Published October 24, 2018
Financial advisors in growth mode make ongoing investments in all aspects of their practices, including technology, process automation, human capital, and marketing. It could be said that the efforts advisors make in improving their practices is more of a journey than a destination and that the never-ending goal of streamlining operations, reducing costs, and improving the client experience keeps advisors on their toes. However, the one area advisors need to invest in more is themselves. Education in the form of professional designations, while not instant gratification, can bring enrichment, confidence and purpose.
Interestingly, there are over 187 such certifications and designations available for financial professionals as noted on the FINRA website. Where does one start? How does each certification vary in terms of time commitment and practical application? Regarding complexity and time commitment, clearly the CPA, CFA and the CFP are the most demanding, and advisors with these designations are dedicated to investing in themselves! That said there are myriads of others that are easier to obtain while simultaneously offering value. Here are designations worth considering:
AIF® – Accredited Investment Fiduciary: This designation, sponsored by Fi360 provides advisors with a fiduciary framework of best practices for making prudent financial decisions around the investment process and in serving their clients’ best interests. Advisors who earn the AIF® Designation are able to communicate the added value their training brings to clients and prospects. The program costs $1,450 for a self-paced online course and exam.
CRPC® – Chartered Retirement Plan Counselor: The CRPC® designation is recognized in the industry as one of the retirement planning benchmarks in demand by the investing public. Advisors with this designation can demonstrate their knowledge around building a roadmap to retirement, including post-retirement needs, investment management and estate planning. The CRPC® designation is offered by the College for Financial Planning and costs $1,300. The program is broken down into nine modules and takes about two months.
ChFC® – Chartered Financial Consultant: The ChFC® is also a financial planning designation that is more common with insurance professionals and can be obtained through The American College of Financial Services. While the certification is not as difficult to attain as the CFP, it does a good job covering a respectable amount of financial planning topics. Prospective candidates are required to have a minimum of three years of business experience to apply (or two if they hold an undergraduate degree). There is also a code of ethics to which they must abide. The program consists of 8 courses with multiple exams and costs about $5,290.
RICP® – The Retirement Income Certified Professional: The RICP® designation is also offered by The American College of Financial Services and is comprised of three courses requiring about 150 hours of study, and costs $2,450. The purpose of the program is to impart to advisors the knowledge they need to help clients obtain a secure retirement. Per The American College, “This designation equips advisors with the knowledge to effectively manage the transition from asset accumulation during a client’s working years to asset decumulation in retirement. RICP® enables the advisor to demonstrate tremendous value by delivering smart strategies for creating secure, sustainable income for a client’s retirement.” Clearly, with the baby boomer generation entering their golden years, the skills gained by this certification can only be viewed as attractive.
In closing, while there are certainly a great number of highly qualified and competent advisors without any industry accreditations and professional designations, obtaining one that is relevant to their practice can only be accretive concerning attracting prospective clients and maintaining existing ones. If time is an issue, all of the programs referenced above offer self-study schedules that provide much flexibility. In today’s competitive landscape, advisors need every edge they can get in differentiating themselves in a crowded field. That extends to their staff as well.