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FINRA Conference Report: Updated SIE & Securities Exam Statistics

SIE and Securities Exam Program Updates from FINRA’s National Conference

With six months of statistics now available, FINRA’s qualification team released results of the new Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) and top-off exams to compliance professionals gathered at its 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, DC, May 15-17.

FINRA’s Joe McDonald, senior director of the Testing and Continuing Education Department, expressed that actual results were in line with projections made prior to the implementation of these exams. Models of expected results were prepared under the direction of FINRA’s senior director of Continuing Education and Measurement, David Scrams, who also reported on trends and processes in both qualification exams and continuing education.

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SIE Enrollment

Broker-dealers may now use one of the two methods for SIE Exam enrollment.

  1. The traditional U4 process allows firms to request an SIE Exam window in conjunction with rep-level registration.
  2. The new process, from the October 2018 restructuring initiative, allows registration through the Test Enrollment Services System (TESS). Firms may use TESS for single or group Through it, they can purchase vouchers . If firms purchase vouchers, they have the advantage of immediate access to candidate SIE results. If they do not use the voucher system, SIE results are not available to firms until the U4 process takes place.

Individual candidates may also enroll for the SIE through TESS on FINRA’s website, as sponsorship by a member firm is no longer required for this exam.

SIE Exam Results

FINRA reported the exam enrollment and completion results through March 31, 2019:

Total SIE candidates enrolled:44,626 (through March 31, 2019)
Enrolled through U4:56%
Enrolled through TESS:44%
SIE Exams Taken:29,181
SIE Exam Pass Rate:74% (as of March 31, 2019)

FINRA stated that through the end of April:

  • SIE enrollment had reached over 52,000
  • The pass rate had fallen to about 72%

This slight decline in pass rate had been projected and reflects the broad availability of this exam and greater diversity of candidates.

An additional trend FINRA shared is that more and more broker-dealers are requiring candidates to pass the SIE before they are willing to open exam windows through the U4 process. It is expected that this trend will continue and that the SIE will become a required pre-employment credential for an increasing number of firms.

Top-Off Exam Results

Below are the number of top-off exams taken and pass rates through March 31, 2019. The pass-rate percentage in the second table reflects the number of candidates who were successful on their first attempt at a top-off exam after passing the SIE on their first attempt.

Top-Off ExamNumber Taken
Series 6:4,615
Series 7:10,542
Series 79:966


SIE + Top-OffPass Rates
SIE + Series 6:58%
SIE + Series 7:71%
SIE + Series 79:79%

FINRA commented that Series 6 Exams taken had declined somewhat due to a greater number of candidates opting for the Series 7 after learning the broader range of FINRA also reported that pass rates on the SIE Exam plus a top-off are currently at or higher than the pass rates on legacy exams for each series.

Other Series Exam and Related Updates from FINRA

FINRA is continuing to review and recommend updates to other qualification and registration requirements. Highlights of these initiatives and brief updates are below.

  • Principal Exam Restructuring. Following the lead of rep-level exam restructuring, a proposal is in place for potential changes to these The proposal will focus on streamlining for greater relevance to supervisory function, less redundancy, and consistency of requirements between SROs.To vet their proposal, FINRA will host focus panels and solicit involvement from the industry. It is expected that exam changes will take place in approximately three years. FINRA invited the attending industry personnel to provide input or to volunteer to participate on panels.
  • Academic Outreach. FINRA announced that raising awareness of the SIE Exam with colleges and universities is a priority in 2019. To achieve this, FINRA is targeting both career counseling offices and professors of financial courses to provide education on 1) the benefits of students taking the SIE Exam while in school and 2) the content covered in it.Additionally, FINRA is placing a special emphasis on outreach to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other diversity organizations. Through their research, FINRA determined that only about 300 schools currently account for 80% of all industry-registered persons. Getting the word out and encouraging diversity is a chief objective for expanding the pool of exam candidates and registered persons.
  • Maintaining Qualification Status While Away from The Industry. FINRA is continuing to work through a proposal that would allow persons who terminate their registration and leave the industry to avoid having to retake qualification exams to become re-registered. The current opinion is that completion of annual educational requirements similar to the current Regulatory Element and Firm Element may be sufficient, although such eligibility requirements and program term limits will require future discussion. An additional outstanding question is what the reaction of state regulators to this potential change in requirements may be. FINRA promised further information and an upcoming request for comments from the industry on this topic.

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Marcia Larson is Vice President, Faculty, at Knopman Marks Financial Training, New York, NY. She has extensive experience in financial licensing and regulatory training, having authored, developed and presented courseware for numerous securities and insurance exam preparation and continuing education and compliance programs. Before joining Knopman Marks, Marcia was Director of Annuity Products and Business Development at CUNA Mutual Group, where she developed and marketed industry-leading annuity products and retirement solutions and implemented distribution relationships. She was previously VP, Securities Products for Kaplan Financial, managing securities training products and subsequently, international training and businesses development. Marcia has trained thousands of financial industry exam candidates throughout their careers, and also college students as an adjunct professor. Marcia was a summa cum laude graduate of Wartburg College with degrees in Business Administration and Piano Performance. Marcia also holds the designations of Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS), and Fellow Life Management Institute™ (FLMI®). She currently teaches the SIE, Series 6, 7, 24, 50, 52, 63, 65, and 66 exams.