Agents are individuals in a sales capacity who represent broker-dealers or issuers of securities. As agents, they act, usually on commission basis, on behalf of others. Agents are often referred to as registered representatives, whether sell registered securities or securities exempt from registration. The use of the term individual here is important. Only an individual, or a natural person, can be an agent. A corporation such as a brokerage firm is not a natural person, it is a legal entity. The brokerage firm is the legal person, or legal entity, the agent, a natural person, represents in securities transactions. Also, there are exclusions from registration as an agent, which are listed below.
Individuals looking to be in the business of giving investment advice for compensation will most likely need to register as an investment advisor representative (“IAR”). There are a couple of differences between becoming an IAR and a registered investment advisor(“RIA”). Most notably, only a natural person (a human being and not an entity) can be considered and IAR, and IARs never register with the SEC, only with the individual states. For an example of how to register with a state, check out the process for registering as an IAR with the state of Georgia on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.