insurance producers in Arkansas may wish to become variable life and variable annuity agents. This requires sponsorship from a broker-dealer firm so as to be eligible to receive a securities license by passing FINRA’s Series 6 or Series 7 examinations. Continuing education requirements of both the Arkansas Insurance Department and FINRA apply to life insurance and variable annuity producers.