A financial adviser (or advisor) is a professional who renders financial services to clients. According to the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), terms such as financial adviser and financial planner are general terms or job titles used by investment professionals and do not denote any specific designations. FINRA describes the main groups of investment professionals who may use the term financial advisor to be: brokers, investment advisers, accountants, lawyers, insurance agents and financial planners.
Financial advisors typically provide clients/customers with financial products and services, depending on the licenses they hold and the training they have had. For example, an insurance agent may be qualified to sell both life insurance and variable annuities. A broker may also be a financial planner. A financial advisor may create financial plans for clients or sell financial products, or a combination of both.
A financial advisor is generally compensated through fees, commissions, or a combination of both. For example, a financial advisor may be compensated in one or more of the following ways:
An hourly fee for advisory services:
A flat fee, such as $500 per year, for an annual portfolio review or $2,000 for a financial plan
A commission on the securities bought or sold, such as $12 per trade
A commission (sometimes called a “load”) based on the amount invested in a mutual fund or variable annuity
A “mark-up”: when one buys “house” products (such as bonds that the broker holds in inventory), or a “mark-down” when they are sold
A fee for assets under management, such as 1% annually of assets managed
n the United States, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulates and oversees the activities of brokerage firms, and their registered representatives. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulates investment advisers and their investment adviser representatives. Insurance companies, insurance agencies and insurance producers are regulated by state authorities. Investment Advisors may be registered with state regulatory agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or pursuant to certain exemptions, remain unregistered.