FINRA qualification exam restructure update

Panel discussion May 24, 2016 at the FINRA annual conference. John Kalohn, Joe McDonald and Roni Meikle from FINRA discussed coming restructure of qualification exams. Continue reading

Panel discussion May 24, 2016 at the FINRA annual conference. John Kalohn, Joe McDonald and Roni Meikle from FINRA discussed coming restructure of qualification exams.

Goals of exam restructure:

• Respond to industry and regulatory changes
• Reduce redundancy of content across exams
• Streamline exam process
• Minimize impact and change to the registration rules
• Ensure registered reps have a solid breadth of understanding of securities industry

Another goal appears to be a desire by FINRA and member firms to expand the number of people who can and will get licensed to work in the securities industry.

Exam restructure launch date has been postponed, at least a year, till January 2018 at the earliest.

Exams slated to be retired, will not be retired till 2018 restructure launch date. These include the Series 11 (Order Processing Assistant), Series 42 (Options Representative), Series 62 (Corporate Securities Representative) and Series 72 (Government Securities Representative) exams. The panel noted that only one person had taken the Series 72 in the past year.

Anyone holding registrations that are being retired (Series 11, Series 62, Series 72) will be able to continue to hold them until they leave industry for more than 2 years.

Series 17/37/38 Exams – FINRA will retire these exams and use the UK and Canadian certifications to exempt certificate holders from the Essentials Exam.

Exams that will remain as “Top-off” exams: Series 6, 7, 22, 57, 79, 82, 86/87 and 99. Top-off exams will be shorter than current exams.

Essentials Exam features:

Essentials exam currently envisioned to be 100 questions long.

Unlike the current system, you will not need to be associated with a member firm to take the Essentials Exam. In other words, you won’t need to have a job with a broker-dealer to take the Essentials Exam.

If you pass the Essentials Exam, it will be valid for 4 years from your passing date.

Just passing the Essentials Exam will not be enough to qualify you to be a registered person with FINRA. To become a registered person, you will have to have a job with a FINRA member firm, file a U4, get finger-printed, and pass a Top-off exam.

What if you are currently registered?

Current registrants will maintain registration(s) without the need for additional testing.

Most current registrants will be considered to have passed the Essentials Exam, and it will be valid for 4 years upon leaving the securities industry.

Registrants who return to the securities industry within 2 years will regain registration without needing to take the Essentials or Top-off exam.

Registrants who return to the securities industry between 2 and 4 years later will not need to take the Essentials Exam, only the Top-off exam for the registration position.

Registrants who return to the securities industry more than 4 years later will need to take both the Essentials and the top-off exam.

Next steps:

Securities Essentials Exam is being finalized by FINRA and committee of industry representatives.

Top-off exam outlines to be released 9-12 months prior to launch date of exam restructure

Prepare CRD and other FINRA systems for new exam
structure

Create a system for persons not associated with a member to enroll and pay for the Essentials Exam

Make registration rule, fee and qualification exam filings with the SEC in 2016

FINRA says exam restructure will do the following for firms:

• Give firms an opportunity to employ new business models for onboarding staff.
• Allow firms to better gauge industry knowledge of interns and other potential employees.
• Allow non-registered staff (e.g., administrative) to take Essentials Exam.
• Create a larger pool of potential new registered persons

Impact on firms

Firms will have choices of how to onboard new reps:
• Request applicants take and pass Essentials Exam prior to making job application
• Have new hires take Essentials Exam-only initially and then take top-off qualification exam
• Have new hires take both Essentials Exam and top-off exam together

Other info related to exam restructure:

• Through CRD, firms will be able to confirm whether and when an individual passed the Essentials Exam.
• Top-off exams will retain traditional names: i.e., Series 7 exam will remain the Series 7 exam.
• Position designations in CRD will remain the same (i.e., GS will remain GS [Series 7]).
• Firms will be able to schedule the Essentials Exam for support personnel through CRD.
• Current registrants will not need to take the Essentials Exam to maintain current registrations.
• Principal exams and registrations will not be directly affected.

Principal Exams

Under the new representative-level program structure, several principal exams cover subject matter already covered on the Essentials and the Top-off exams.

Example – Series 24 Exam major topic areas include:

• Sales practice (Series 7)
• Investment banking (Series 79)
• Trading (Series 57)
• Research (Series 86/87)

As a result of this, FINRA will develop a principal exam structure that builds on the new representative-level exam structure to reduce redundancy in content and better focus on testing knowledge of and ability to apply supervisory level rules and concepts

Study Question of the Month – April 2016

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available! Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 62, and 82. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available!

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 24, Series 26, Series 62, and Series 82): Which of the following would most likely be classified as a branch office?

Answers: 

A. The floor of a registered exchange

B. A vacation home where the registered representative works for 45 business days a year

C. A customer service office where no sales activities are conducted

D. A location used primarily for non-securities activities and from which 25 securities transactions are effected a year

Correct Answer: B. A vacation home where the registered representative works for 45 business days a year

Rationale: A branch office is any location where one or more associated employees is in the business of soliciting or effecting (but not executing) the purchase or sale of any security.

A location outside of a primary residence, for example, a vacation home, is considered a non-branch location as long as it is used for securities business fewer than 30 business days per year.

The floor of a registered exchange is also considered a non-branch office if it is where a member firm conducts business with public customers.

Other examples of non-branch offices include:

  • Any location that is used primarily to engage in non-securities activities and from which the associated persons effect no more than 25 securities transactions in any one calendar year (provided that any retail communication identifying such location also sets forth the address and telephone number of the location from which the associated persons conducting business at the non-branch locations are directly supervised)
  • Any office location established solely for customer service and/or back office type functions where no sales activities are conducted

Congratulations to Alexa M. this month’s Study Question of the Month winner!

Study Question of the Month – November

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 62, 65 and 79. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6Series 7Series 62Series 65 and Series 79): A few years back ABC Corporation issued callable bonds yielding 6%. The call price is 104, and the call protection period has ended. The bonds are trading at 105 today. Which of the following are true:

I. The current yield on these bonds is 6.3%

II. The current yield on these bonds is 5.7%

III. There is a good chance the bonds will be called

IV. There is a good chance the bonds will not be called

Answers: 

A. I and III

B. I and IV

C. II and III

D. II and IV

Correct Answer: C. II and III

Rationale: The formula for calculating current yield is the annual interest on the bond ($60) divided by the current price of the bond ($1050) which is equal to 5.7%. Because ABC can finance the debt at a lower interest rate than they are currently paying there is a good chance that they will call the bonds.

Congratulations Stephen Z., this month’s Study Question of the Month winner!

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FINRA Enacts New Rule 2040 on Payments to Unregistered Persons

FINRA Rule 2040 became effective August 24, 2015. It replaces NASD Rules 2420 and 1060(b). This change affects the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, 28, 62, and 82 exams. Continue reading

Exam AlertFINRA Rule 2040 became effective August 24, 2015.  It replaces NASD Rules 2420 and 1060(b).  This change affects the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, 28, 62, and 82 exams.

FINRA Rule 2040 explains that an entity must register as a broker-dealer in order to receive commissions and fees for a securities transaction, unless it is a transaction that does not require registration.  FINRA does not explicitly outline which transactions do not require registration, but it states that member firms can make this determination on their own by:

  • Relying on releases, no-action letters, and interpretations from the SEC
  • Requesting a no-action letter from the SEC
  • Seeking a legal opinion

Rule 2040 further states that retired representatives may continue to be paid commissions on customer accounts if the representative and member have agreed upon the continuing payments before retirement.

Finally, Rule 2040 (c) states that members may conduct transactions with foreign finders as long as certain requirements are met, including:

  • The member firm is sure that the finder does not need to register as a broker-dealer in the U.S. and the compensation arrangement doesn’t violate foreign law
  • Neither the finder nor the customer is a U.S. citizen, and both live abroad
  • Customers receive a document disclosing the compensation paid to the finder by the member firm
  • Customers acknowledge receipt of this disclosure to the member firm in writing, which the firm retains and keeps available for inspection
  • Confirmation of each transaction indicates that a finder’s fee is being paid by written agreement

Source: Regulatory Notice 15-07

Exam Alert: FINRA Provides Guidance on Communications

On May 22, 2015, FINRA issued guidance concerning communications with the public. Here are some notable points from the guidance… Continue reading

Exam Alert

On May 22, 2015, FINRA issued guidance concerning communications with the public. Here are some notable points from the guidance.

  • Non-promotional communications (i.e. communications that do not promote or recommend a specific product or service) do not need to be filed with FINRA
  • Electronic forum posts are considered retail communication, but are specifically excluded from filing requirements
  • Template updates do not need to be filed with FINRA if all that changed was statistical information
  • Various non-material changes to previously filed communications do not require refiling the communication
  • A reprinted article does not need to be filed with FINRA
  • Promotional items that only have the name of a mutual fund are not considered “advertisements” under Rule 482
  • If a firm includes mutual fund performance in a retail communication or correspondence, they must also include the fund’s expense ratio
  • Firm must file retail communications regarding registered business development companies
  • A Series 26 registration does not permit a principal to approve retail communications concerning a business development company. The principal must have a Series 24, Series 9/10, or Series 39 registration instead.

Sources:
Regulatory Notice 15-17: Guidance on Rules Governing Communications With the Public
FINRA Rule 2210 Questions and Answers

This alert applies to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 9/10, Series 24, Series 26, Series 39, Series 62, Series 82, and Series 99.

Exam Alert: SEC Issues Bulletin Regarding Diminished Financial Capacity

On June 1, 2015, the SEC issued an investor bulletin about “diminished financial capacity”, which refers to when an individual becomes unable to manage their finances. They recommend a number of steps for individuals to take to prepare for such a condition. Continue reading

Exam AlertOn June 1, 2015, the SEC issued an investor bulletin about “diminished financial capacity”, which refers to when an individual becomes unable to manage their finances. They recommend a number of steps for individuals to take to prepare for such a condition. These steps include:

  • Organize important documents and keep them safe and accessible
  • Give your financial professionals emergency contacts
  • Keep your information and contacts updated
  • Report financial fraud and abuse

Some other options to consider include:

  • Authorizing a durable power of attorney
  • Getting someone you trust involved

Source: Investor Bulletin and Consumer Advisory: Planning for Diminished Capacity and Illness

This alert applies to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 52, Series 65, and Series 66.

Exam Alert: FINRA Revises Public, Non-public Arbitrator Standards

Effective June 26, 2015, FINRA will alter its rules regarding who will be consider a public or non-public arbitrator. The change will make it so that any arbitrator who has worked in the financial industry for any period of time will be considered a non-public arbitrator. Also, arbitrators who represent investors or the financial industry as a significant part of their business will be considered non-public arbitrators, but may become public arbitrators after a cooling-off period. Continue reading

Exam AlertEffective June 26, 2015, FINRA will alter its rules regarding who will be considered a public or non-public arbitrator. The change will make it so that any arbitrator who has worked in the financial industry for any period of time will be considered a non-public arbitrator. Also, arbitrators who represent investors or the financial industry as a significant part of their business will be considered non-public arbitrators, but may become public arbitrators after a cooling-off period. The cooling-off period lasts five years if they were disqualified from being a public arbitrator based on their own actions. The cooling-off period lasts two years if they were disqualified from being a public arbitrator based on someone else’s actions.

Source: SEC Approves Amendments to Arbitration Codes to Revise the Definitions of Non-Public and Public Arbitrator

This alert applies to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 24, Series 26, Series 27, Series 28, Series 62, Series 79, and Series 82.

Proposed FINRA Exam Restructure

FINRA plans to reduce the number of representative-level examinations, currently numbering 16, in order to simplify the examination program and reduce the amount of redundancy across exams. Continue reading

On May 28, 2015 at the FINRA annual conference in Washington, DC, a panel of FINRA and industry representatives discussed proposed changes to restructure FINRA’s representative-level qualification program and fielded questions from attendees present at the meeting.

According to Joe McDonald, Senior Director, Testing and Continuing Education Department, FINRA plans to reduce the number of representative-level examinations, currently numbering 16, in order to simplify the examination program and reduce the amount of redundancy across exams.  FINRA proposes to do this by restructuring the current exam program into a format whereby all potential representative-level registrants would take a core general-knowledge exam and then additional specialized knowledge exam(s).  The general knowledge exam is being called the Securities Industry Essentials Examination (SIE) or “essentials exam,” and the specialized exams are being called “top-off” exams.  According to McDonald, the proposed changes will restructure the exam program without rewriting registration rules.

The SIE, or essentials exam, content would include knowledge fundamental to working in the securities industry, such as basic product knowledge, structure and functioning of the securities markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, basic economics, professional conduct, and regulated and prohibited practices. A significant change in this restructure proposal is that individuals taking the SIE would not need to be associated with or sponsored by a FINRA member firm. Also, since the content of the essentials exam would be stable and less likely to change than the content on the top-off exams, a passing result on the SIE would be valid for 4 years, instead of the current 2 years for FINRA exams. This should make employment in the securities industry more accessible, flexible, and appealing.

Passing the SIE alone would not qualify an individual for registration with FINRA. To be eligible for registration, an individual who has passed the SIE would also need to pass the appropriate top-off exam pertaining to one’s job function. If, following an individual’s registration with a firm, the job functions for which the individual is registered change and one needs to become registered in an additional or alternative representative-level position, one would not need to pass the SIE again. Rather, the registered individual would need to pass only the appropriate top-off exam.

Each top-off exam would correlate to a current representative exam and registration position (e.g., Series 7 and General Securities Representative) and would test content specific to that registration category or job function. In addition, several of the current registration categories would be retired, reducing the number of representative-level qualification exams from the current 16 to the following 9:

Revised Exam Structure

 

 

The essentials exam is expected to be 75-100 questions in length and the specialized top-off exams are expected to be shorter than the current representative exams.  For example, the Series 7 is expected to be 150 questions in length, rather than the current 250 questions.

As part of the restructuring, FINRA is proposing to retire the current registration categories of Options Representative, Corporate Securities Representative and Government Securities Representative as well as the associated exams, the Series 42, Series 62 and Series 72, respectively.

FINRA is considering retiring the U.K. Securities Representative registration (Series 17) and the Canadian Securities Representative registrations (Series 37 & 38). Additionally, due to technological changes, FINRA is considering retiring the Order Processing Assistant registration (Series 11).

Under the proposal, representative-level registrants who are registered, or had been registered within the past 2 years, prior to the effective date of the proposal would be eligible to maintain those registrations without being subject to any additional requirements.  This means that most currently-registered individuals would be considered to have taken the SIE and it would be valid for 4 years after they leave the securities industry. Further, such individuals, with the exception of an Order Processing Assistant Representative, would be considered to have passed the SIE in FINRA’s CRD system; thus, if they wish to register in any additional representative category after the effective date of the proposal, they could do so by taking only the appropriate top-off exam. However, with respect to an individual who is not registered on the effective date of the proposal but was registered within the past two years prior to the effective date of the proposal, FINRA will administratively terminate the individual’s SIE status in the CRD system if such individual does not register with FINRA within 4 years from the date of the individual’s last registration.

FINRA says it will begin implementing changes in late 2016, starting with the SIE exam and 3 specialized exams that make up the majority of all registrations: the Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative (Series 6), the General Securities Representative (Series 7), and the Investment Banking Representative (Series 79) registration categories.  FINRA says the remaining top-off exams will be implemented in the first half of 2017.

Panelists at the FINRA meeting said that they are beginning to look at the principal-level qualification exam program to identify an opportunity for similar restructuring.


Questions and answers from the 2015 FINRA Annual Conference audience included:

Q. Will it be possible to take the essentials and top-off exams on the same day?

A. Yes.

Q. What about failing and retaking?

A. If you fail the first time, FINRA says it will keep the same 30/30/180 day requirement.

Q. Will the exam question style change? 

A. No, FINRA says the current question and answer style will remain the same: a multiple-choice question with four answer choices.

Q. Will the essentials content be on the top-off exams?

A. No.

Q. Will there be a CE requirement for the essentials exam?

A. No.

Q. How will you keep the essentials exam questions secure?

A. New security measures to prevent questions from being stolen are being developed.  Also, FINRA says it has exam question pool rotation will be increased, meaning the exam questions will cycle faster than they have historically.

Q. What about the FINRA exam waiver program, will it be affected?

A. Yes, it will affect the program, but FINRA is not sure exactly how.

Q. Will the restructure affect state registration?

A. FINRA has been in touch with NASAA about the proposed exam changes and since FINRA, with the exception of retiring some registration categories, is not modifying registration rules, state registrations should not be affected much if at all.


You can find more information about the proposed restructure at: http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/notice_doc_file_ref/Notice_Regulatory_15-20.pdf

The FINRA Notice seeks comment on the proposal from the industry and other interested persons.  You can email comments to pubcom@finra.org. The comment period ends July 27.

Before becoming effective, the proposed rule change must be authorized for filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by the FINRA Board of Governors, and then must be filed with the SEC.

Study Question of the Month – May

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, and 28. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 24, Series 26, Series 27, and Series 28):

According to the Code of Arbitration, excluding claims alleging discrimination or sexual harassment, arbitration of disputes is mandatory for all of the following except:

Answers:

A. Disputes between two member firms

B. Disputes brought by member firms against customers, if required by contract

C. Disputes brought by member firms against customers for claims in excess of $25,000

D. Disputes brought by associated persons against customers, if the customer consents

Correct Answer: C. Disputes brought by member firms against customers for claims in excess of $25,000

Rationale: Arbitration of disputes involving customers is mandatory only if the customer consents to arbitration or if required by contract. Claims alleging discrimination or sexual harassment cannot be arbitrated, except by agreement of all disputing parties.

(No winner this month. There were no correct answers submitted. Try back next month!)

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