Stockbrokers are expert investors that act as securities sales representatives for the broker-dealer firms they work for, and as such are commonly referred to as broker-dealer agents. To become a stockbroker in Vermont, you’ll need to be licensed as a broker-dealer agent with the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration, Securities Division, and registered with the self-regulatory organization (SRO) that regulates your employing firm. Most firms are voluntary members of the largest and most influential SRO, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Follow this step-by-step guide for an understanding of exactly what this process involves.
Step 1. Get Your Education
You are not required by the Vermont Securities Division to have a college degree, but many broker-dealer firms will only consider sponsoring candidates with a four-year degree. Additionally, the elective professional designations you may choose to pursue during your career will either require a bachelor’s degree, or accept a degree in lieu of meeting experience requirements.
Think about choosing one the following degrees:
- BS-Business Administration- Finance
- BA-Consumer and Family Financial Services
Degree programs in business and finance include courses that will provide you with an understanding of financial markets. Also consider the importance of sales and marketing courses, as building and maintaining a loyal client base is of paramount importance. Some courses you’ll likely encounter include:
- Business communications
- Behavior of organizations, persons and groups
- Business law
- Business ethics
- Quantitative applications in business
- Accounting, in particular courses in financial accounting and managerial accounting
Step 2: Take the Required Exams
- Vermont is among a handful of states that do not require broker-dealer agents to pass a state securities exam prior to licensure. In order to engage in the sale of securities as a representative of a broker-dealer firm, however, you will be required to pass a general securities exam, the most common and comprehensive of which is the Series 7. Applying for the Series 7 exam requires you to locate and secure a sponsoring broker-dealer firm registered in Vermont.
- The Vermont Division of Securities requires that broker-dealer agent license candidates submit a completed Tax Certification Form, by postal mail directly to the Division at Vermont Department of BISHCA, 89 Main St., Montpelier, Vermont 05620-310. This applies to any agent who is a Vermont resident or who transacts business from a place of business located in Vermont.
- Your sponsoring firm will help you complete the Form U-4, Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer, which will serve as an exam application as well as a licensure application with the Vermont Securities Division.Your broker-dealer will submit the application through the Central Registration Depository (CRD) for approval. Fees associated with Form U-4 application covered by your sponsoring firm:
- $85 FINRA registration processing fee
- Exam fees for all exams your firm will require you to take
- You are also required to submit a copy of your fingerprints if you belong to a FINRA-member firm. FINRA charges your broker-dealer $30.25 to process the fingerprint card.
- Vermont’s $60 processing fee
Once FINRA approves your registration, you will be able to schedule the Series 7, General Securities Representative Examination, or any other additional exams required by your employer and its self-regulatory organization.
- Schedule the exam with the Vermont exam location nearest you. This must be done within 120 days of your application being approved.
- Prepare for the exam using the resources made available to you by your sponsoring firm. Arrive at your chosen exam location early and ready to test.
- Your score will be displayed on the monitor when the exam is complete.
Step 3: Get Your On-The-Job Training
You will be introduced to your new broker-dealer firm by being provided with on-the-job training. You may job shadow a fellow registered representative to develop your sales skills and to increase your product knowledge. Many firms will offer additional courses either internally or through outside vendors to help you develop professionally.
Your training will help prepare you to properly advise clients regarding a number of different financial vehicles. Your training may cover the following securities:
- Mutual funds
- Variable contracts
- Options on stocks
- Government securities
- Corporate equity and debt securities
- Corporate, municipal and treasury bonds
- Open-end and closed-end investment company shares
- Direct participation programs like non-publicly traded real estate investment trusts or oil and gas leases
Step 4: Ongoing Requirements for License Renewal and Continuing Education
Annual License Renewal and Fees
Your Vermont securities license expires on December 31st each year. Your broker-dealer will handle the renewal process and pay the $60 renewal fee to the Vermont Securities Division through the Web-CRD (Central Registration Depository).
Continuing Education Requirements
The Securities Industry Continuing Education Program has been established to keep registered broker-dealer agents current on industry trends and regulatory changes. It consists of two training elements, which must be completed at certain intervals during your career.
- The Regulatory Element
The Regulatory Element training program must be completed at the beginning of your third year (within 120 days from your second annual registration). Your employer will notify you when subsequent Regulatory Element training is required, as it will only be required of you once every three years.For registered representatives holding the Series 7, the S101 General Program serves as the Regulatory Element. There are four modules that make up the S101. Issues of ethical, and regulatory compliance, and sales-practice standards are covered in general topics including:
- Communicating with the Public
- Client/Product Suitability
- New and Secondary Offering & Corporate Finance
- Handling Customer Accounts/Trade and Settlement Practices
- The Firm Element
The Firm Element is implemented by your broker-dealer based on the topics it deems appropriate to its business according to a yearly FINRA assessment of relevant financial industry topics. Your broker-dealer’s compliance department will alert you to when the Firm Element must be completed each year. It usually addresses:
- Sales practices and suitability standards
- Investment features and associated risk factors
- Regulatory requirements related to products, services, and strategies
Updating your Form U-4
You must discloses changes to your broker-dealer’s compliance department that will affect information found on your Form U-4:
- Changes to name or marital status
- Address updates
- Customer complaints
- Pending or completed disciplinary actions
- Financial judgments against you
- Civil judgments against you
- Criminal disclosure
The status of your U-4 registration and all information contained therein can be accessed through FINRA’s BrokerCheck.