An operations professional takes on a lot of responsibility within the financial services industry. They bring clients aboard, receive and deliver funds and assets, collect payments, maintain accounts, and reinvest and disburse funds. To do all of that, they must first take the Security Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. Then, they have to take the Series 99 exam. Here’s why the latter exam is important and what it takes to qualify.
What Is the Series 99 Exam?
The Series 99 exam, or the Operations Professional Exam, is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. If you pass, the Series 99 license allows you to advise or help people with specific financial needs. The exam covers:
- Onboarding of clients.
- Collecting, managing and distributing funds.
- Handling of securities and funds, as well as account transfers.
- Account management and reconciliation.
- Settlement, segregation, fail control, buy ins and possession and control.
- Confirmation of trading and account statements.
- Stock loans and securities lending.
- Services to other financial institutions.
- Financial control, including general ledgers and treasury.
- Handling of regulatory reports, including contributing to and filing them.
- Defining and meeting business requirements.
- Handling of security requirements, including defining and approving, policies for information technology and systems and data.
- Handling of information entitlement policies in relation to covered functions.
- Managing members’ records and books in compliance with FINRA rules.
Eligibility for the Series 99 Exam
To become a registered operations professional registration, you’ll have to pass both the SIE exam and the Series 99 exam. In 2015, various qualification tests once known as the Series exams were lumped into the SIE Exam. “Top-off” qualification exams like the Series 99 remained for specific occupations.
The “Series” exams like the Series 99 now focus on knowledge specific to their qualification. It makes the tests less redundant, but it also makes the testing process more accessible. Before 2015, you had to be sponsored or employed by a FINRA member firm to take the series exams. The SIE removes that requirement, but with a catch.
Because the SIE exam is a corequisite to the Series 99 exam, you don’t need to take one before the other to qualify. However, you can take the SIE exam while in school and without a sponsorship by a firm. In contrast, the Series 99 requires such sponsorship before you proceed.
You have a four-year window to take and pass the Series 99 after passing the SIE exam. Above all, you must pass both to receive your license. As noted earlier, the order doesn’t matter. However, most take the SIE exam first.
If you’re going to take the Series 99 exam, you must be associated with and sponsored by a FINRA member firm or a qualifying self-regulatory organization member firm. Firms will apply on your behalf by completing a Form U4, or Uniform Application for Security Industry Registration or Transfer form.
The exam costs $40, and the firm sponsoring you typically will cover the costs. If you take it in conjunction with the SIE exam, it’s an extra $60, or $100 total. You need a 68% score or higher to pass the Series 99 exam.
Series 99 Exam Structure
The exam is 50 questions and you have 90 minutes to complete the test. It’s broken down into two parts:
- Knowledge Associated with the Securities Industry and Broker-Dealer Operations: This makes up 70% of the exam with 35 questions.
- Professional Conduct and Ethical Considerations: This portion is 30% of the exam, making up 15 questions.
You take the electronic exam via a computer. It includes five random, pretest questions along with 50 scored questions. However, the five pretest questions are scattered throughout the exam. As a result, you won’t be able to tell the difference between those that are scored and those that aren’t. There are 55 multiple choice questions in total.
Don’t take any reference materials or notes into your exam session. You almost certainly will face a penalty for cheating.
To study, you should use the content outline provided by FINRA.
If you’re looking to become an operations professional, you’ll need to take and pass both the SIE and Series 99 exams. Your competency with financial knowledge and ability to act professionally and ethically builds credibility.
Consequently, it can increase your value as a financial professional. It not only enhances your potential value for employers, but potentially for clients who decide to use your services.
- If you’re looking for more insight into what it takes to become an operations professional, you may want to consult a financial advisor who’s gone through the exam process. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- For those who’ve taken the SIE but don’t know if they want to be an operations professional, there are other options. Look into the various financial certifications and see if there’s one that is right for you.
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