Picking or choosing the right broker is just as important as choosing your investments. A good broker is worth their weight in gold and a bad broker can do untold damage. Make your choice well, as your investments depend upon it.
How do you find a good broker? You have to research them just like an investment. You will, typically, find a broker one of two ways, a referral from a friend or the broker contacts you through the telephone or mail. You may like the person, but liking them does not mean they are any good. You have to search their background.
Researching a broker is easier than you think. Your first step is to search their public NASD record at nasd.com. All you need is their name, and firm they are with. In a few seconds you will get their complete NASD record. The initial record you get will be basic information going over their employment history and what states they are registered in. There is a section on the left side that says disciplinary action, if it says maybe that usually means yes there is something there.
This, however, does not mean they are a criminal or a crook. The maybe could be anything from a customer complaint to a traffic ticket from years ago that was a misdemeanor. Anyhow, you will have to click deliver report to get that information. You will have to give your information to the NASD, like your name and address; this does not get passed on to the broker, after all this is a public record.
It may take an hour or 3 days to get the report, but you will get it. The report lists several things in it like CRD records and things that you could care less about. The good stuff, what the maybe was, is at the bottom of the report. You will find the nature of the complaint and the resolution and any statement made by the broker.
Just because a broker has a complaint it does not mean it is the end of the world, you are looking for a pattern of disciplinary actions. If it is one complaint I would not be concerned, but if they have 3 or 4 that is a big red flag. One mistake is understandable, but more than one is a problem. Only you can evaluate the facts in front of you, not I and I would way the facts carefully.
You will also want to work with someone who is a full time investment professional. The last person you should want to work with is someone who does investments part time. The people who do this part time do not have the experience or knowledge to full understand what they are doing. Think of it this way: If you were on a plane do you want the pilot more worried about his/her day job, or flying the plane? This is the same with investments; you want the full time vision of your goals taken seriously.
Plus, these part time people usually work for dubious companies with long disciplinary actions against them. You can also find out about the firms track record through the nasd.com web site. Now, some of these people may be ok, but the way most of these types of firms work are multi-level marketing firms. This means after they sell you a product they will try to recruit you to sell others investment products. They, if they recruit you, will then get an override on any commission you generate. I highly would discourage you from working with this type of firm.
Get a seasoned professional, one who is not the top person in the office. The top person n the office is usually working with many clients and cannot give you enough time to really evaluate your goals. I know it sounds weird right? These guys are highly successful and very good, but when they do not have enough time for you it really is not an advantage for you. Just because everyone uses this guy does not mean he is the best either. It just might mean he knows a lot of people and has networked well.
Look for the mid-road person, one who is successful, but not so successful that they cannot give you the time of day. If it takes a month to get an appointment with the broker, they are not worth your time. The mid-road broker is usually competent and has the experience you need to become a successful investor. They are usually middle aged with a good amount of experience behind them and well versed in products to offer you.
Remember you are interviewing these brokers, not the other way around. If they cannot stop talking about themselves, look elsewhere. You have no room for ego; you need answers and someone who cares about you and your needs.
I am a big fan of independent brokers; these are people not with the big wire house firms. Independents have years of experience, usually, and make time for their clients on a regular basis. They also have more products to choose from in order to get you the right investment vehicle for your needs.
Just look around and research the people you want to work with. The time you spend on making the right decision on picking a broker may save you in the future.
Scott DeMonte is a widely respected expert in variable annuities. Scott has worked as both a financial advisor and as an executive for 2 of the best selling variable annuity contracts sold in America.