Investment Adviser vs. Broker: What’s the Difference?


Investment Adviser vs. Broker: A Summary

Though their jobs might appear like an outsider, investment consultants and brokers perform various roles in financial services. Belowwe highlight the similarities and differences between the investment adviser (also called the financial adviser ) and the broker.


  • Investment advisers are paid a flat fee or percentage of AUM to advise clients on securities and/or manage portfolios.
  • Agents are paid commissions to execute transactions or buy and sell assets for clients.
  • Agents and investment advisers are regulated by different bodies and require different qualifications for training (e.g., FINRA governs agents and the SEC regulates investment advisers).
  • Both professionals are legally prohibited from providing advice that conflicts with their clients’ needs.

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Before online trading, acquiring a broker was traditionally a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Individual investors had very little or no direct access to the market and had to place their orders through a licensed broker (usually by phone ). In return, agents charged quite significant commissions. However, the coming of online discount brokerages has altered the duty of the agent.

Now, individuals who want to trade on the stock market no longer require a broker on standby to execute their buy and sell orders and might have immediate access for as little as pennies in commissions. Although brokers still execute orders, many have expanded their services to personalized investment management to justify charging higher commissions.

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Nowadays, it’s not unusual to locate brokers dual-registered as investment advisers. Agents may also be involved heavily as a member of a sales team in private pensions , initial public offerings (IPOs), or secondary issuances. Working together with their company’s corporate finance departments, agents may function to sell their clients on a hot new issuance or private deal to help a company raise capital. In return, the broker may be given a commission, shares, or warrants in the issuing company.

Investment Advisers

Investment advisers, on the other hand, work on a fee-based system of dispensing investment advice catered towards individual customer requirements and manage investment accounts. By means of example, an investment adviser may work with a client to create an entire wealth management framework, such as helping the consumers through taxation property, and mortgage preparation. Not to be confused with a financial adviser, investment advisers are registered with and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and or a state regulatory body. Investment advisers are also called asset managers, investment managers, and wealth managers.

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Key Differences in Regulations

Investment advisers are also held to a higher legal standard than brokers. In the us, investment advisers must adhere to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, which calls on advisers to carry out fiduciary responsibilities in regards to their own clients’ accounts. Fiduciary duty, which is legally enforceable under the Advisers Act Sections 206 (1)/(2), prohibits advisers from “employ[ing] any device, scheme or artifice to defraud any client or prospective client.”

The standard also imposes upon the adviser that the”affirmative duty of’utmost good faith’ and full and fair disclosure of material facts” in their adviser’s duty to exercise loyalty and focus. Adding”an obligation not to subordinate the clients’ interests to its own.” Due to the importance of this fiduciary conduct, most investment advisers may make investment choices for their clients without first obtaining the customer’s consent.

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Prior to 2011, all investment advisers with $30 million or more assets under management (AUM) had to register with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), while advisers with less than $25 million needed only to register with their state regulatory body. In 2011, the Dodd-Frank Act increased the minimum assets under management for SEC registration to $110 million.

Agents, as defined broadly by the SEC as”any person engaged in the business of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others” (which may also include investment advisers), must register with the SEC and a self-regulatory firm. The most famous broker self-regulatory organization is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Crucial Changes in Accreditation and Testing

Investment advisers and brokers have different licensing and training requirements. Agents should pass the Series 7, otherwise referred to as the General Securities Representative Exam; the Series 7 also acts as a precursor to further exams in the securities industry. On the other hand, future investment advisers must pass the Series 65 examination, which is a requirement before they can dispense financial advice for a fee.

Another distinction between the Series 7 and the Series 65 is that only the Series 7 requires an individual to be sponsored by a company before registering for the test. The Series 65 is also often used by certified public accountants (CPAs) to enter the investment advisory firm. Unlike chartered financial analysts (CFAs) and certified financial planners (CFPs), the CPA designation does not meet the requirements to get the Series 65 exam waived.

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