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To buy and sell securities through a broker-dealer or other financial services firm, you establish an account, generally known as a brokerage account, with that firm.
In a full-service brokerage firm, a registered representative or account executive handles your buy and sell instructions and often provides investment advice.
If your account is with a discount firm, you are more likely to give your orders to the person who answers the telephone when you call.
And if your account is with an online firm, you give orders and get confirmations electronically.
In all three cases, the firm provides updated information on your investment activity and portfolio value, and handles the required paperwork. And in some cases, your brokerage account may be part of a larger package of financial services known as an asset management account.