Financial advisors offer clients financial services as well as financial planning, which may include portfolio management and investment advice. Unlike a financial planner, a financial advisor has the ability to sell financial products and offer investment advice. Financial advisors can create comprehensive financial plans for clients that include investment strategies and recommendations, and financial products sold by the advisor. Further, financial advisors can buy or sell securities on behalf of the client.
Personal financial advisors must hold a Series 65 license, which is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
To obtain the license, a financial advisor must pass the Series 65 exam (officially titled the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination). The Series 65 exam covers state and federal securities acts; rules and regulations for investment advisers; ethical practices; and fiduciary obligations—including communications with clients, compensation, client funds, and conflicts of interest.
Because they are authorized to buy and sell securities, financial advisors are subject to oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC files any regulatory complaints and disciplinary actions against a licensed financial advisor, which are available to the public.