Becoming a Financial Planner in West Virginia

WORKFORCE West Virginia predicts an average annual increase of 2.1 percent per year from 2008 through 2018 for positions for personal financial advisors in the state. Insurance sales agents, some of whom work as financial planners by selling life insurance and annuities, should see an increase of about 1.3 percent each year in the current ten-year period ending 2018. While these increases may seem modest, they do represent positive projected occupational growth for financial planners in the state.

Financial planners tend to serve higher net worth individuals and families who are more likely to turn to financial professionals to help them with wealth management and investment advice. West Virginia has a long legacy of wealth and at one time the state actually housed the richest town in the United States. In 1889, Bramwell, West Virginia, a town of 4,000 residents, was home to 14 millionaires. Currently, according to IRS records, the most affluent of West Virginia’s residents live in Morgantown, Charleston, and Huntington.

The US Census Bureau reported in 2009 that West Virginia had a higher than average percentage of residents age 65 and over (15.8 percent compared to the national average of 12.9 percent). The Census Bureau projects that the number of state residents over age 65 will rise to 460,000 by 2025. As these West Virginians approach retirement age, many will seek out the services of financial planners to help them save for their golden years.

West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission notes that college enrollment rates in the state have climbed in recent years. In fact, enrollment at two- and four-year colleges and universities in West Virginia has increased by 12.3 percent since 2005. West Virginia’s financial planners who concentrate on helping families and prospective students save for the ever-increasing costs of college education are encouraged by this trend.

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How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in West Virginia

The West Virginia State Auditor’s Office Securities Commission is charged with the responsibility of registering and licensing investment adviser representatives (IAR) and investment adviser (IA) firms in the state that manage client assets that total less than $100 million. Under the West Virginia Uniform Securities Act, those who wish to work as an IAR in the state must pass the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Uniform Investment Advisor Law Examination (Series 65 Exam); or the General Securities Representative Examination (Series 7 Exam) in conjunction with the Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66 Exam). Both state and federal level registration are done through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system.

Well known national and regional investment adviser firms have offices throughout West Virginia. Among these are Huntington Wealth Advisors in Huntington; BB&T Human Systems in Charleston and Parkersburg; Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Charleston and Huntington; United Bank in Beckley and Charleston; Edward Jones in Huntington, Parkersburg, Wheeling, Charleston and Weirton; and Adams, Inc. with offices in Wheeling.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in West Virginia

Broker-dealer agents must also register with the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office Securities Commission, as well as with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Central Registration Depository (CRD). These securities and commodities agents must pass the Full Registration/General Securities Representative (Series 7GS) along with the Series 63 examination, or the Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66) by itself.

Continuing education required of registered securities representatives is mandated by NASAA and FINRA and comes in two parts: the Regulatory Element and the Firm Element. The Regulatory Element requires all registered representatives to take a computer-based refresher course after being registered for two years, then every three years thereafter. The Firm Element is provided by BD firms to keep their registered reps abreast of regulatory changes that may impact sales practices and product offerings and is provided yearly.

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

The West Virginia Insurance Commission licenses life insurance producers, who may also sell fixed annuities, which are among the most common investment vehicles used by individuals planning for retirement. Pre licensing education through an approved provider and West Virginia’s life insurance producer examination, which is given by the third-party test proctor Pearson VUE, must be completed prior to licensure. Under the West Virginia Annuity Rule, all agents who sell annuities must complete a one-time four-hour long annuity-training course. Continuing education requirements for insurance producers in West Virginia include 24 hours every two years, with three of those hours being in ethics courses.

Those interested in becoming variable life and variable annuity sales agents must pursue securities sales agent registration through FINRA in addition to their insurance license. This involves passing the Series 63 exam as well as either the Series 6 or 7 exams. Additional continuing education requirements apply to variable annuity agents. Variable annuity agents must meet both FINRA’s and the Insurance Commission’s continuing education requirements to maintain both licenses.