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What does a broker do?
A broker is sometimes also known as an agent. They are an individual or a company acting as an intermediary between buyers and sellers and complete transactions on behalf of another party, i.e. an individual or organisation. They will usually charge an agreed fee or commission once the transaction is completed.
There are many types of brokers working in various industries, including insurance brokers, stockbrokers, forex brokers, online brokers, full-service brokers, and discount brokers. Therefore, what a broker does will depend on the type of brokerage they specialise in and the industry in which they work.
A broker can work in various environments, such as an office, a call centre, their own home or a client’s home or business. They will carry out many tasks, including researching markets, analysing data, providing clients with market data and advice, liaising between parties, administering sales, meeting targets, etc. The role may also require ad hoc administrative work, such as producing reports on market research.
Brokers can have clients that are buyers or sellers, and their main aim is to bring these parties together to execute and complete transactions smoothly and make their commission. A facilitator, such as a broker, can help all parties achieve the best possible outcome, as they match buyers with the right sellers and vice versa.
Brokers will work with many people, including colleagues, e.g. other brokers, managers, team leaders, analysts and support staff. They will also liaise with buyers, sellers, traders, insurers, loss adjusters and investors. They are usually employed, e.g. by broking firms, insurance companies, wealth management firms, property firms, banks and financial advice companies. They can also be self-employed.
The day-to-day responsibilities a broker has will depend on their type, the industry they work in and their clients’ needs, but some duties can include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Keeping up to date with relevant legislation, e.g. finance and tax.
- Taking a high number of calls and responding to emails.
- Understanding clients’ needs and gathering information.
- Creating and maintaining relationships with clients.
- Buying and selling for clients.
- Negotiating with buyers and sellers.
- Researching and monitoring markets for performance and risk.
- Advising clients on risks.
- Analysing market trends and data.
- Recommending products and services.
- Closing deals and processing sales transactions.
- Achieving targets, e.g. new business, client retention and profit.
- Dealing with clients directly, including giving presentations to them.
- Managing and reviewing client portfolios and keeping them up to date.
- Generating new business and expanding client bases.
- Completing reports and keeping detailed records.
A broker can expect to work up to 60 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on where they work, their brokerage role and their day-to-day tasks. For example, a stockbroker is likely to do more hours than an insurance broker.
Being a broker is not a 9–5 job, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours. Some types of brokers, e.g. stockbrokers, have early morning starts due to covering the opening of the world’s financial markets. There may also be a requirement to communicate with overseas clients, and brokers may need to work evenings and nights. Weekends and bank holidays may also be necessary to meet with clients.
Travel is likely for brokers, whether travelling to meet clients during the day, staying away from home for a few days nationally or travelling internationally.
Some employers may offer part-time, job-share or flexible jobs, e.g. hybrid working (home and office). Self-employment is possible for some brokers, i.e. for mortgage brokers.
What to expect
There are many positives to being a broker, especially if an individual is target driven, competitive and has a keen interest in financial markets. Successfully completing transactions between a buyer and seller can be rewarding and exhilarating, especially if the commission/fee is significant. Helping clients to make money is also very fulfilling, and brokers can go home at the end of their working day knowing they have made a positive difference to people’s lives.
There are many different brokerages in which to specialise and various industries. Therefore, there are plenty of job opportunities for brokers nationally and internationally. Some roles also have excellent training and development opportunities, so if an individual has the right personal qualities, qualifications and experience are not always required.
There is the potential to earn significant salaries by being a broker, especially when working with high-end clients. However, individuals must be prepared to work hard to get sizeable commission rates.
Being a broker can give individuals independence and flexibility if self-employed. Having an opportunity to be your own boss can be attractive, as it allows individuals to take charge of their working day and overall career progression. It can also help them achieve a decent work-life balance.
Boredom will never be a problem for brokers, as their work can be varied. There are also plenty of opportunities to specialise in brokerage, so if an individual finds a specific area they are really interested in, they will enjoy their work.
Even though being a broker is rewarding, and there are many positives, it is also important to consider the cons and challenges, for example:
- Mental demands – the role can be very demanding, fast-paced and stressful. Brokers will need to be capable of multitasking and working with many clients. There can also be a lot of pressure, especially when working with high-end clients with significant sums of money. Deadlines can also be tight, which may be challenging for some individuals.
- Noisy working environment – if a broker works in an office, it can sometimes be loud, especially if it is open plan and there are many workers. Noisy offices can make it difficult to concentrate, i.e. if there are many people on the phone.
- Cold calling – being a broker often requires individuals to cold call, which can result in them receiving a lot of rejections and, in some cases, verbal abuse, as it can annoy some people.
- Dress code – if an individual wants to be in more casual clothes at work, then being a broker is probably not the most suitable role. Brokers are expected to wear business clothing for work.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and prospective brokers must know what to expect before deciding whether it is a suitable career. It can be a mentally demanding role, and the hours can be long and unsociable. However, there are many positives too, and those who become a broker really love what they do.
When considering whether to be a broker, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a broker
Some of the personal qualities that a broker requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- An interest and a natural talent for business.
- A passion for working in global markets.
- Having a solid understanding of the company’s products or services.
- Honest and trustworthy.
- Confident, assertive, determined and decisive.
- In-depth knowledge of the markets in which they are working.
- Knowledge of maths and strong numeracy skills.
- Analytical and research skills.
- Communication skills, both verbal and written.
- Negotiating and influencing skills.
- Organisational and time management skills.
- Decision-making skills.
- Presentation skills.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Customer service skills.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Thinking and reasoning skills.
- Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
- The ability to explain complex information to clients without being condescending.
- The ability to multitask.
- The ability to sell products and services.
- The ability to work under pressure, be patient and persistent and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to work both in a team (if working with others) and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to take risks.
- The ability to work in a fast-paced environment.
- The ability to build and maintain relationships with clients.
- The ability to use IT and software packages.
There are many different ways to become a broker, e.g. university, apprenticeships or professional qualifications. There is also on-the-job training and volunteering.
Having a degree in a relevant subject will maximise an individual’s chances of becoming a broker, for example:
- Finance, financial services or financial studies.
Individuals usually need two or three A levels or equivalent for a degree course.
A relevant postgraduate degree in finance, investment or business is not essential, but it can give individuals a competitive edge when applying for roles, especially senior ones. Individuals usually need a 2:1 degree for a postgraduate course, depending on the university’s entry requirements.
There is an apprenticeship route to becoming a broker, e.g. financial services professional degree apprenticeship or an insurance professional higher apprenticeship. To be successful, individuals will usually need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels or equivalent.
Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships and Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
Professional qualifications are also available, e.g. award, certificate and diploma courses, which can help individuals improve their career prospects. The type of course needed will depend on the brokerage and industry in which an individual wants to work.
The following organisations provide courses (this list is not exhaustive):
- The Chartered Insurance Institute.
- The CFA Society UK.
- The Society of Insurance Broking.
- The London Institute of Banking and Finance.
- The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment.
Individuals may need additional qualifications and examinations if they want to specialise in specific areas and industries, e.g. mortgages or stocks and shares.
On the job training and volunteering
Having a degree is not always mandatory. Some employers may take on individuals and train them on the job if they have the necessary personal qualities and enthusiasm for the role. It would help individuals to have some experience in finance, sales or customer services, and a keen interest in financial markets is essential.
There are opportunities for individuals to apply directly to companies to become graduates, or junior or trainee brokers. Some roles may be open for graduates as part of their graduate training schemes and usually require a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject. Other employers may not require a degree but usually ask for proficiency in maths and English. Therefore, good GCSEs/A Levels in these subjects will help. It would also be beneficial to have some office and telephone experience.
Individuals could work in a related industry, e.g. finance, banking, mortgages or insurance, whilst studying part time. There may also be opportunities to work in support roles, such as administration, and shadow experienced brokers.
There is no substitute for practical experience. Volunteering can also help individuals build their knowledge and skills. Individuals could volunteer with charities on helplines to help them with their telephone skills or work in their sales, finance or retail departments. However, some voluntary roles may require some knowledge and experience. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Work experience relating to customer service, sales, accountancy or finance can be beneficial and can help an individual work towards becoming a broker. Even college and community courses can count, e.g. AAT in business skills or accounting and customer service skills.
Training courses to become a broker
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training providers can provide relevant training courses.
Some examples of relevant courses that may be useful for brokers include:
- Legislation and key regulations.
- Customer service.
- Office health and safety.
- Data protection and the GDPR.
- Complaints handling.
- IT, e.g. Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Access.
- Maths and numeracy.
- Business management.
- Time management.
- Finance fundamentals.
- Other languages.
There are also courses in specific areas of brokerage/finance, for example:
- Broker training.
- Risk analysis.
- Financial markets and trading.
- Stocks and shares.
- Financial planning/analysis.
If starting out, it may be worth enrolling on low-cost online courses to see if a career in brokerage/financial markets is of interest. That way, if it is not, it will save an individual a lot of time, money and trouble. There are specific broker training academies that can help build knowledge and skills.
Professional bodies, institutes and associations, such as the London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF), the CFA Society of the UK, the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) and the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide events and support to help individuals become brokers and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on what employers are looking for and the brokerage/industry in which brokers specialise. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training required for specific roles and specialisms. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, eFinancialCareers, City Jobs UK, topfinancialjobs.co.uk, Junior-Broker.com, Graduate Broker and other job sites. Recruitment agencies may also offer broker jobs.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities. Refresher training will also be required, as it keeps an individual’s knowledge and skills up to date and is a requirement for regulatory purposes.
There are additional responsibilities associated with being self-employed. Self-employed brokers must:
- Have the correct insurance, i.e. public liability, professional indemnity and home/car business. If employing anyone, employer’s liability insurance will be required.
- Register with HMRC.
- File tax returns.
- Register with the ICO to hold personal data (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).
Further advice and guidance on being self-employed can be found on GOV.UK.
Individuals must register with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to become an ‘approved person’. It is sometimes known as a broker licence.
There is a cost for initial registration and authorisation and an annual fee payable to the FCA.
Further information on applying to become an approved person can be found here.
Criminal records checks
Brokers may have to undergo a criminal record check depending on their role. A criminal record, caution, warning, or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, they should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
Some brokers will need to drive as part of their role, i.e. to meet clients. Therefore, they should have a full driving licence, preferably with no points.
Where do brokers work?
Brokers can be employed and work for companies across the UK, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Specialist brokerage firms.
- Financial firms.
- Technology solutions and IT services.
- Financial advice companies.
- Property firms and groups.
- Mutual fund companies.
- Wealth management businesses.
- Financial planning companies.
- Investment firms.
- Accounting firms.
- Insurance companies.
- Estate agencies.
- Pension consultancies.
- Business switching services.
- Other high street financial institutions.
They can also be self-employed or work for recruitment agencies.
Most opportunities are in major UK cities, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff. However, there may also be roles in larger towns, and some individuals may be able to be based in more rural areas if they work from home and commute, e.g. hybrid working.
Brokers can work in a variety of establishments, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Contact centres.
- Clients’ homes.
- Clients’ business premises.
- Their own home.
Some brokers may also travel during their working day, requiring some overnight stays. There may also be opportunities to work overseas for international companies.
How much do brokers earn?
What a broker earns is variable and will depend on many factors, such as:
- Their industry.
- Their specialist brokerage area, e.g. stockbrokers are likely to earn more than insurance brokers.
- Their level, e.g. graduate, junior, experienced and senior.
- Their clients.
- Their performance.
- The commission rates.
- Whether they are employed or self-employed.
- The company they work for (if employed) and its size.
- Their location, i.e. they are likely to earn more if working in London.
Some examples of average salaries include:
- Stockbroker – £42,500 a year (payscale.com).
- Insurance broker – £28,959 a year (Indeed).
- Mortgage broker – £34,224 a year (Indeed).
A broker’s income is usually dependent on commission, so the more successful the individual and the harder they work, the more they are likely to earn. Some also receive good benefits, e.g. gym memberships, retail discounts, private healthcare, events, holidays, etc.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of brokerage roles to specialise in
There are many different types of brokerage to specialise in and far too many to mention here.
Some examples of broker roles include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Stockbrokers – specialise in buying and selling shares from the stock market that clients want to invest in, as clients cannot buy them directly. They are also known as investment brokers or investment managers.
- Insurance brokers – specialise in different insurance products and help clients find the correct cover for the best price. They can choose to further specialise in specific insurance products and clients.
- Forex brokers – specialise in buying and selling currencies at the best times to make profits on clients’ investments. They are also known as retail forex brokers or foreign exchange traders.
- Mortgage brokers – specialise in mortgages and help property buyers find the best mortgage based on their financial circumstances. Specific training, e.g. a CeMAP training course, is needed to become a licensed mortgage broker.
- Online brokers – use a digital platform and offer brokerage services over the internet, which can be cheaper. They can also be called discount brokers.
- Full-service brokers – offer more than one service, e.g. planning, products, research and financial advice, and usually charge more than other brokers.
- Discount brokers – do not charge as much commission, as they offer fewer services and advice. It requires clients to manage their own portfolios.
- Shipping brokers – specialise in cargo and commercial goods shipping contracts to get the best deals and discounts for clients. They are also known as freight brokers.
Various brokerage roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All brokers need a natural talent for selling and must be registered with the FCA to become an ‘approved person’ and carry out their responsibilities ethically and professionally. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for (if employed) and the specialist areas a broker wants to work. Further qualifications and training will usually be necessary for specialised areas, e.g. mortgages.
If brokers do not carry out their roles correctly, it can cause significant issues. It could result in clients losing money or having other problems, e.g. loss of contracts, unsuitable insurance coverage and credit rating damage. In serious cases, customers may decide to complain, refer their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service or start legal proceedings. Brokers can also face enforcement from the FCA, e.g. withdrawal of authorisations, fines and even prosecution. Therefore, they must be competent and should only carry out duties within their remit and the scope of their role.
Financial products, standards, codes, markets and laws are regularly changing. Therefore, brokers must keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to comply with the law and ensure they carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives brokers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities and progress in their careers. CPD may also be mandatory for some brokers, e.g. mortgage brokers.
Joining a professional body and association can help prospective and current brokers enhance their skills and overall career. The London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF), the CFA Society of the UK, the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) and the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression for brokers. With more qualifications and experience, they can become a senior broker, manager, company director or partner or work with high-end clients with significant sums of money. They can also decide to specialise in one area of brokerage, e.g. mortgages, freight or forex. Alternatively, they may choose to become self-employed and start their own business.
Knowledge, skills and experience from being a broker can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could move into business development, sales, account handling and compliance.