Case Study: Stockbroker - Alicia

What do you do?

I work for a regional stockbroker's firm that has 37 offices around the UK. My role is to buy and sell shares for clients; I advise clients and execute deals on behalf of the investment managers working here.

Working with stocks and shares is very enjoyable because I am helping people with their finances and helping to make their money, which they work very hard for, grow.

I assist one of the senior members of staff and help him look after his clients: reviewing their lists of shares, their portfolios, and advising them about whether they should make any changes.

If they have money to invest, we advise them what they should buy with it, or if they want to raise some money, we suggest how they should do that.

Working in a regional office means that you have exposure to many different aspects of stockbroking. If I was to work in London, my job would be very streamlined, and I wouldn't have as much contact with clients or liaison with investment managers.

It would be very one-dimensional, whereas working in a regional office you can understand the background behind stockbroking more fully.

I have to keep up to date with what's going on in the financial world by reading the financial press, for example, the Financial Times, the Investor's Chronicle and Money Management magazine.

What is your background?

From school I was always very interested in the Arts, and art history. I did A levels and went to university and did a degree in History of Art, Media and Visual Arts.

When I finished my degree, I went to work for a design company for one year, but it was poorly paid and I wanted something that was a bit more stimulating.

I really fell into this job by accident; I had gone to a temping agency and the first position they offered me was as a receptionist working at this firm. I started off as a receptionist and then I looked after checking for the group.

Then I moved on to do my Securities Representative exam [now part of the Certificate in Securities and Financial Derivatives from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI)] and now I'm qualified to be able to advise clients and deal on their behalf. I am currently studying for the Futures and Options exam, and hopefully next year I will do the Private Client exams [was part of the CISI Diploma].

Once you have that, you can be an investment manager and you can look after your own clients and advise them on things like tax planning and other financial recommendations.

The study is mainly home study, and then you can do a two-day intensive course down in London. It varies a bit for each exam.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

You really need to be able to get on very well with people; you have to be able to speak to people on all different levels. Some of our clients are high net worth clients, and demand a lot from you.

You need to be able to be very quick, because within a split second you can miss a price and that can be devastating; it can mean thousands of pounds to one client, hundreds of pounds to another.

You need to be on the ball, you need to interact well with clients. You need to have a team-orientated perspective in this office. It's very important that we all work as a good team. You need to be very organised and remember to do everything that you should do.

You need numeracy skills and you need to be able to keep up with what's going on in the markets, what's good to buy and sell, so you can give an opinion.

You need to be able to listen to clients and to communicate back to them by letter, by telephone or in person. It's very easy to use jargon, but some clients don't know anything about stocks and shares and you have to be able to explain in very basic terms.

You need to be very highly motivated; I work long hours but I really enjoy the job, and that compensates for the time that I put in.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

The skills that we have in this job are geared up for roles like sales or other jobs in this industry, perhaps in London. If you are highly motivated and can concentrate and pay attention to detail, you could really do well anywhere.

A good thing about working in stockbroking is that you get an awareness of the financial industry and there are a lot of options open to you. Doing the financial planning exams, you can move into fields such as becoming an actuary or an investment manager or fund manager, so it's a broad perspective.

If I wanted to become a bank manager, I could possibly do that because the skills that I've honed here would be suitable for that, including one-to-one contact with clients.

I would say that the skills I've learned here have opened up lots of potential for many different roles.

What changes will there be in the future?

I think that there will be much more focus on people dealing in stocks and shares for themselves.

There will possibly be some very big changes in stockbroking over the next 10 to 20 years. It will be very interesting to see exactly what happens.

One of the bigger changes is the movement away from paper share certificates on to electronically held shares through a system called CREST. Also, there are always changes in the rules and regulations, and we try to keep up with those all the time.

I think we might see that there will always be people who want to ring up and speak to stockbrokers, have their hand held and be told which shares to go into and which to sell.

Fundamentally, as there is more information on the internet, people will decide that they would rather use that information and deal on the basis of it. Stockbroking may change dramatically but as yet it's very difficult to tell what's going to happen.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

One of the most challenging things for me is keeping up to date with what's going on in the market, and to keep my opinions and views on the market up to date, because things are changing all the time.

Another challenge is trying to meet the expectations of clients. They all want different things.

One incident that happened was when a client rang up at 4.25 pm (the market shuts at 4.30 pm) and he wanted me to invest some money in his PEPs [Personal Equity Plans - no longer available], ISAs [Individual Savings Accounts] and his general account, which amounted to £900,000, into one share which is very difficult.

It was extremely stressful but we did manage to do it just after the market closed. I spent the weekend very stressed until the Monday to make sure the right amount of money had been invested in each of the accounts.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

It is easy, depending on how willing you are to get a job. If you can show that you are keen and you decide to write off to various regional stockbrokers, and say you are not too worried about what the money is, I think you'll find it very easy to get in.

Once you're in, then it's a matter of picking up as quickly as you can all the different information and getting through the exams. Once you're on the ladder with the exams, you can do very well.

What do you like about your job?

I really enjoy speaking to clients. I am very much a social person and I like having a one-to-one rapport with clients, so that's very important to me. I enjoy the excitement of the shares, and not missing prices; that's stimulating.

I like advising clients to buy shares and then hearing from them six months later and they say those shares did very well - you get a real buzz.

I like the people I work with - we're a good team and we have a good laugh; that's very important to me. If I didn't have that, I don't think I'd be here.

What do you dislike about your job?

One of my pet hates is loadings, which is when clients send in certificates of shares that they've had for years, sometimes 20 or 30 years, and you have to list all the shares and put them on to a portfolio for valuation.

It can be confusing finding out when they bought them, what price they paid, if they sold some of them, and I really don't like doing it. I don't have that kind of mind to enjoy it.

What are your ambitions?

I would like to do all the exams and get qualified. Then I can start to bring new clients in. That would ideally be my goal within this company.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

I would advise them to write to lots of stockbroking firms all over the UK; if they're not partial to staying within one town, that would be the best way to start. If they send their CV off, hopefully they'll get a response and they will probably be able to find a position somewhere.

I think the best way to get into the market would be to do economics and maths and follow a route into finance, maybe do a degree in finance and they would be in a stronger position to get into stockbroking.

A day in the life

8:15 am - 10:00 am

Check the indices, such as the Dow Jones, that have closed overnight. This gives an indication of how the FTSE <I>[Financial Times Stock Exchange]</I> 100 is likely to perform today.

Deal with any incoming post or administration, and check that any amendments to clients' portfolios made yesterday have gone through OK.

10:00 am - 1:00 pm

See clients, speak to other clients on the telephone. Receive written instructions to sell shares and check that these are valid, then go ahead with the sales. Set up new accounts for clients.

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Lunch.

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Prepare a probate valuation on the instruction of a solicitor, where a person has died and left shares. List the value of the shares at the date of death.

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Place shares for sale on the computerised system, SETS, on behalf of clients.

4:00 pm - 5:15 pm

Write letters to clients regarding recommendations based on regular reviews of their share portfolios.

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