Research the Best Financial Advisors
The chart above displays the percentage breakdown of professional designations across all Financial Advisors on Credio.
The professional designations reflect an advisor's area of expertise. Because there are dozens of designations that financial advisors may advertise, know what each specific designation means. For example, for mutual fund expertise, look for an advisor with a Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) designation. Below is a list of the most common designations. Advisors do not have to have designations to be registered with the states, SEC or FINRA. Look out for any phony designations an advisor may use to boost their credibility (i.e., Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a legitimate title, whereas Chartered Financial Planner (CFP) is not).
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP): Professionals with a CFP designation have demonstrated competency in all areas of financial planning. Candidates complete studies on more than 100 topics, including stocks, bonds, taxes, insurance, retirement planning and estate planning. The program is administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. In addition to passing the CFP certification exam, candidates must also complete qualifying work experience and agree to adhere to the CFP Board's code of ethics and professional responsibility and financial planning standards.
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): The CFA Institute [formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR)] offers this designation. To receive a CFA charter, candidates must successfully complete three exams and gain at least three years of qualifying work experience, among other requirements. In passing these exams, candidates demonstrate their competence and integrity in accounting, ethical and professional standards, economics, portfolio management and security analysis. CFA charterholders tend to be analysts who work in the field of institutional money management and stock analysis, not financial planning. These
professionals provide research and ratings on various forms of investments.
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): In addition to successful completion of an exam on areas of financial planning, including income tax, insurance, investment and estate planning, candidates are required to have a minimum of three years experience in a financial industry position. The ChFC program is administered by American College. Like those with the CFP designation, professionals who hold the ChFC charter help individuals analyze their financial situations and goals.
- Certified Fund Specialist (CFS): An individual with this certification has demonstrated expertise in mutual funds and the mutual fund industry. These individuals often advise clients on which funds to invest in and, depending on whether or not they have their license, can buy and sell funds for clients.
- Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC): Given by the Investment Counsel Association, this is a designation for CFA charterholders who are also registered investment advisors. The focus of the CIC program is portfolio management. CIC charterholders must also adhere to a strict code of ethics and provide character references. Individuals who hold the CIC charter tend to be some of the major players in the financial world, such as those who manage large accounts and mutual funds.
- Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA): This designation focuses on asset allocation, ethics, due diligence, risk measurement, investment policy and performance measurement. Only individuals who are investment consultants with at least three years of professional experience are eligible to try to obtain this certification, which signifies a high level of consulting expertise. The Investment Management Consultants Association offers the CIMA courses. CIMAs tend to have careers with financial consulting firms, which involve extensive interaction with clients and the management of large amounts of money.
- Other professional designations