What is a Broker? | Nasdaq

If you’re new to investing, you might be wondering, what does a broker do? And do you really need it?

The term “broker” is often used to describe not only the person who can help you buy and sell securities, but also the company itself. Seen using this broader definition, brokers are absolutely essential to the processing of transactions. But it is important to know which type of broker is best for you and to understand the types of service brokers provide.

Read on to understand how to set the broker so you can choose the best broker for your investments.

What is a stockbroker?

A financial broker is an intermediary authorized to sell and buy securities and shares on behalf of buyers and sellers. Brokers offer various investment services on behalf of their clients, usually on commission. However, different brokers charge different fees for brokerage services. For example, some brokers may charge an annual fee of 1% or more of your assets instead of commissions, while others may charge a flat fee for services such as estate planning. Some online brokers now charge $0 commission for most stock and exchange-traded fund trades.

What is a brokerage?

A brokerage firm is an institution that processes your securities transactions. Whether you are trading with a traditional full-service firm like UBS or Merrill Lynch or use an online platform like Robin Hood Where E-commerceyou are dealing with a brokerage firm.

How to become a broker

To become stockbrokers, individuals must pass the General Securities Representative Qualifying Exam, also known as the Series 7 Exam. They will then be licensed to trade stocks on the stock exchange.

Types of Stock Brokers

If you are a newbie investor, the first step in building your investment portfolio will be choosing a broker and opening a brokerage account. Of the types of services offered by stockbrokers, they generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Execution onlyin which the broker only executes the buyer’s buy or sell instructions.
  • Advisoryin which the broker advises the client on the best trades, but leaves the decision to the investor.
  • discretionaryin which the investor empowers the stockbroker to enter into transactions at its discretion, with an understanding of the investor’s ultimate investment objectives.

Execution-only brokers

Execution-only stockbrokers do not advise clients on the benefits or risks of a certain investment; they simply act as an intermediary to buy and sell at the request of the client. These types of brokers usually offer their services online. They are best suited for people who know enough about the stock market to make decisions without the need for outside advice.

Execution-only stockbrokers generally have low fees, often charging $0 for standard stock and ETF trades. This is the main advantage of using this type of broker.


With a broker advisor, there is an open dialogue between the client and the broker. The client can seek advice from the broker to decide whether or not he wishes buy or sell a stockand the broker may also contact the client to suggest that they consider buying or selling a certain stock.

Advisory stockbrokers are a good choice for people who want to be concrete in their investment choices, but feel more comfortable dealing with a professional for more insight. Broker-advisers typically charge fees for their services, which can take the form of asset-based fees, flat-rate prices, or commissions.

Discretionary brokers

For those who favor a more passive approach to investing, a discretionary stockbroker might be the best choice. With a discretionary broker, a client will discuss their investment objectives, overall portfolio, risk tolerance, and other parameters with the broker upfront. Then it is up to the broker to decide when to buy and sell to conform to the expectations the client has set. This type of arrangement requires great trust in the broker you select.

Definition of Traditional Broker vs. Discount Broker

Traditional brokers generally offer advice to clients, and in some cases they can also handle discretionary transactions. These types of brokers tend to have a one-on-one relationship with their clients.

Discount brokers, or online brokers, tend to be execution only. Online brokers have grown in popularity significantly over the past decade.


One of the biggest differences between traditional and discount brokers is the fees. Because traditional brokers offer individual services, fees are much higher than with discount brokers, which tend to have low fees.


Most traditional and online brokers offer both standard and extended trades. However, with an online broker, you may be able to enter your trades after hours so that they are queued and ready to execute as soon as the market opens. With a traditional broker, you will have to wait for them to come to the office and be able to process your transaction on your behalf.


Traditional brokers generally provide assistance and advice to customers, but discount brokers generally do not. People who want a personal relationship with their broker, or who could benefit from their expertise, should opt for a traditional broker.

How to choose a broker

Before committing to opening an account with one broker or another, you should do your research and compare the options available to you. Start by asking yourself what type of benefits and services you will use and how you plan to invest. While cost shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a broker, it’s also an important factor, as you need to be sure you’re receiving value in return for the fees you pay. Ultimately, choosing the right broker could be the best investment you can make.

Shahin and Jean Csiszar contributed to the reporting of this article.

Information is accurate as of June 14, 2022.

This article originally appeared on
What is a Broker?

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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