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Getting Started in Your Career Articles

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What is the SIE Exam Passing Rate?

If you’re taking the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, you might be wondering about the passing rate. And you probably want to know how hard the exam is. Although more than three-quarters of those who sit for the SIE exam end up passing it, it’s still challenging. Let’s take a look at the data and then see what you can do to increase your chances of passing.

SIE Exam Passing Rate

You need a score of 70% or better to pass the SIE. As of August 31, 2019, the overall passing rate of the SIE exam was 82% out of 67,445 exams administered. Of the 58,264 candidates who were taking it for the first time, the pass rate was 74%. The rates for those taking the SIE with the Series 6, Series 7, and Series 79 exam were as follows:

  • SIE and Series 6: 80%
  • SIE and Series 7: 84%
  • SIE and Series 79: 96%

Thinking about taking the SIE exam? Our free Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam is packed with useful information.

How Hard Is the SIE Exam?

The SIE exam is not easy. You should be prepared for a challenge. You are expected to know about capital markets, securities products, and regulations, as well as how to trade securities and what products are prohibited.

Although the exam requires some math and a few calculations, mostly you are being tested on how well you read the exam questions and your understanding of finance and securities concepts. Knowing definitions will not be enough. You should also be prepared for one word being used to mean different things and, conversely, several different words being used to mean the same thing. For examples and more details, read our article on frequently encountered SIE exam roadblocks.

Despite the challenges, you can be part of the 82% passing rate if you know the topics and prepare properly.

SIE Exam Questions and Topics

The SIE exam consists of 75 multiple-choice questions plus 10 unscored questions, and you have an hour and 45 minutes to complete it. The topics and the number of questions assigned each are:

  1. Knowledge of Capital Markets: 12 (16% of the exam)
  2. Understanding Products and their Risks: 33 (44% of the exam)
  3. Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts, and Prohibited Activities: 23 (31% of the exam)
  4. Overview of the Regulatory Framework: 7 (9% of the exam)

As you can see, the second and third sections make up 75% of the exam, so you need to do well on both those sections. But don’t overlook the other two. They are important because you will need to know how to apply those concepts in future securities licensing exams.

SIE Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Passing

These tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to increase your odds of passing:

  • Layout a study plan. Use the SIE Exam Content Outline from FINRA as a starting point. An SIE exam prep package is even more helpful for developing your study plan and determining how many hours to study. Because the SIE exam was just implemented in October 2018, guidance on how many hours of study to put in varies widely. Some say 20 hours. Others say 100-150 hours. Kaplan advises no less than 50 hours, and you should add more hours if you don’t have a financial background.
  • Develop a steady, regular study routine. A routine can increase your retention dramatically. Balance your studying between reading and practicing with breaks in between that enable concepts (and how to apply them) to percolate. Relying solely on frantic cramming a few days before the exam is not recommended because you aren’t tested on memorization.
  • Be sure you have a thorough understanding of finance and the markets, and are keeping up with trends. Take some extra study time to listen to podcasts or youtube videos about investing. Subscribe to updates from financial news sources online. Visit online discussions of finance, the stock market, and securities on quora and reddit. Build your confidence by answering practice questions and taking practice exams.
  • Practice questions and exams enable you to assess how well you understand and apply critical concepts. You’ll be able to address weaknesses and become accustomed to the kinds of questions you’ll be asked on the exam.

Ready for the Challenge?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, check out our SIE exam preparation packages. You can also find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the exam in this SIE FAQ.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - October 16, 2019
SIE Exam Passing Rate Celebrated by 4 Students

What Is the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) Designation?

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) is a professional certification designed for newcomers to the financial advice business that is awarded by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP)—a Kaplan company. Earning the designation also enables experienced advisors to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. This article explains what the designation is, why it’s valuable, how it can help you in your career, and how to get it.

What Is AAMS®?

AAMS® certification is a designation program for financial professionals. The program provides advisors with fundamental financial knowledge of asset management and investments. It was started in 1994 and is offered exclusively online by CFFP. The certification is also listed by FINRA, which is a private, self-regulatory organization that regulates certain aspects of the securities industry.

Why the AAMS® Program Is Valuable

When asked about the value of the program, one certified AAMS® professional said: “This program gave me more knowledge to help structure my communication with my clients. The AAMS® program should be a requirement for anyone involved in asset allocation and money management."

The courses and tests associated with earning the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations. Those who go through the program learn to identify new investment opportunities and also recognize insurance, tax, retirement, and estate issues.

The program is designed to help financial advisors who are just starting out in their careers. However, more experienced financial advisors can benefit from the credential, too, because it lets clients know they have a specialty in asset management. In addition, financial advisors with the AAMS® certification who plan to earn the CFP® designation can test out of two of the seven courses in the CFFP CFP® certification education program.

How the AAMS® Designation Can Help Your Career

The AAMS® designation is recognized as the industry benchmark for asset management credentials and is endorsed by leading financial firms. It enables you to serve individual, small business, or investment clients better. If you have an entry-level financial advice position or are a trainee, it can help you advance your financial career. In addition, financial advisors with the AAMS® report an average earnings increase of 20 percent, as well as client base growth and greater job satisfaction.

For clients, the AAMS® is a sign that you can identify investment opportunities specific to their needs. For example, it can reassure nervous clients who need to plan for college tuition or purchase a retirement home. Because you’ve been through the program and earned the AAMS® designation, you can guide those clients and others to the right investments for their goals.

How to Earn the AAMS®

To earn the AAMS® designation, follow these steps:

  1. Complete a 10-module education program provided by CFFP. There are no prerequisites for this program, which typically takes 9–11 weeks to complete. The modules cover the asset management process; risk, return, and investment performance; asset allocation and selection; investment strategies; taxation of investments; investing for retirement; deferred compensation and benefit plans; insurance products for investment clients; estate planning for investment clients; and fiduciary, regulatory, and ethical issues for advisors.
  2. Take and pass the AAMS® exam. You must take the test for the first time within six months of enrolling for the program, and you have a year to pass it. There are 80 questions on the exam, and the passing score is 70 percent. Plan on studying for about 80–100 hours.
  3. Agree to abide by a code of ethics. You must also promise to continue your education by earning 16 CE credits every two years.

Think the AAMS® Designation Is Right for You?

If you’re just starting out in your career, the AAMS® offers you a chance to build your credentials. If you’re experienced and want to earn your CFP® mark, the AAMS® program gives you a head start, plus you get a credential in the process. Learn more about the AAMS® program and how to enroll here.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - October 14, 2019
Man with AAMS helping asset management clients

All about CFP Board: The Organization behind the CFP® Exam

CFP Board is the accepted short name for Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation. Along with granting the CFP® mark, the mission of CFP Board is to advance and ensure that the certification is the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. In this article, you’ll learn about the history of CFP Board, its structure and activities, and its role in developing the CFP® exam.

CFP Board History

In 1969, 13 men met in Chicago to formalize personal financial planning as a profession. Before that time, personal financial planning required searching numerous areas of the financial services industry for ways to help individuals plan for their financial futures. At that meeting, they created the International Association for Financial Planners (IAFP) and the College for Financial Planning, which introduced an education program for what would later become CFP® certification.

Sixteen years later, in 1985, the College for Financial Planning agreed to the establishment of an independent, non-profit certifying and standards-setting organization. It transferred ownership of the CFP® mark and responsibility for continuing the CFP® certification program to the new organization, now known as CFP Board. In November 1991, 81 people received the CFP® mark after passing the very first CFP® exam, which tested their ability to integrate and apply the knowledge gained from the financial planning curriculum.

CFP Board Today

Today, CFP Board is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its CEO is Kevin Keller, CAE. Among its responsibilities is maintaining current, and developing new, financial planning standards as the industry changes. It accepts volunteers for its various councils and research projects, and it counts all CFP® professionals in good standing (those who have earned the certification and keep it active through continuing education) as its members. As of August 31, 2019, there are 85,434 CFP® certificants, and they are located all over the U.S.

CFP Board has a board of directors, which oversees CFP Board and sets policy. The current chair is Susan John, CFP®, of Financial Focus, Inc., Wolfeboro, NH. CFP Board has a number of research initiatives on topics such as racial and ethnic diversity, women in financial planning, and consumer surveys. It has councils for business models, public policy, and education, and a standards commission. It also operates CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, which is dedicated to making sure every American has access to financial planning advice that is competent and ethical through greater diversity and sustainability.

CFP Board Education and Ethics

CFP Board sets the standards for the financial planning education required to earn the CFP® certification. In other words, before you can become a CFP® professional, you must complete a comprehensive course of study at a college or university that offers a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. After CFP Board is notified that you’ve successfully finished that education, you can take the exam. Once you pass the CFP® exam, gain the requisite years of experience, and earn the certification, it’s good for two years. After that, you must renew it every two years by taking continuing education courses approved by CFP Board.

CFP Board is also the keeper of “The Rules of Conduct.” These rules require that CFP® professionals put client interests ahead of their own at all times and that their financial planning services are “fiduciary,” which means they are acting in the best interest of their clients. CFP Board can, if it chooses, sanction CFP® professionals who violate these standards.

CFP Board and the CFP® Exam

CFP Board develops the CFP® Certification Exam, which tests how well candidates can apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. Volunteer CFP® professionals guide all aspects of the exam, which include setting the criteria for scoring and passing. Some of these volunteers are subject matter experts (SMEs) who determine what the content will cover, write the questions, and review them. Others are volunteers on the CFP Board Council of Examinations (COE), which reviews and approves the questions. Testing experts assure the exam is current, reliable, valid, and legal.

Before you take the exam, you must meet the education requirement by completing the CFP® curriculum at a CFP Board-approved educational institution. The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning. It consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, and candidates take it over the course of six hours with a 40-minute break after the first 3 hours. It’s offered in eight-day windows, three times a year. (This CFP® Exam FAQ has more details.)

Ready to be Recognized by CFP Board as a CFP® Professional?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or, if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 24, 2019
Men learning about CFP Board standards

I Failed the Series 7 Exam: Now What?

So, you failed the Series 7 exam. You might be a little down right now, but you don’t need to feel that way for long. Most brokerages and investment firms offer you at least two opportunities to pass the exam and get your license. So, sign up for a retake. If you think positively as you prepare and follow the six tips in this article, you can increase your odds of success when you take the exam again.

Failing the Series 7: The Good News

Yes, there’s good news. You have already put in a great deal of study time, so it’s unlikely you need to study that much again. Also, you don’t have to fear losing what you learned because of long cycles between exam dates. You can retake the exam as early as 30 days after you fail. For these reasons, it should be much easier to balance your work, family, and study commitments this time around.

You are also likely to have learned what your weak spots were based on how you felt about the questions when you took it the first time. In addition, you probably won’t feel as anxious and panicky on exam day, which could cost you a passing score, because you now know what you can expect. Unsure about how to prepare for your retake? Here are six tips that can increase your odds of passing when you take it again.

Need a little inspiration for the next time you take the exam? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals. 

1. Take time to reflect on why you failed the Series 7 exam.

What were the reasons you failed? Did you feel the questions were more in-depth than you expected or that the questions focused on topics that were unfamiliar? Did you have high scores for certain types or categories of practice questions, only to find that the exam had different kinds? Did you rush your study time, perhaps only putting in a week or so of study right before the exam? Maybe you thought you didn’t need an exam prep package or practice. Don’t feel embarrassed if one (or more) of these is why you didn’t pass because these are all common reasons for failing. In fact, it’s good to be honest, because that can guide your study plan for the retake.

2. Create a study plan based on why you didn’t pass.

Now that you’ve done an inventory of what might have caused you to fail the Series 7, you can create a study plan to address your issues. If you didn’t put in enough hours, make sure your plan includes them this time around. If you sailed through some topics and stumbled on others, focus on the ones that tripped you up. However, you should also make sure that you dedicate some time to reviewing the others just to keep them fresh in your mind. If you tried to “go it alone,” consider investing in a Series 7 test preparation package and practice questions this time around.

3. Make sure that your study materials are up-to-date.

Securities rules and regulations change frequently and test topics can reflect them almost just as fast. Try to keep up with the latest information from FINRA, starting with their notices web page. Check to make sure that any guides you have or review packages you purchased are based on the most recent information. Although some providers update their packages and guides regularly, it’s good to do a little homework to make sure that what you’re studying is current.

4. Start studying as early as you can.

You can’t cram for the Series 7. If you tried that last time, it is most likely the main reason why you didn’t pass. So, get in a study routine early. A steady, regular study method will increase your retention dramatically. And if you didn’t cram, good for you, but you should still start studying as soon as you can. You will some breaks to let concepts percolate. Also, you'll need time to sleep, because that’s very important for peace of mind on exam day.

5. Take practice exams.

Some test takers fail the Series 7 exam because they spend too much time on reading and memorizing calculations and concepts. In this article that lists 7 strategies for passing the Series 7 exam, it says to balance studying between manuals and practice questions, which is sound advice for first-time exam takers. For this second time around, you should practice much more than you read. You should take practice exams, which closely replicate the real exam in degree of difficulty, weighting, and format. Most are updated to address the latest regulations, and you receive a score with diagnostic feedback.

6. Read the whole question.

You’d be surprised at how many people failed the Series 7 because they missed something important in some of the questions. So, for each question, be sure you read it in its entirety and don’t start to answer until you’ve also read all the answer choices. Then read the last sentence of the question again before starting to eliminate answers. Here’s another valuable tip: if you have read the question thoroughly, and there are at least two answer choices you cannot eliminate, consider choosing “all of the above” if it’s an option.

Ready to give it a try again?

If you failed the Series 7 exam the first time, remember that it’s a challenging exam, and you are not alone. If you follow the tips in this article and invest in exam preparation packages and study tools, you will improve your odds of passing it on your second try.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 16, 2019
Man Who Failed Series 7 But Retook it and Passed

CRPC® Designation: Demonstrate the Retirement Planning Expertise Clients Demand

CRPC® designation is the end result of a comprehensive program that helps financial advisors master the entire retirement planning process, going far beyond retirement income. With financial decisions that will determine their security and lifestyle for the balance of their lives, people born in the early 1960s are demanding a high level of knowledge from their advisors. This program is designed to help retirement planning counselors to meet these demands. This article provides an overview of the program.

Why the CRPC® Designation?

The youngest of the “baby boomer” generation, people born in 1964, are now solidly into their mid-50s, so retirement is weighing heavily on their minds. In fact, in a recent national survey of financial advisors, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company found that more than three-quarters of their clients are “concerned” or “very concerned” about their retirement savings programs, and well over half worry about actually outliving their assets.

So, it’s not at all surprising that financial advisors are facing an increasingly complex onslaught of retirement planning questions as these baby boomers look for advice on when they’ll be able to retire, as well as guidance in finding investments to meet their lifestyle needs in 10 years, 20 years, or beyond.

Recognizing these challenges, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company has created the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor™ (CRPC) education and designation program.

What is the Chartered Retirement Plan Counselor™ (CRPC®) Designation?

The CRPC helps financial advisors by guiding them through specialized tax and estate objectives and strategies for a retiree and presents the unique financial and emotional aspects of financial planning that are unique to the retirement process. In short, the program helps advisors define a “road map to retirement,” enabling them to focus on the pre- and post-retirement needs of their clients.

The CRPC designation is the industry benchmark for retirement planning credentials and is encouraged by the top firms in the industry. Graduates report a 9 percent increase in earnings in addition to increases in their number of clients and even their job satisfaction.

About the CRPC® Designation Course

The CRPC Professional Education Program is a three-semester credit graduate-level course. The nine modules in the course are:

  • Maximizing the Client Experience During the Retirement Planning Process
  • Principles and Strategies When Investing for Retirement
  • Making the Most of Social Security Retirement Benefits
  • Bridging the Income Gap: Identifying Other Sources of Retirement Income
  • Navigating Health Care Options in Retirement
  • Making the Emotional and Financial Transition to Retirement
  • Designing Optimal Retirement Income Streams
  • Achieving Tax and Estate Planning Objectives in Retirement
  • Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisers

The typical student should expect to spend approximately 90–135 hours on course-related activities to study and prepare adequately for the course examination. The CRPC course also does double-duty for CFP® professionals who require continuing education (CE) credits to sustain their CFP® designation: graduates may receive up to 28 CFP® CE credits, up to 45 state insurance CE credits, and 45 credits towards the College’s professional designation CE requirements.

In addition, professionals who are considering a master’s degree can apply their CRPC studies in that pursuit: designees receive direct credit for one course in the College’s MS in Personal Financial Planning program, saving them time and money while enabling them to pursue multiple credentials.

Learn More

Many leading financial advisory firms endorse the CRPC designation and will reimburse advisors for course-related expenses. For more information, visit the College’s website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 5, 2019
Woman with CRPC Designation helping clients

Become an Expert in Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) Investing

Demand for so-called “responsible” investment options has never been higher. In fact, at the end of 2017, more than one out of every four dollars that were being professionally managed in the United States—$12.0 trillion or more—was invested according to sustainable, responsible, impact (SRI) strategies. Industry experts also confirm that a majority of investors want their investments to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

For financial advisors, this demand presents several challenges. First, how can they acquire the insight and expertise to competently guide their clients towards ESG investments that fit their priorities? Second, how can they provide those clients with tangible evidence that they have genuine SRI expertise? Recognizing these challenges, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company has created the Chartered SRI Counselor™ (CSRIC™) education and designation program. This article provides an overview of the program.

Introducing the CSRIC™

Developed in partnership with US SIF, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, CSRIC is a unique program that blends SRI foundational knowledge and scenario learning. The first and only major financial credential dedicated specifically to SRI, the CSRIC is supported by top financial firms. It is designed for advanced financial advisors who wish to obtain foundational knowledge and best practices for advising clients on SRI, including:

  • Experienced advisors who desire financial planning credentials to advance their career
  • Advisors who wish to specialize in SRI investing for new or existing clients
  • Advisors who wish to pursue a Master of Science degree at a later date

Students enrolled in the program will learn the history, definitions, trends, portfolio construction principles, fiduciary responsibilities, and best practices of SRI investments.

About the CSRIC™ Course

The CSRIC™ Professional Education Program is a three-semester credit graduate-level course. The seven modules in the course are:

  • The Foundations and History of SRI
  • Approaches to SRI Shareholder Advocacy, Community Investing, and Corporate Responsibility
  • Portfolio Construction and Incorporating SRI into Financial Advising
  • ESG Performance, Risk, and Rating Metrics
  • The Fiduciary Standard and Communicating the Value of SRI
  • Current and Future Opportunities

The typical student should expect to spend approximately 90-135 hours in course-related activities to study and prepare adequately for the course examination. The CSRIC course also does “double-duty” for CFP® professionals who require continuing education (CE) credits to sustain their CFP® designation: graduates may receive up to 28 CFP® CE credits, up to 45 state insurance CE credits, and 45 credits towards the College’s professional designation CE requirements.

In addition, professionals who are considering a master’s degree can apply their CSRIC studies in that pursuit: designees receive direct credit for one course in the College’s MS in Personal Financial Planning program, saving them time and money while pursuing multiple credentials.

Learn More

U.S. SIF members receive a 15 percent discount on the CSRIC course and course-related materials. In addition, many leading financial advisory firms endorse the CSRIC™ designation and will reimburse advisors for course-related expenses. For more information, visit the College’s website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 28, 2019
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) Investment Expert

How Hard is the FINRA Series 7 Exam?

How hard is the Series 7 exam? FINRA designed it to test Series 7 license candidates on how well they can apply their knowledge of securities concepts to specific scenarios. It is a corequisite of the SIE exam, which tests you on general securities topics. By contrast, the questions on the Series 7 exam are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of stockbrokers. Therefore, it can be considered a challenging exam. In this article, we’ll share the details, including Series 7 pass rates and topics, and how to improve your odds of success.

Series 7 Pass Rate

At the FINRA 2019 annual conference, it was announced that from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, 10,542 individuals sat for the exam, and the Series 7 pass rate for that period was 71 percent. That rate applies only to those who passed both the SIE exam and the Series 7 exam. FINRA also reported that this pass rate was better than those from before October 1, 2018, when the SIE was introduced. However, this improvement was just a few percentage points and factors in a 74 percent rate for the SIE alone. Therefore, the exam is still no walk in the park.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals. 

Series 7 Exam Questions and Topics

The Series 7 exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. The topics include investment risk, taxation, equity and debt instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients. The focus of the exam is the nature of these securities and financial instruments, and it tests knowledge relevant to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of general securities representatives. The 125 questions are broken into four sections as shown in this table:

SectionWeightQuestions 
1 - Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers7%
2 - Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers' Financial Profile and Investment Objectives9%11
3 - Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records73%91 
4 - Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions11%14 
Total 100%125 

 

As you can see, the third topic dominates the Series 7 exam curriculum. Therefore, it is essential that you have a firm grasp on how to provide investment information and recommendations to customers, how to transfer assets, and how to maintain appropriate records. You should keep this in mind as you study.

Series 7 Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Success

The Series 7 exam is not easy. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. Proper preparation is the key. These tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to increase your odds of passing:

  • Develop a solid study plan and stick to it: You need to spend 80-100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam if you have a finance background and about 150 if you don’t. The first thing you should do is lay out a study plan that ensures you put those hours in. Give yourself enough time to take breaks from study to let concepts percolate. Consider making a Series 7 preparation package part of your plan.
  • Set a routine early: A steady, regular study method will increase your retention dramatically compared to frantic cramming at the end. Balance your studying between manuals and practice questions so you don’t burn out on either. Be sure to take a day off to rest your mind when you need to.
  • Focus on learning concepts: Most of the exam questions will test how you incorporate all your knowledge about securities and financial instruments to make suitable recommendations for a hypothetical client. For that reason, understanding concepts and how to apply them should be your focus, not memorizing formulas.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There is no better way to build your confidence ahead of the Series 7 exam than by doing practice questions. You should also take practice exams. Both types of exam practice help you truly assess your comprehension of critical concepts, identify and address weaknesses, and get comfortable answering the kinds of questions you’ll face on exam day.

Read this article on Series 7 study strategies for more details about preparing for the exam, including what to do on exam day.

Ready for the Challenge?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, check out our Series 7 exam preparation packages. Or, if you’re just getting started, we offer SIE packages and an SIE and Series 7 combo series.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 26, 2019
Students wondering how hard is the Series 7

New York Amends Regulation 187: What It Means for Insurance

In July 2019, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) announced an amendment to New York Insurance Regulation 187 that affects annuities and life insurance sales. It requires insurers to establish new standards and procedures for how agents and brokers make insurance and annuity product recommendations. In this article, I’ll explain the amendment, what it means for insurers and producers, and where you can get more education on this regulatory change.

The Best Interest Rule

The “Best Interest Rule” is an amendment to existing New York State suitability standards for annuity transactions. Prior to this change, annuity recommendations producers had to be suitable for the client. The amendment raises the bar in that it requires recommendations to be in the best interests of the consumer. These requirements also apply to life insurance recommendations.Since the DOL Fiduciary Rule was vacated, regulatory bodies and states have been seeking other ways to hold insurance producers, brokers, and financial companies to the same standards.

Amending Regulation 187 is New York’s answer to the issue. The New York DFS official announcement states that the rule “requires insurers to establish standards and procedures to supervise recommendations by agents and brokers to consumers with respect to life insurance policies and annuity contracts issued in New York State so that any transaction with respect to those policies is in the best interest of the consumer and appropriately addresses the insurance needs and financial objectives of the consumer at the time of the transaction.” On August 1, 2019, the best interests rule went into effect for annuities; for insurance, the effective date is February 1, 2020.

What the Rule Means for Insurers and Producers

By mandating that life insurance or annuity recommendations to be based on the best interests of the communities, the rule is designed to keep financial compensation or incentives from influencing the recommendation made to a client. It requires insurers to develop, maintain, and manage procedures for preventing consumer financial exploitation. Basically, insurers must educate and supervise agents and brokers to make sure that they are putting their clients’ needs above their own when they recommend life insurance and annuities products. Also, insurers should take note of the “life insurance policies and annuity contracts issued in New York State” language because it means that non-resident, as well as resident producers, are affected.

There are important exemptions, however. The rule does not apply to retirement plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), other retirement and deferred compensation plans maintained by employers, and direct sales to consumers where no recommendation has been made by the insurer.

There is controversy around the amendment. The New York Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors filed a lawsuit to stop it, claiming that exempting direct sales to consumers gives those insurers a competitive advantage over producers. Another lawsuit has been filed by several independent agents’ organizations stating that the amendment is too subjective in the use of the term “best interest.”

If Regulation 187 clears these hurdles, it is very likely that other states and organizations will follow suit. In fact, the SEC has already adopted a package of best-interest rules and regulations. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is drafting a model regulation that has standards similar to those of Regulation 187. And, New Jersey and Nevada are exploring best-interest rules of their own.

Educate Yourself

Kaplan Financial Education offers several Regulation 187 courses to give you the tools and knowledge you need to establish standards and procedures that meet its resident and non-resident qualifications. You can learn more on our New York Insurance Continuing Education web page.

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Posted by Randy Kemnitz, Ph.D., CFP® - August 12, 2019
New York Skyline With Regulation 187 Overlaid

How to Find and Secure a Financial Advisor Internship

Financial advisor internships offer a great opportunity to get experience before earning a finance degree and fully entering the workforce. Internships enable aspiring financial advisors to learn the ropes firsthand, and the knowledge and “on-the-job” training can be beneficial during a later job hunt. Internships also benefit financial firms by providing additional help to address pressing demands. This article shares ways you can find a financial advisor internship and the steps you can take to secure it.

Financial Advisor Internships Aren’t Just for Summer Anymore

Before you start your search, think about whether you’d be willing to consider something other than a summer internship. Some universities and companies offer co-op positions throughout the year. Fall and spring internships are also available at some financial services firms. These longer-term internships are often easier to secure because there is less competition. So, if you go for one of these positions, you could already be an intern when the majority of students are applying for summer opportunities.

Another benefit of longer-term internships is that they look good on your resume. They can also, on occasion, lead to a job offer from the same firm because they have had more time to evaluate your work and see your skills and knowledge.

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Searching for Financial Advisor Internships

Once you decide what kind of internship you’d like, a good place to start the search is at your college or university career center. These centers often have a list of financial services firms who are specifically interested in hiring interns. The career center can also help you determine where you would like to work when you graduate and in what capacity, which can help you hone your search.

Another avenue for finding open internships is searching the websites of major financial services firms. Some of the most well-known, such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, advertise for internships on their sites. Others have their own special programs for college students. Vanguard, for example, has a College to Corporate Advice Internship Program.

Independent finance associations such as CFP® Board, NAIFA, and the Society of Financial Services Professionals have career listings that include internships. For less specialized sources, visit internships.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, and indeed.com and do a keyword search for internships as a financial advisor.

And, here’s a great tip for internet searches that can save you time if you are interested in interning close to home or your university: simply go to Google and type “finance internship” or “financial advisor internship.” It will return listings of all the internships available in your area or state, including those that are advertised by financial firms or on all the major job search sites, including internships.com. You even have options for where and how to apply.

Getting a Financial Advisor Internship Interview

Like any career opportunity, you need to stand out in a sea of online applications so you can get an interview. Here are three good tips that can help you meet that goal:

  • Contact the financial firms on LinkedIn before you apply: Do a search for the firms’ job openings. There is usually a contact name there. Or, you can do a search for “talent” with the company’s name to find a talent manager. Reach out to that person and express your interest in the internship and explain what makes you the best candidate. Let them know you plan to apply.
  • Go over your resume carefully to make sure that it honestly represents your experience: Eliminate language that stretches the truth, such as saying you have cash management experience because you were a retail sales associate. Put your most relevant experience at the beginning and don’t forget to include any related volunteer work, such as helping people with their taxes at the library or being part of an investment club at a charitable organization.
  • Apply early: As in just about every job market, competition for internships is fierce. The earlier you can get your application to financial services firms, the better. It helps you make a great first impression. You should also read the application carefully to make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. That also goes a long way toward impressing the firm.

Although these tips can’t guarantee you an interview, they can get you closer to one. If you don’t get an interview on the first try or first few tries, do not become discouraged. Look for other opportunities and keep applying. This article on getting a finance internship has additional advice that can help.

Acing the Interview

If you’ve been notified that you have an interview for a financial advisor internship, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you come through it with flying colors. Here are a few that have worked successfully for others:

  • Before the interview, brush up on your finance knowledge and technical skills and work through the common finance problems or processes on which you could be tested. Then consider them in the context of the firm that is interviewing you and how to apply them in real-life scenarios. In addition, read this article on common finance internship interview questions and practice answering them.
  • On the day before the interview, practice “selling yourself”: What are you good at? What makes you different from every other candidate who is applying for this internship? What soft skills, personality traits, passions, and values do you bring to the table that others don’t?
  • On the day of the interview, bring your own set of questions: This article on preparing for a finance interview has some really good ones that focus on the work you’ll do, the organizational culture of the firm, and what skills and abilities you’ll have gained at the end.
  • Emphasize your flexibility: Although many interns have set duties, you might be asked to do work outside those duties or they might vary or change frequently. Let the interviewer know you are willing and able to take on new or different tasks. Be as professional as possible throughout the interview and in other interactions you have with anyone else in the firm. However, you should also relax and have confidence in yourself. Smile when you can because that always makes a good impression.

Personality Wins Out

A final note: personality is key to landing a financial advisor internship. Companies really aren’t interested in hiring robots; therefore, you can stand out from the crowd by demonstrating that you’re passionate about something other than work. Help the company get past your interview “game face” by letting them learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite in your resume, application, and interview.

You Got the Internship! What’s Next?

The questions shouldn’t stop once you’ve gotten hired. Read our article on the five valuable questions you should ask your employer during your financial advisor internship to learn more.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 9, 2019
Financial Advisor Internship Found and Secured

Adding Value to Your Client Relationships in Authentic Ways

If you’re in the financial or money business, you may want to skip this article. If, however, you are in the people business, this article will be of value to you. It is important to consciously recognize whether your primary value-add is offering all the tools for your clients or mastering relationships with your clients. They’re both important for a successful client experience, but the tools are table stakes. Mastering client relationships is where you can differentiate your business from the rest and provide invaluable service that will maintain life-long clients.

This article offers 3 main ways to add value to your client relationships, starting with always being on the hunt for different and authentic avenues to do so. Here are 3 tips.

1. Learn who is important in your client’s lives and show up to support them.

For example, your clients may be family-oriented. If they are excited about their children’s or grandchildren’s activities, you may want to ask if you can attend an upcoming event. Your clients likely want to have people they respect to show up and see their children succeed. If a child is a great musician, attend a recital or see the band. If the client has a son or daughter who is an athlete, go to watch a game. At graduation, make sure you’re in the crowd for the ceremony—and so on. Being present in different aspects of your clients’ lives builds a trust that shows you care about them.

Recently, I advised an advisor to ask his most important client for his daughter's upcoming high school basketball schedule. When the client asked why, he responded with, “You have told me so much about her college recruiting process that I wanted to see one of her games.” The client was thrilled and couldn’t wait to see the next game with the advisor. The impact of your presence will add value not only in your client relationship but also in the relationship between you and the children.

2. Understand your clients’ passions, and collect news about their interests.

Recently, an advisor mentioned that when he flies, he brings along a supply of magazines. On the flight, he peruses them for things that are of interest to his clients. Afterward, he may have a stack of 5 to 10 items that he can send to certain clients with a note that says, “I was on a flight recently and came across this article. I’m not sure if you saw this yet. Hope you enjoy.”

Imagine what clients must think when they receive something like that. How would you feel if you knew someone was thinking about you on their vacation or business trip? A gesture such as this shows your clients that you listen to what they say, and you are invested enough to go out of your way to show them.

3. Switch roles—ask for their opinion.

This is a great way to add value to relationships. If you called a client and asked them to lend an opinion to help you make a decision—personal or professional—they might feel more valued in your relationship. After all, your clients seek your advice, but how often do you seek advice from them? When advice and counsel go both ways, that’s a true hallmark of a great relationship.

Building a strong foundation

There are probably hundreds of ways to add value in relationships. Make sure you build a strong foundation of systems and tools for your business, so you can focus on being in the people business and dedicate your time to mastering relationships. It’s the future of our role. I would love to hear back from you on ways you are adding value that might be considered out of the norm.

About the author

Steven J. Atkinson, CFS is Managing Director, Advisor Relations for Loring Ward. Loring Ward is a comprehensive business partner for registered investment advisors.

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Posted by Steven J. Atkinson, CFS - August 5, 2019
Hands depicting building client relationships with puzzle pieces