Interview: How Alec Orudjev Passed Four Securities Licensing Exams

What does it take to pass securities licensing exams like the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79? Read about one student’s approach to success. Continue reading

No one said career changes are easy, and when they involve taking several difficult securities licensing exams, the challenge is real. Having an effective study system is an important part of passing securities licensing exams, and hearing about others’ strategies can help you develop a system that works for you. Solomon Exam Prep recently interviewed Alec Orudjev, General Counsel at FT Global Capital, about passing the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79 exams (in three months!). Alec shares valuable insights into his study process and how he utilizes Solomon materials to achieve success.

“… the Solomon study materials are the best and the most comprehensive (notes, resources, simulated exam questions, etc.) in their class, in my view.

Photo of Alec Orudjev

Alec Orudjev

Solomon Exam Prep: What motivated you to pursue multiple securities licenses?

Alec Orudjev: After about two decades of being an attorney in private practice, I decided to change my career path and accepted an in-house legal counsel position earlier in the year. As a condition of such change, I needed to secure certain FINRA licenses.

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Alec Orudjev: I have passed the SIE, Series 79, 63 and 24 tests, and am currently studying for the Series 7 exam. While some of this sequence is dictated by FINRA rules, etc., a great deal of it is a matter of personal planning. Given the overlapping nature of the substance of these tests, I thought it would be helpful to plan the sequence to benefit from common points/concepts across different tested areas. Basically, I focused on the end objective and reviewed the substance of each test to line them up so as to utilize my time most efficiently and effectively.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Alec Orudjev: Looking back, I think the Series 24 exam commanded most of my study time and attention. I think the volume of what was to be covered and the overall fatigue of having to study and pass three FINRA exams in a 2 ½ month period both made this test preparation more difficult than it would or should have been. It is a very saturated, broad themed exam that requires a lot of focus and attention.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Alec Orudjev: My approach included: (i) outlining, and (ii) attending Solomon live classes and utilizing exam simulators. With respect to the first element, I approached all my exam preparations the way I did my law school exams – by first preparing thorough outlines of the reading materials. I would start by reading the Solomon preparation materials, actively engaging them and highlighting key points, concepts and examples. Next, I would transfer (literally and figuratively) those notes into an outline of my own, condensing the reading materials down to their bare essence. For example, five chapters of the Series 24 prep book (about 500 pages) were condensed to a 50-page outline (10:1 ratio or so) which, then, I used in reviewing in preparation for the test. Needless to say, one’s outline is as good as one’s effort and the quality of the underlying study materials. On the latter point – the Solomon study materials are the best and the most comprehensive (notes, resources, simulated exam questions, etc.) in their class, in my view. While this outlining approach seems like a lot of work, it is. However, it has worked for me for years and I do strongly recommend this approach to all.

With respect to the second element of my approach, I made every effort to attend live classes and utilize exam simulator questions. I will then turn to Solomon’s online exam question bank and answer those questions, noting what I got right and, more importantly, what and why I got wrong. Also, a significant part of my preparations involved participation in live classes offered by Solomon (I enrolled in the SIE and 63 sessions). You tend to get lot more out of these sessions if you review the materials ahead of time. Overall, they are terrific – the instructor is sharp and very knowledgeable, with a healthy sense of humor to get you through some rather dense and tedious parts of the material. I would highly recommend taking live sessions as they force you to focus on the totality of the study materials in five days, 3-4 hours a day – a daunting, but useful exercise.

Studying for any difficult test is no pleasant experience … take breaks, change the nature of your mental engagement (read something else altogether, watch, take a walk, etc.) to refresh and resume your studying effort.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Alec Orudjev: I took all exams (4 + 1 more to go) at the ProMetric testing center in Bethesda, MD. Given the stress of test-taking, in general, I did not want to add the stress of doing it remotely, etc. The conditions at the center were superb, the staff – very friendly and helpful. I offer no new advice on how to handle this experience other than what is commonly suggested for test takers, e.g., arrive early, read test center instructions carefully and follow them to the letter, give yourself enough time to travel, relax and focus before the test, pace yourself during the test, etc. Keep in mind, however, that FINRA tests are uniquely stringent in the way they are administered, etc. So, to reiterate – read the test taking instructions closely.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Alec Orudjev: Focus on the reasons why you have undertaken this effort. Studying for any difficult test is no pleasant experience, and very few things can make that less so. However, take breaks, change the nature of your mental engagement (read something else altogether, watch, take a walk, etc.) to refresh and resume your studying effort. There will be many distractions and excuses – acknowledge and indulge to some extent, but do not lose your focus. Most importantly, be honest with yourself about how disciplined you are studying and preparing for your exams.

Solomon Exam Prep: How has passing the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79 exams affected your work and your career?

Alec Orudjev: Certainly. Apart from the obvious, studying helped me to be a better legal professional and advisor. Understanding and internalizing a large, complex body of laws, rules and regulations governing the conduct of member firms is a daunting task indeed. These exams set a useful baseline for developing this understanding and building upon it. Take solace in this idea and keep at it.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 7, Series 24Series 63, and Series 79.

Interview: How Andrew Nerys Passed Three Securities Licensing Exams

If you’re preparing to take a securities licensing exam, such as the SIE, Series 7, or Series 63 (or all three!), Solomon’s latest student interview is a must-read. Continue reading

If you are interested in becoming a securities industry professional, there are many paths to follow, most of which require you to pass one or more securities licensing exams. Depending on your work and the type of employer, a common exam track is the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63 exams. The SIE exam covers fundamentals of the securities industry and is a co-requisite to several qualification exams, including the Series 7. The Series 7 qualifies you to buy and sell the widest range of securities. The Series 63 covers the principles of state securities regulation.

Passing all three exams requires considerable effort – but it is possible! Solomon Exam Prep recently interviewed Andrew Nerys, Brokerage Operations Specialist at Cash App Investing, about passing the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63. Read about how Andrew approached studying for these exams, his experience taking exams both remotely and in-person, and how passing these securities licensing exams has benefited his career.

“Passing these exams allowed me to make an exciting transition to a new team and gave me a sense of direction for my professional future.”

Andrew Nerys

Andrew Nerys

Solomon Exam Prep: What motivated you to pursue multiple securities licenses?

Andrew Nerys: To be considered for a permanent role with my organization, it was required for me to pass the three exams I took.

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Andrew Nerys: I took the SIE, followed by the Series 7 and, lastly, the Series 63. I ultimately didn’t get much say in the order or scheduling of my exams but I did find it helpful all the same. I found that preparing for the SIE (and taking the exam) was a good introduction to the concepts and regulations of the securities industry. The Series 7 built on the concepts that were introduced in the SIE and gave me a good foundation. Taking the Series 63 last was refreshing, in a way, since I found it easier to absorb the material and there was much less to cover in preparation for the exam. I don’t think I’d change anything if I had to do it all again which, hopefully, won’t ever be the case!

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Andrew Nerys: The Series 7 definitely required the most study time. There’s a lot of material to cover and some of the concepts were challenging for me to understand. As a result, I found the need to re-read several sections and to take more of the practice tests at the end of each chapter. I also started studying each chapter by watching its corresponding Video Lecture, so it sometimes took several hours to get through one chapter’s worth of material. In total, I estimate that I spent just under 100 hours studying for that one exam.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Andrew Nerys: For each of the exams, I started by watching the chapter’s Video Lecture and taking very brief notes. Once finished with the video, I’d move on to reading the Study Guide and taking more comprehensive notes to fill in the gaps. I used a couple of wire-bound notebooks and tried to space everything out so I’d have an easy time finding any info I might be hunting for when I went back to review my notes. I also tried to stick to the study schedules provided by Solomon as much as I could, but didn’t beat myself up if I fell a day behind. I found that I’d usually make up for it soon enough. I only made flashcards for concepts that I really struggled with, or specific equations that required memorization. Otherwise, I leaned heavily on practice tests – both for each chapter and the ones provided for exam review. The pie charts and Pass Probability™ metrics were very useful in helping me identify areas where I needed more study.

It’s always worth remembering that passing these exams is achievable, especially on those days where it feels impossible.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Andrew Nerys: I had a blended experience with taking the actual exams: I took the SIE and 63 at a testing center and took the Series 7 remotely. I didn’t really have a preference for one over the other, but I’d strongly encourage anyone taking it remotely to make the space as distraction-free and free of clutter as possible. Not only did I find that helpful in keeping me focused, but it also made me feel more confident that my exam result wouldn’t be nullified for failing to meet the remote testing requirements. The other thing to consider when deciding whether or not to take an exam remotely is that you’re not allowed to have any paper, pen, or calculator on your desk when testing remotely. That means all of the notes and calculations have to be done using your computer, which might be a disadvantage when compared to taking the exam at a testing center.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Andrew Nerys: Establish a study routine early in the process that’s easy to stick to and that keeps you regularly engaged in the material. If I took more than one day off between studying, I found it more difficult to get back into study mode. It’s always worth remembering that passing these exams is achievable, especially on those days where it feels impossible. I also use Reddit and subscribed to a couple of Subreddits that focus on the Series 7 and other related exams. I found it really helpful to have a community that was going through the experience (or had recently been through it) to help keep me motivated and to encourage my success.

Solomon Exam Prep: How has passing the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63 exams affected your work and your career?

Andrew Nerys: Passing these exams allowed me to make an exciting transition to a new team and gave me a sense of direction for my professional future. In a more indirect way, it also helped reinforce the feeling that I’m capable of achieving my goals when I have the right resources and mindset.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63.

Should Cryptocurrency Be Regulated as a Security or a Commodity? Solomon customers speak.

Read the results of Solomon Exam Prep’s latest poll on the topic of cryptocurrency regulation – and learn which license you’d need for either outcome. Continue reading

With the regulatory status of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies still up in the air, a recent Solomon LinkedIn poll found that 60% of Solomon customers think cryptocurrencies should be treated as commodities, while 40% said they thought cryptocurrencies should be regulated as securities.

Thus far the SEC has avoided clearly stating that cryptocurrencies are securities. To do so, the SEC would likely have to show that cryptocurrencies meet the “Howey Test,” which says that securities must have four characteristics. According to this test, a security involves (1) an investment of money that (2) involves a common enterprise (3) in which the investors expect to make a profit, and (4) the profits will be derived from the efforts of someone other than the investor.

If the SEC, Congress, or the courts declare that cryptocurrencies meet the Howey Test and are therefore securities, Solomon’s got you covered with the Series 7 General Securities Representative Exam Guide. This FINRA license allows you to engage in “the solicitation, purchase and/or sale of all securities products.”

If cryptocurrencies don’t meet the Howey Test, they could be regulated as commodities. These are goods such as wheat, gold, and pork bellies. Why might cryptocurrencies fit in with these others? Because commodities are all highly standardized so that they can be freely bought and sold on exchanges without worrying about differences in quality—every ounce of gold is pretty much like every other ounce of gold. Likewise, every Bitcoin is like every other Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrencies end up being treated like commodities, consider the Solomon Series 3 National Commodities Futures Exam Guide. The Series 3 is the main qualification exam for the National Futures Association and is required if you want to become a Commodity Trading Advisor.

Interview: How Alexandria Coyne Passed Four Securities Licensing Exams

If you’re considering taking the SIE, Series 6, Series 63, Series 7, or another securities licensing exam, read these valuable insights on how to study for and pass your exams. Continue reading

It’s not uncommon for those in the securities and investment industries to need more than one securities license. But the determination involved in passing multiple securities licensing exams (especially in a short time period) is substantial. Case in point: Alexandria Coyne, Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual, who passed her fourth exam with Solomon Exam Prep earlier this year. She now has the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63 under her belt. Alex was kind enough to answer Solomon’s questions about her study approach and how she achieved success four times.

“I really wanted to learn the material through and through, so I was never preparing for an exam; I was preparing for a career.”

Alex Coyne

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Alex Coyne: I took the SIE, the 6, the 63 and then the 7. If I could do it all over, I’d do the same thing! The SIE was a great entry level exam for the 6. To me, there was only a little bit of differentiating content between the two exams. I will always recommend splitting up the 6 and the 7. I think the 6 was just high-level enough to get an understanding of the content. The 7, on the other hand, got extremely detailed. I truly believe that if I went straight into the 7 from the SIE, I wouldn’t have been successful on my first attempt.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Alex Coyne: Most definitely the Series 7. I just think that there were a lot of details to remember and a lot of information to digest.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Alex Coyne: I recommend everyone to Solomon. I think that Solomon did an amazing job with the study material. What I have found to be most successful for me:

The first thing I did was set an exam date. That was just knowing my ability to procrastinate, so I had to put a timeline on this thing before it even started!

Order the book. Read the entire book in full, highlighting important content and underlining even more important content. I found that 20 pages per day was my reading goal.

Once the book was read in full, I WROTE out all the highlighted and underlined information onto a notebook. Yes, I outlined the entire book. I found that approximately 10 pages of outlining per day was my capacity (approx. 1-2 hours). It took an entire 2-subject notebook for an entire outline. (Still no quizzes at this point.)

While I was reading and outlining, I played the online Video Lectures through my AUX cord in my car wherever I went. From start to finish. 

After outlining the entire book, I went to my NOTEBOOK (outlined) and I went through the content in detail. After I studied Chapter 1, I took Ch. 1 practice quizzes until passing consistently. Then Chapter 2, 3, 4 and so on….

After all of the Chapter quizzes were complete, I did the practice tests. I probably did 15-20 total practice exams. Some timed, some with immediate feedback. I made sure to read the feedback and understand what questions I was getting wrong and use my book and notebook to go back to content and work through the wrong answers. 

On the 7, the Options Video Lecture was a total game changer for me. I watched it twice and memorized every table on there. That single-handedly won me 15-20 questions on the Series 7 exam.

“…there are still things from the study material that I use in client meetings today, 8 months since the Series 7 exam.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Alex Coyne: I took all of my tests in a testing center. My advice: Practice your “dump sheet.” AKA: Once you START the exam, dump out all you can remember on scratch paper. I actually practiced my dump sheet, especially for the Series 7. The week leading up the 7, randomly throughout the day, I would stop what I was doing, find paper, and practice my dump sheet. By the time I took my Series 7, I pretty well had my dump sheet memorized. That was very helpful for me.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Alex Coyne: Passing on the first try is very possible, but you will only get out of the material the level of commitment you decide to put into it. I really wanted to learn the material through and through, so I was never preparing for an exam; I was preparing for a career. I saw this knowledge as transformational for my financial practice. I took it seriously and there are still things from the study material that I use in client meetings today, 8 months since the Series 7 exam. My advice is to have that mentality when it comes to learning; don’t just cram to pass an exam. Our clients deserve better.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63.

What are the permitted activities of a General Securities Representative (Series 7)?

In this article, Solomon Exam Prep explains what a General Securities Representative can and cannot do and how this compares to other rep-level registrations. Continue reading

Of the representative-level FINRA registrations categories, the General Securities Representative (Series 7) registration is considered by many to be the most valuable, due to the range of products it allows you to sell. But how “general” is it? Are there other representative-level registrations that permit you do things a Series 7 representative cannot?

What is a Series 7 representative permitted to do?

FINRA allows a General Securities Representative to solicit the purchase and sales of all securities products, including:

  • Stocks, whether from IPOs, private placements, or secondary market trading
  • Other corporate securities, such as bonds, rights, and warrants
  • Mutual funds
  • Closed-end funds
  • Money market funds
  • Unit investment trusts (UITs)
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  • Variable contracts (insurance products whose funds are invested in securities)
  • Municipal securities
  • Municipal fund securities, such as 529 plans
  • Options
  • Government securities
  • Direct participation programs (DPPs)
  • Venture capital
  • Hedge funds

This long list of products means that a Series 7 registered rep may perform the functions of an Investment Company and Variable Contracts Representative (Series 6), Direct Participation Programs Representative (Series 22), or Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82).

Besides sales, General Securities Representatives may also perform certain activities closely related to sales. They may:

  • recommend investments after performing a suitability analysis for the customer
  • accept unsolicited orders
  • open customer accounts, subject to approval by a principal

What is a Series 7 representative not permitted to do?

Though a General Securities Representative may solicit purchases of IPO shares, he may not work on underwriting or structuring an IPO, or any other securities offerings. This means that he is not permitted to advise an issuer on an offering. This work requires registration as an Investment Banking Representative (Series 79).  Likewise, working on municipal underwriting requires registration as a Municipal Securities Representative (Series 52).

A Series 7 representative is also not qualified to perform the back-office functions of an Operations Professional (Series 99). Among these functions are maintaining possession or control of the firm’s securities, calculating margin for margin accounts, and sending trade confirmations and account statements.

Of course, every registered representative must also pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. The SIE doesn’t qualify you to do anything, instead it is a foundational exam that focuses on industry terminology, securities products, the structure and function of the markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices. Unlike other FINRA securities exams, you do not need to be employed or sponsored by a broker-dealer in order to take the SIE. The only requirement is that you be 18 years old.

If you are considering taking the Series 7 exam, Solomon Exam Prep is here to help you. Solomon provides an extensive array of study material, together with resources such as study schedules, the Ask The Professor function, and important exam information. You can view our Series 7 offerings here.

 

And for more helpful securities exam-related content, study tips, and industry updates, join the Solomon email list. Click the button below:

How to Calculate Gains and Losses on Exercised Options

Options are a common topic on the Series 6, Series 7, Series 65, Series 66, and SIE exams. Read our guide to calculating gains and losses on exercised options. Continue reading

Options are a topic that many taking the Series 6, Series 7, Series 65, Series 66, and SIE exams have to deal with. One of the biggest problems that students have with options questions occurs when they are asked to calculate gains and losses on exercised options. As long as you understand a few basic points, these types of questions can be a breeze and definitely nothing to lose sleep over.  

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of what an option is.  An option is a contract between two parties that gives the buyer of the contract the right to buy or sell an underlying asset to the other party in the future for a specific price. The specific price is called the “exercise” or “strike” price.  The seller of the option, on the other hand, is obligated to buy or sell, at the strike price. The option to buy is a “call” option, the option to sell is a “put” option.   

To calculate gains and losses on exercised options, you first need to understand what is happening as a result of an options transaction.  When an option is exercised, that means its holder chooses to either buy or sell the underlying security at the strike price. With an exercised call option, the holder purchases shares of the underlying security from the options seller; with an exercised put option, the holder sells shares of the underlying security to the options seller. The sale in each case occurs at the option’s strike price.

Buying – Exercised Call Option

When a call options holder exercises her option by purchasing the underlying shares, she must add the cost of those shares to the premium she paid to obtain the option in the first place. This sum represents the option holder’s total money spent as a result of her options transaction. If the option holder then elects to sell the underlying securities she’s just purchased at their current market price, the money she receives from the sale will be money she takes in. To calculate her gain or loss, subtract the money she paid out from the money she took in. It’s as simple as that. 

So, if, for instance, Marie paid $200 in premiums to purchase a call option with a strike price of $20 and then exercised the option by purchasing 100 shares of the underlying stock, the money she spent as a result of her options transaction will be $2,200 ($200 premium paid + $2,000 purchase price for underlying securities). If she then sells those 100 shares at the market price of $25, she will receive $2,500 in sales proceeds. Subtracting the money she spent from the amount she received will result in a $300 gain ($2,500 sale proceeds – $2,000 purchase price – $200 premium paid = $300 gain.)

Buying – Exercised Put Option

In order for a put options holder to exercise his option, he must have 100 shares of the underlying security to sell to the options seller. That means he needs to go out in the market and purchase shares at their market price. The money he pays for those securities plus the premium he paid to purchase his put option in the first place represents money spent as a result of his options transaction. The options holder will then sell those 100 shares to the options seller at the strike price. When he does this, he receives the sale proceeds. Subtracting the money spent on the put from the sale proceeds will result in the put investor’s gain or loss.   

So, if, for instance, Pierre paid $300 in premiums to purchase a put option with a strike price of $30 and then purchases 100 shares of the underlying stock when its market price drops to $25, he will have spent $2,800 as a result of his options transaction ($300 premium + $2,500 purchase price for underlying shares). He will then sell those 100 shares to the options seller at their strike price of $30 and take in $3,000 from his sale. Thus, Pierre will make a total of $200 on his options transaction ($3,000 sale proceeds - $300 premium – $2,500 purchase price = $200 gain). 

Selling an Option

Now let’s look at gains or losses from the perspective of an options seller. Remember that when someone sells an option, he receives the premium from the options buyer. If the option expires unexercised, the seller gets to keep his entire premium received, which represents his maximum potential gain. If the option is exercised, he will either be required to sell shares of the underlying security to the option holder in the case of a call option or buy shares from the option holder in the case of a put option. Each of an exercised call or an exercised put option transaction is made at the option’s strike price.

Selling – Exercised Call Option

When a call option is exercised, the option seller must obtain 100 shares of the underlying stock to sell to the options holder. To do so, he will have to purchase the shares at their current market price, which will be higher than the option’s strike price. He will then sell them to the option holder at the strike price. The money he takes in from the sale is added to the premiums he received when shorting the option, and this totals the money he takes in as part of his options transaction. The money he paid to obtain the underlying securities is the money he pays out. Subtracting the money he pays out from the money he takes in results in his overall gain or loss.

For example, let’s say Michael sells a call option with a strike price of $50 and receives premiums totaling $500. If the option is exercised, and Mike purchases the underlying shares at $55, he will have paid out $5,500 as a result of his options transaction. At the same time, he will have received $5,500 ($500 premium + $5,000 strike price). Thus, Mike will break even on this transaction; money taken in will be equal to money paid out.

Buying – Exercised Put Option

When a put option is exercised, the option seller must purchase 100 shares of the underlying security from the options holder at the strike price. This represents money the options seller pays out. The options holder has already received the premium when she sold the option, and after purchasing the 100 shares, she can sell them for their current market price. The combination of the seller’s sale proceeds and the premium received represents money taken in. Subtracting money paid out from money taken in will result in the investor’s gain or loss. 

Let’s say Maribel shorts a put option and receives premiums totaling $400. The option has a strike price of $40, and the option holder exercises it when the underlying stock is trading at $35. This means Maribel is obligated to pay $4,000 total for the 100 underlying shares. This is money she pays out. She has already taken in $400, and if she chooses to sell the underlying stock at its current market price, she will take in an additional $3,500 in sales proceeds. This means she will receive a total of $3,900 from his options transaction ($3,500 sale proceeds + $400 premium) and paid out a total of $4,000. As a result, she has lost $100 on his options transaction ($3,900 money in – $4,000 money out = -$100).

As long as you understand what is occurring when an option is exercised, calculating gains and losses is as simple as comparing the money the investor takes in to the money she pays out. Calculating gains and losses on exercised options requires an understanding of the transaction and some simple math. Follow the guidance above and you will be able to correctly answer this type of question on your securities licensing exam.

For more helpful securities exam-related content, study tips, and industry updates, join the Solomon email list. Just click the button below:

What Are QIBs and Accredited Investors? What’s the Difference?

If you’re studying for securities licensing exams, such as the SIE or the Series 7, then you should understand the terms “accredited investor” and “QIB.” Continue reading

If you’ve been studying for the Series 7, 6, 14, 22, 24, 65, 79, or 82, or the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), then you’ve had to learn about Regulation D private placements and Rule 144A sales. Regulation D private placements are securities offerings that are exempt from the normal SEC registration process and in many cases are sold only to “accredited investors” or limit the involvement of investors who are not accredited. Rule 144A sales are sales of unregistered securities to large institutional investors known as “qualified institutional buyers” or QIBs for short. 
 
You may have wondered about the difference between accredited investors and QIBs. On the surface, these may seem similar. Each refers to a category of investor with resources and/or knowledge above and beyond the average retail investor. So why not just have one standard for buyers under both Rule 144A and Regulation D? After all, the purpose of both Regulation D and Rule 144A is the same: to allow wealthier and more sophisticated investors easier access to investments that may be too risky for the average investor.  
 
To begin to answer this question, we have to start with the fact that wealth and sophistication fall on a spectrum. Investors aren’t neatly divided between small retail investors and huge financial institutions that move millions around without blinking an eye. 

Accredited Investors

You could think of accredited investors as a middle ground between these two extremes. Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement. There are many ways to qualify as an accredited investor but they all have one thing in common, which is that the SEC believes they indicate an ability to take on risks that regulators believe are unsuitable for most retail investors.

Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement.

All of the following are considered accredited investors:
  • Banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, insurance companies, and investment companies
  • Corporations, trusts, partnerships, and LLCs with more than $5 million in assets
  • Most employee benefit plans with more than $5 million in assets
  • The issuer’s directors, executive officers, and general partners
  • If the issuer is a privately owned fund, (such as a hedge fund), a knowledgeable employee of the fund, which means an employee with at least 12 months’ experience working on the fund’s investment activities
  • Individuals with income of $200,000 in each of the last two years, or $300,000 in combination with a spouse or spousal equivalent such as a domestic partner
  • Individuals with a net worth more than $1 million, alone or with a spouse or spousal equivalent, not including primary residence
  • Individuals who hold any of these three designations in good standing:
    • Licensed General Securities Representative (Series 7)
    • Licensed Investment Adviser Representative (Series 65)
    • Licensed Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82)
  • Any firm where all owners are accredited investors (e.g., venture capital firms)
  • Any other entity with more than $5 million in investments that was not formed specifically to qualify as an accredited investor; the purpose of this category is to include entities that don’t neatly fit into any of the above categories, such as:
    • Native American tribes
    • Labor unions
    • Government bodies, including those of foreign governments
    • Investment funds created by government bodies
    • New types of business entities that may be introduced by new laws

An accredited investor that is not an individual—such as a business, governmental, or nonprofit entity—is sometimes called an institutional accredited investor (IAI).

Qualified Institutional Buyers

QIBs are a narrower group of large institutional investors. A QIB is a large institutional investor that owns at least $100 million worth of securities, not counting securities issued by its affiliates. For registered broker-dealers, the threshold is lower, just $10 million. A bank must also have a net worth of at least $25 million in order to be considered a QIB. 
 
If a firm has discretionary authority to invest securities owned by a QIB, those securities count toward whether the firm itself is considered a QIB. So if a broker-dealer has $9 million worth of securities in its own accounts, and holds $1 million worth of securities in a discretionary account belonging to a QIB, then the broker-dealer is itself a QIB.  

Common examples of QIBs include broker-dealers, insurance companies, investment companies, pension plans, and banks. However, any corporation, partnership, or LLC could qualify as a QIB. So can an IAI that owns at least $100 million in securities. Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Rule 144A allows QIBs to buy unregistered securities at any time, and freely trade these shares to other QIBs. In effect, QIBs can trade unregistered shares among themselves with almost the same ease as trading registered shares. Selling unregistered securities to anyone other than a QIB commonly requires a the seller to hold the securities for a period of up to 12 months. 

A QIB will virtually always meet the criteria to be an accredited investor, whereas an accredited investor may fall well short of QIB status.

Over time, other securities laws and regulations have made use of these two well-known categories. For example, in 2019 the SEC gave issuers more flexibility to test the waters with potential investors before deciding whether to go through with a public offering. When deciding which investors were sophisticated enough to receive test-the-waters communications, the SEC limited these communications to QIBs and institutional accredited investors. Additionally, references to institutional accredited investors have become more common, such as when the SEC revamped its rules around integration of offerings in March 2021.  
 
Know your QIBs from your accredited investors and be ready to pass your securities exam with Solomon Exam Prep.


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Answering Suitability Questions on the FINRA Series 7

Suitability questions may appear daunting. But they don’t have to be – read the Solomon guide to answering suitability questions with ease. Continue reading

If you’re taking the FINRA Series 7 exam, you very possibly dread the term suitability. We understand that suitability questions may appear daunting. But to enhance your chances of passing the exam, you should have a good understanding of the concept and how it applies to certain test questions.

Suitability questions can be difficult because they often contain more than one answer choice that seems plausible. In short, they are more open-ended than other questions that appear on the exam. While this can make these questions tough, keep in mind that in each suitability question has one BEST answer given the information provided. This blog will help you select that that best answer choice.

First, what is a suitability question? The most basic type of suitability question presents a hypothetical investor and his profile and asks you which investment or investments is most suitable for him. Other suitability questions are about specific products. For instance, a question might ask you to choose the bond that would be most suitable for a high-income earner – usually a municipal bond. Finally, other types of suitability questions may provide an information about an investor and her profile and you will be asked which investments should be removed and/or added to her portfolio, or which proposed asset allocation is best.

So, what’s the best strategy for answering these questions?

1. Learn and memorize the characteristics of the investment products.

The most basic requirement for properly approaching any of these questions is to have a good understanding of the investment products mentioned in the question. Think about it this way: if you don’t know the characteristics a product, it’s difficult to know who should and shouldn’t buy it. For instance, if you don’t know the characteristics of a growth fund or a municipal bond it will be hard to assess which investors should own these products or avoid them in favor of other products. This means learning and memorizing the characteristics of the major investment products, such as stocks, bonds, funds, and options, is the first step to mastering suitability.

2. Categorize the investment goals of the investor in the question.

Assuming that you understand the products mentioned in a question, let’s look at what else you should consider when answering a suitability question. First, when reading a suitability question, focus on the financial goals attributed to the hypothetical investor presented in the question.

There are four major investing goals and strategies that you should keep in mind when doing this. First, there are capital preservation investors. These investors are interested in obtaining a minimum level of return while not putting their principal at any significant risk. Then there are the income investors. These want to receive a steady stream of payments in hopes of supplementing their income. Third, there are capital growth investors. These are long-term investors whose primary hope is seeing the value of their investments rise over time. Finally, there are the speculative investors. These investors are willing to take on more risk in the hopes of earning higher gains in a shorter amount of time. Placing an investor in one of these categories, or a blend of two of these categories, will help you figure out which investments are most suitable for the investor.

3. Analyze the profile of the Investor, looking for risk tolerance, time horizon and tax bracket.
Risk Tolerance:

Look for the investor’s risk tolerance. If an investor is not willing to take on much risk, only the most conservative investments are suitable for him. In contrast, an investor with a high risk tolerance is willing to own more volatile types of investments. Typically, conservative risk tolerance correlates with capital preservation investors, and sometimes income investors, while high risk tolerance correlates with speculative investors and many capital growth investors. Examples of conservative investments include U.S. Treasury securities, money market funds, and bank CDs. Examples of high-risk investments include penny stocks, options, junk bonds, and possibly growth stocks.

Time Horizon:

An investor’s time horizon is another factor you must consider. Is the investor hoping for long-term growth, or is he going to need to cash out of his investments in a relatively short amount of time? Sometimes a question will not present you with this exact information but instead will give an investor’s age. Questions that mention an investor who is in his 20s or 30s are indicating someone with a long time horizon. In contrast, questions that describe an investor who only has a few years until retirement are usually describing someone with a shorter time horizon. Scenarios that describe a couple who wants to buy a house or pay for college in the next year, will also have a short time horizon, and therefore, will require liquid investments.

So which investments are best for long- and short-term investors? An investor with a long time horizon is able to invest in products that are expected to grow over time, such as growth stocks, equity mutual funds and ETFs, or annuities. He is also more likely to take on riskier investments since he has more time to make up for any losses. On the other hand, a short-term investor should invest in less volatile securities or debt investments that mature in the near term, such as U.S. Treasuries and money market funds. An investor with a short time horizon is also less likely to take on a high level of risk than a long-term investor because a short-term investor does not have as much time to make up any losses.

Tax Bracket:

A final factor to consider when determining suitability is income level or tax bracket. An investor who makes a lot of money will typically have a higher federal income tax rate. This means the money he receives from his investments will be more heavily taxed than the money someone in a lower tax bracket. Additionally, for a high income investor, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than interest income. Oftentimes, it is best to recommend investments with fewer tax implications for a high-income investor. Municipal bonds, whose interest payments are usually tax-free at the federal level and often also tax-free at the state level, are typically suitable investments for high-income investors. In contrast, because the interest rates for municipal bonds are often lower than the interest rates for corporate bonds, investors in lower tax brackets may be better off purchasing corporate bonds than municipal bonds. Additionally, stocks are often suitable for investors with higher tax rates because their gains are not taxed until the stocks are actually sold. At the same time, investments that pay regular interest, but do not come with tax advantages may not be suitable for high-income investors because they will have to pay taxes on this interest.

So now that you know what to look for in suitability-type questions, let’s look at a couple of them:  

QUESTION ONE:

Mary is an investor in her thirties. She makes $50,000 a year and is hoping to find an investment that will provide capital appreciation. At the same time, she would not mind supplementing her income by receiving regular payments from her investment. Which of the following would be most suitable for her?

    1. A municipal bond fund
    2. A growth and income fund
    3. A small-cap stock fund
    4. Penny stocks

This question tells you Mary’s investment goals and objectives. She’s looking for capital growth and secondarily income, so she’s a blend between a capital growth and income investor. Additionally, since she’s in her thirties, you can assume that she has a relatively long time horizon. Finally, her low income means she is not in a high tax bracket.

You know that Mary needs an investment option that provides the potential for both capital growth and income payments. Both penny stocks and small-cap stocks carry the potential for capital growth; however, neither of them typically offers income payments. That is because neither penny stocks nor small-cap stocks pay meaningful dividends. This eliminates choices C and D. A municipal bond fund would provide income because municipal bonds make semi-annual interest payments. However, outside of high-yield bonds, bonds in general don’t offer much in the way of capital growth. Also, since interest from municipal bonds is generally not taxed at the federal level, municipal bond interest payments are lower than corporate debt securities and thus are not the best debt investment option for an investor who is not in a high tax bracket. Given all of this information, you can eliminate choice A as well. Now let’s look at choice B. A growth and income fund contains stocks with `capital growth potential along with stocks that provide regular dividend payments. Also, growth stocks are also good for investors like Mary who have long time horizons. Looks like you’ve found the correct answer: Choice B makes the most sense. 

 

QUESTION TWO:

Alisha is 26 and has just received an MBA. She’s starting on a career as a sales manager at a large company and has a bright future. She has $15,000 to invest with your firm, and she tells you that she would like to see that principal appreciate as much as possible over the next two to three decades. She also says she has no problem taking on a high level of risk to help make that happen. Which of the following asset allocations would be most suitable for Alisha?

    1. 20% income fund, 20% municipal bond fund, 20% fixed annuities, 20% dividend-paying stocks, 10% non-traditional ETFs, 10% cash
    2. 20% bond mutual fund, 20% agency bonds, 10% money market funds, 15% bank CDs, 15% dividend-paying stocks, 10%, 10% cash
    3. 30% large-cap stocks, 20% equity index mutual fund, 20% U.S. Treasuries, 20% AAA-rated corporate bond funds, 10% FDIC-insured bank CDs
    4. 20% small-cap stocks, 20% medium-cap stocks, 20% growth fund, 15% high-yield bond funds, 15% balanced fund, 10% interval fund

Again, you’re presented with the investor’s investment goals and objectives in the question prompt. In stating that Alisha hopes to see her principal appreciate as much as possible over a long period of time, the question is telling you that she is a capital growth investor. It also is implying that she has a long time horizon. Additionally, it states that she is willing to take on a high level of risk in meeting her investing goals, which means she’s an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Given each of these factors, you need to look for the portfolio that makes the most sense for her. That portfolio should contain more equity investments than debt investments. That is because in general equities provide better capital growth potential than bonds. Additionally, you should look for investments that have higher growth potential and which carry more than a moderate level of risk. Remember that higher risk often equals higher potential reward, and Alisha is willing to take this gamble.

So let’s look at each of the possible answer choices.

Alisha isn’t really interested in earning income as part of her strategy and wants the potential for large gains. That means choice A, which is heavy on income and low-return investments, should be discarded. The same is true of choice B. Choice C is a bit tougher to eliminate. That’s because this hypothetical portfolio does include some growth-type investments, such as large-cap stocks and equity index mutual funds. However, these are both equity investments that are known to provide a more moderate return potential than Alisha is seeking. Additionally, choice C contains a relatively high percentage of fixed and low-return investments, and thus it doesn’t look like a great answer choice. That leaves choice D. The hypothetical portfolio presented in that answer choice is heavy on aggressive growth-type stocks and funds that carry a high level of risk, such as small-cap stocks, mid-cap socks, and growth funds. Additionally, a high-yield bond fund is a type of debt security that comes with capital growth potential. And it includes 10% allocation to an interval fund, a type of fund that invests in non-publicly traded securities that are illiquid and may be less correlated to the other publicly trade securities in this portfolio. Thus, choice D is the best choice and the correct answer. 

Suitability questions are definitely not easy. But if you consider all of the relevant aspects presented in the answer choices and have a solid understanding of different types of investments, they are something you can master. And master them you must if you want to pass the Series 7 or the Series 6 exam.

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Solomon Pass Probability™ Now Available for the FINRA Series 82

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help – with Pass Probability™. Continue reading

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help! With Pass Probability™, now available for the FINRA Series 82 exam, Solomon takes the guesswork out of deciding when to sit for your exam.

Pass Probability™ is Solomon Exam Prep’s innovative technology that measures your readiness to pass your securities exam. Once you take five practice exams in the Solomon Exam Simulator, the Pass Probability™ tool calculates the probability that you will pass your test, with a percentage out of 100.

"A securities licensing exam is hard work and high stakes. Your enemy is uncertainty. Solomon's industry-leading Pass Probability™ feature is based on the results of thousands of Solomon securities students and uses a proprietary algorithm to reduce uncertainty. So you can enter the exam room with confidence."
Jeremy Solomon
Co-founder and President of Solomon Exam Prep

Remediation Reporting

But what should you do if you take five practice exams, and the Solomon algorithm determines that you are not ready to take your exam? This is where Solomon’s brand-new feature, the Remediation Report, comes in.

The Remediation Report is an individualized report outlining how to focus your efforts BEFORE taking your exam. It provides an added level of customized study support – sent right to your email.

The Remediation Report gives you:
  • Summary of current study progress 
  • Personalized recommendations on areas for growth 
  • Study tips for the homestretch 
  • Reminders about student support elements 

In addition to the Series 82, Solomon Pass Probability and Remediation Reports are currently available for the following exams: SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, Series 66, and Series 79. 

Solomon Exam Prep Offers Powerful New AI Feature: Remediation Reporting

Learn about the Solomon Remediation Report, a new analytical feature designed to help students pass their securities licensing exams the first time. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep is delighted to announce an advanced analytical feature called a Remediation Report. The Solomon system analyzes a student’s five most recent practice exams and determines whether a student is ready to take his or her exam. If Solomon AI determines that a student is not ready to sit for their exam, then it creates an individual report with personalized guidance on how to remediate and prepare to pass. This custom Remediation Report is sent to the Solomon student’s email inbox.

The Solomon Remediation Report is connected to the Solomon Pass Probability tool, the industry-leading measure of a security exam prep student’s readiness to pass an exam. Solomon Pass Probability is based on thousands of student data points. Once a Solomon student has taken at least five practice exams, the Solomon Pass Probability feature is activated, and the Pass Probability metric is available in the student’s dashboard. The Solomon Remediation Report provides an additional level of customized study support by helping students focus their efforts and remediate before they sit for their exam.

Solomon Pass Probability and Remediation Reports are currently available for the following exams: SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, Series 66, Series 79, and Series 82.

To learn about all the features of the Solomon Exam Prep learning system, watch the video overview.