FINRA's New York headquarters. (Photo: ThinkAdvisor / Ronald Pechtimaldjian)

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently approved a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rule change to streamline competency exams that the self-regulatory organization’s regulation chief has said will also facilitate opportunities for professionals seeking to enter or re-enter the securities industry.

The rule change, approved on July 7, restructures FINRA’s representative-level qualification exams, creates general knowledge and specialized knowledge exams, allows “permissive registration,” establishes an exam waiver process for persons working for a financial services affiliate of a member, and amends certain Continuing Education requirements.

Susan Axelrod, executive vice president of Regulatory Operations, said recently that the new exam approach “would give individuals seeking to enter the securities industry the opportunity to demonstrate a fundamental knowledge of regulatory requirements prior to joining a firm, potentially providing firms a larger pool of qualified candidates.”

The rule also sets out waiting periods for retaking a failed exam. Any person who fails to pass a qualification exam prescribed by FINRA can take that exam again after a period of 30 calendar days from the date of the person’s last attempt to pass that exam. However, anyone who fails to pass an exam three or more times in succession within a two-year period can’t retake that exam until 180 calendar days from the date of the person’s last attempt to pass that exam.