Communicating the Value of Adviser Certifications and Training

Financial advisers need to explain to clients -- and prospective clients -- their certifications and training
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Financial advisers undergo a variety of training and education on an ongoing basis. Additionally, many advisers hold one or more professional certifications. It’s a good idea to communicate the value of these certifications and the training you’ve undergone to both prospects and your clients. This isn’t bragging, but rather this tells clients and prospects that you take learning and education seriously as a way to increase the knowledge that you bring to your work as their financial adviser.

You might include a section on your firm’s website that provides details on the various designations that you and other members of the firm may hold. The focus of this portion of your site is on the various designations, what it takes to earn and to maintain them and how they help you in the course of providing advice to your firm’s clients.

Here’s what you might tell clients and prospects about some of the certifications and training you may hold.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

This is considered by many to be the top designation for a personal financial adviser. It is conferred and administered by the CFP Board. Some key points that might be of interest to clients and prospects include:

Educational requirements include at least a bachelor’s degree and successful completion of financial planning coursework.

The CFP exam itself is a rigorous multipart exam that covers a broad spectrum of financial planning topics including investments, taxes, insurance among others.

There is a work requirement within the industry before receiving the certification, ongoing continuation requirements and the requirement that each CFP holder adhere to a strict ethics requirement.

Holders of the CFP designation are well-schooled in all areas of personal financial planning.

Certified Public Account (CPA)

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offers this certification. In order to earn the CPA designation, applicants must pass a series of exams and meet some educational requirements. A bachelor’s degree is required.

CPAs generally work as tax and accounting advisers for individuals and businesses. While the designation and associated training do not focus on financial planning or investments, many CPAs offer services in these areas.

A CPA combined with another designation life the CFP or PFS is a powerful combination to offer clients. Most CPAs are pretty analytical by nature and this is a good trait to have for those who wish to engage in financial planning as well.

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

The PFS designation is also granted by the AICPA and is only available to those who already hold the CPA designation. This is often called the CPA’s version of a financial planning designation.

In order to obtain the PFS designation, applications must:

Have at least two years of relevant teaching or business experience that is related to financial planning within five years of applying for the PFS.

Have at least 75 hours of financial planning related education within the five years leading up to their application for the PFS.

In addition to passing the PFS exam, those holding this designation must meet ongoing continuing education requirements.

PFS holders are well-equipped to provide personal financial planning services to their clients.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The CFA designation is administered and granted by the CFA Institute. The CFA designation is considered to be a top designation for those who engage in investment management and investment analysis. CFA holders bring a high degree of knowledge in investments to their clients.

To obtain the CFA designation, various levels of exams must be passed in areas including accounting, economics, ethics, money management and securities analysis.

Additionally, a bachelor’s degree is required, along with work experience and relevant education.

While the CFA does not provide training and education in the various areas of personal financial planning like the CFP or PFS, CFA holders are well-equipped to provide solid investment advice to their clients. This designation combined with either the CFP or PFS is a potent combination of knowledge and training.

Some other designations might include:

Enrolled Agent (EA)

An enrolled agent is a designation for tax practitioners who are licensed by the IRS at the federal level. This differs from the licensing of CPAs which is done at the state level.

For those advisers who include tax preparation and planning as part of their practice, earning the EA designation provides an added level of knowledge for their clients.

Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

The CLU designation focuses on the areas of life insurance and estate planning. The designation and associated exams are administered by the American College.

There are eight exams, ongoing continuing education requirements and an ethics requirement as well.

The CLU by itself is not a financial planning designation, but for those advisers who do a substantial amount of work that involves life insurance and estate planning, the CLU in combination with the CFP or PFS can be a solid combination.

Many of your clients and prospects might be used to seeing the letters connected with these designations after an adviser’s name. Offering them some insight into what they mean, as well as what it takes to earn and maintain these designations can help reinforce that you are a knowledgeable and dedicated profession. This also tells them that you want to be as prepared as you can be to provide the best possible advice to them.