Stocks get traded on international stock exchanges. Only brokers are permitted to trade in these markets, meaning they are an essential ingredient for building a stock portfolio. The primary function of a broker is to bring buyers and sellers together. They then carry out transactions according to instructions and then collect their commission as agreed. Many brokers also offer their clients other services, including financial and investment advice. They are called full-service brokers.
The Full-Service Brokerage
A full-service broker is a licensed brokerage firm that offers a full range of financial and investment advice. They’ll tailor-make a financial solution that will weave your current lifestyle and financial requirements into a solution that will help you to meet your long-term financial goals. The services that they offer include investments, tax advice, retirement, and estate planning.
In recent years many people have migrated to discount brokers as a cost-effective means of buying stocks and shares. It is all well and good if you are well versed in financial matters and able to interpret an income statement and balance sheet. However, if you are uncomfortable with handling your own investment decisions, then a full-service brokerage could save you a lot of stress and anxiety by ensuring that your money is in good hands. Before brokerage firms can buy and sell publicly traded stocks and shares, they must license their businesses. They must also register with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industries Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This licensing and oversight help ensure that your money is well taken care of.
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Services Offered by a Full-Service Broker
A full-service broker will offer their clients a wide range of services and will have access to stocks that a discount or online broker will not. Examples include the purchase of foreign shares not traded on US stock exchanges or specific categories of penny stocks.
A specialist full-service brokerage typically has access to vast resources. These will include a research department where financial analysts use their skills and education to put together reports and recommendations for brokers to apply for the benefit of their clients. They may also have investment banking sectors that can offer customers specialized services such as IPOs, preferred stocks, and commission-free trades.
A full-service broker not only trades on your behalf, but they can also offer you expert advice on retirement funding and tax planning. A broker can provide you with the benefit of their experience, skills, and education on many types of financial queries. In other words, a full-service broker offers wealth management services.
The specific types of services offered by a full-service broker include the following:
- In-depth information about the markets
- Tax planning
- Estate planning
- Asset management
- Retirement and investment planning
- Access to IPOs, hedge funds, or private equity funds
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The Benefits of a Full-Service Broker
There are many benefits of using a full-service broker. A few are listed below.
Personal account manager – You’ll be allocated a personal account manager who can offer you advice on buying and selling stocks and shares, real estate, or any other investment for that matter. They can offer advice on almost any type of financial transaction that you would need.
Loads of information – You will have access to extensive data sources gathered by the research department of the broker. The data will help you make decisions on what to buy or sell. It is invaluable in setting up investment strategies to meet your financial goals.
Order placement – You can decide how to place your orders, such as by phone, online, or by leaving it to the discretion of your broker.
Getting Started with a Full-Service Broker
Before you go the route of employing the services of a full-service broker, you should take the time to research the broker. Find out what qualifications your chosen broker has. Are they qualified to give you investment advice? Do they have the skills to effectively select securities and develop a portfolio that will help you to maximize your investment returns over time?
When you enter an agreement with a brokerage firm, you are entering into a long-term relationship. This means you’ll want to feel you can trust the broker with your funds.
When you engage the services of a full-service broker, your broker will assign you an account executive. He/she will take the time to get to know you in a series of face-to-face meetings. Your appointed executive will help you develop a long-term financial plan which will take into account your age, marital status, risk tolerance, income, assets, and much more. They will discuss your financial circumstances with you so that they can help you tailor an investment plan to your lifestyle and your investment goals. They will then manage your portfolio to ensure that you meet your long-term financial goals.
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What You Can Expect from Your Full-Service Broker
Advice and guidance – One purpose of a broker is to give you advice on how to grow your assets over time. With your risk tolerance in mind, the broker will make recommendations on when to buy and sell various stocks and shares, exchange-traded funds, mutual bonds, and a host of other investment products.
Investment on your behalf – If you’d prefer not to get too involved in investment decisions, you can give your broker access to a discretionary account and allow them to make the decisions on your behalf.
Keeping you informed – Your broker should provide you with regular portfolio updates. They should give you reliable advice on the trades that you should make and when. Whether you’re investing in options, futures, or equities, your broker should be your go-to financial advisor.
Brokers receive a commission for sales, and some less scrupulous brokers might encourage their clients to buy or sell to increase the amount they can earn. When your broker makes a suggestion, you should understand the reason for their making the recommendation. Only agree to the changes if you fully understand why they have made the recommendation.
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How Much Is a Full-Service Broker?
The fees charged by full-service brokerage firms are considerably higher than those you’d pay for a discount broker. But, you’re paying for the advice of a professional with expert knowledge of the markets and awareness of your situation, and someone who can help you to make the best buying and selling decisions. The fees that these brokers charge reflect the level of service that the investment firm offers.
A full-service broker will charge you a percentage of the money that you entrust them to look after and grow. Typically, they charge between 1% and 2% of the value of the assets that they manage. If you have a large amount of money to invest, you may negotiate rates towards the lower end of the range. A full-service broker will also charge you commission to trade on your behalf, along with a monthly or annual maintenance fee. Some may even charge you if your deposit drops below a minimum level, while others may require additional payment if your account stays inactive beyond a set limit. It is, therefore, essential that you understand how the fees and commissions get calculated before you sign on the dotted line. You don’t want any surprises later.
Is a Full-Service Broker Right for You?
For some people, using a full-service broker is a no-brainer, since they don’t have the time or the skills to go it alone. A full-service broker is ideal for beginners, for people who prefer a hands-off approach, and for investors with high net worth who want the best advice possible and are willing to pay for it. Moreover, studying the stock market is time-consuming, and many people do not have the time to do the research required to make informed investment decisions. An investment broker has all the knowledge to help to make the decisions more manageable and to free up your time.
If any of the above descriptions fit you, it could be a wise choice to hire a full broker service to manage your investment portfolio on your behalf. In addition to offering you advice on the best trades to make, they should provide you with personalized service, factoring in your financial position and lifestyle choices when making suggestions.
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How Do Discount Brokers Differ from Full-Service Brokers?
Discount brokers only came into being with the advent of the Internet. These brokers exist only in digital format. There are no face-to-face meetings, no brick and mortar businesses, and no certified investment advisors who can assist you with advice. These are purely online brokers.
When working with such brokers, you evaluate the investment opportunities and decide, on your own, what trading choices fit in with your circumstances and financial plans. When you use a discount broker, you select the shares you want to buy. You press a button, and then the discount broker buys the stocks for you, without any advice or suggestions.
The best trading platform is a simple mobile app that is easy to use and navigate. You pay and withdraw from the account using credit cards. If you go the route of a discount broker, make sure that you choose stockbrokers who are online 24/7 and who allow you to withdraw your funds as and when you want them.
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How Much Will I Pay?
Discount brokers typically charge a flat fee on a transactional basis. The amount charged will range between $15 and $30 per transaction. This amount is considerably less than what you will pay for a full-service broker, but the discount broker has no staff or infrastructure to finance, so they can afford to charge less. Some discount traders will even give discounts to very active traders.
An online broker offers minimal services, and the commissions reflect this. If you understand the inner workings of the stock market and you are looking for a broker to do your bidding, then an online stock broker might be the right choice for you. Because the Internet traverses geographic barriers, you can choose brokers from India to South America and beyond. If you’ve decided to go with an online broker, make sure that you choose one with a proven track record.
Relatively new to the world of brokerage services, Robo advisors offer investors a compromise between full-service brokers and discount brokers. They collect your information and give you investment advice to meet your financial goals. They’ll also manage your investment accounts on your behalf.
It is considerably less expensive to use a Robo advisor than a human broker. The brokerage will charge a management fee for the service, which is typically a percentage of the assets under management. Costs can range from 0% to 0.89% but are usually around 0.25%.
Many Robo advisor accounts require no minimum account balances. Even when a minimum balance is required, it is often no more than $500.
Robo advisors are an excellent choice for a single investment, but where complicated investments are required, there is no replacement for the human touch.
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How Much Will You Need up Front?
Understand the commission structure and the minimum amount of money that you need to put down upfront. The commissions and deposits differ substantially from one broker to another. Usually, the amount is between $500 and $2500, but some brokers require as much as $100,000. You can’t start trading until you put down the full amount, so find out how much is needed before you choose your broker.
Protecting Your Investment
The world is full of crooks, even in the investment arena. As anyone who has watched “The Wolf of Wall Street” can attest, even brokerage firms are not immune. It is, therefore, essential that you take precautions and check out your brokerage, investment advisor, and the investment company before you part with your money.
Don’t let cold callers convince you to invest your money. Don’t let anyone convince you to attend investment seminars for a free lunch. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Do your research before you buy penny stocks. They can offer the investor good returns, but there are also scammers out there.
Get to know your investment advisor before you put any money on the table. You’ll need to form a relationship with the person who will help you to plan your financial future.
Do your research. Check the financial regulatory authorities like SEC or FINRA before you allow a broker to do any stock trading on your behalf.
Ensure that your chosen broker has registered with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).
Be aware that some brokers may encourage you to make more trades than you might desire so that they can optimize their commission.
How You Manage Your Assets Today Will Determine How You Live in the Future
Many of us don’t think much beyond the here and now, but the fact is that the financial decisions that we make today will have an enormous impact on the lifestyle we’ll be able to have in the future. A carefully designed wealth management plan, one that is well implemented and adjusted to match market conditions, will ensure that your investments stay ahead of inflation.
Whatever your financial goals, a full-service broker will work with you to ensure that you achieve your objectives, with minimal risk, preserving and growing your assets, and investing in your future.
Do you have a long-term financial plan? If you have taken advantage of a full-service broker, are there any you’d recommend?
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