NASD Investor Education

Understanding Investment Professional Designations

Investors can sometimes become confused by the many designations used by investment professionals. You should be careful judging anyone's qualifications from a set of initials following a name. Use the selection box below to help you sort through the list of professional designations and to better understand what education and experience requirements are necessary for a designation, and whether the granting organization mandates continuing education, offers a public disciplinary process, provides a means to check a professional's status, and otherwise ensures that a professional designation is more than just a string of letters.

NASD Rule of Conduct 2210 prohibits brokerage firms and brokers registered with NASD from referencing nonexistent or self-conferred degrees or designations or referencing legitimate degrees or designations in a misleading manner.


Professional Designations by Issuing Organization

Last updated on: 9/24/2004

NASD does not endorse any professional designation. Please read our disclaimer for important information.
Issuing Organization Designation Description & Requirements
Advisor Certification Services, Inc.
Acronym:CAA
Designation:Certified Annuity Advisor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.annuityadvisor.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • JD, CPA, CFP, or ChFC or
  • "Professional involvement" in the financial services industry as a licensed insurance rep or registered investment adviser
Educational Requirements:CAA course:
  • Self-study (12-18 hours of pre-study, plus Web-based learning to be completed within 30 days) or
  • Classroom (12-18 hours of pre-study, plus 2 days of on-site class)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:CAM
Designation:Chartered Asset Manager
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years of financial planning experience in asset management and financial planning
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved Global Online Training Package in financial planning and asset management
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:CPM
Designation:Chartered Portfolio Manager
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years experience actively managing investment portfolios
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:CTEP
Designation:Chartered Trust and Estate Planner
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years experience in estate planning and trusts
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:CWM
Designation:Chartered Wealth Manager
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has three or more years of wealth management experience.
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM online Chartered Wealth Manager course
  • AAFM-approved Masters Degree in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law, or CPA, MBA, MS, PhD or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:FAD
Designation:Financial Analyst Designate
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years experience in financial management or related industry
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:MFP
Designation:Master Financial Professional
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years experience in financial management or related industry
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM)
Acronym:RFS
Designation:Registered Financial Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.financialanalyst.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate has 3 years of financial planning experience in asset management and financial planning
Educational Requirements:Eligible candidates must successfully complete at least one of the following:
  • AAFM-approved Global Online Training Package in financial planning and asset management
  • AAFM-approved degree (graduate or undergraduate) in finance, tax, accounting, financial services, law or a CPA, MBA, MS, PhD, or JD from an accredited school or organization
  • 5 or more approved and related courses from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited business school or AAFM sanctioned program
  • AAFM Executive Certification training course
Examination Type:Varies according to educational requirement above
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:Online using Contact Us link and submitting a complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online using Contact Us link and checking "Verify Member"
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American Institute of Financial Gerontology
Acronym:CFG
Designation:Certified Financial Gerontologist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.aifg.org/display.cgi?page=aboutcfg
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Existing financial background in the form of designation, license, degree, or verifiable experience, and
  • Completion of 8 hours of community-based "service learning" within one year of passing the final certification exam
Educational Requirements:Self-study program (6 courses totaling 24 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:8 hours continuing education per year plus 8 hours service learning per year
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Annuity National Brokerage Co.
Acronym:CAC
Designation:Certified Annuity Consultant
Organization's Web Site:http://www.anbc.com/caccertification.html
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Must be licensed in the life insurance field
Educational Requirements:Seminar offered at Annuity Expos or at the ANBC Financial Center
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education
Acronym:AFC
Designation:Accredited Financial Counselor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.afcpe.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:2 years of financial counseling experience
Educational Requirements:2 self-study courses (100-150 hours per course)
Examination Type:Final exam for each course
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:30 hours every two years
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Center for Fiduciary Studies
Acronym:AIF
Designation:Accredited Investment Fiduciary
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fi360.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Must be an investment fiduciary, or an advisor to investment fiduciaries
Educational Requirements:Candidate must complete one of the following:
  • Classroom-based program (2.5-day program)
  • Web-based program (seven courses)
  • Custom program (Not always applicable)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:Must attend a two hour Web-based educational conference every six months
Investor Complaint Process:Online at AIF or AIFA Designee Complaint Form
Public Disciplinary Process:Online at Center for Fiduciary Studies Designee Complaint Overview
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at Professional Designee Search
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Center for Fiduciary Studies
Acronym:AIFA
Designation:Accredited Investment Fiduciary Auditor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fi360.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Must be an investment fiduciary, or an advisor to investment fiduciaries
Educational Requirements:Candidate must complete one of the following:
  • Classroom-based program (3.5-day program)
  • Custom program (Not always applicable)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:Must attend a two hour Web-based educational conference every six months
Investor Complaint Process:Online at AIF or AIFA Designee Complaint Form
Public Disciplinary Process:Online at Center for Fiduciary Studies Designee Complaint Overview
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at Professional Designee Search
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Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
Acronym:CFP
Designation:Certified Financial Planner
Organization's Web Site:http://www.cfp.net/default.asp
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • 3 years of personal financial planning experience and a bachelor's degree, or
  • 5 years of personal financial planning experience
Educational Requirements:Candidate must complete a CFP-board registered program, or hold one of the following:
  • CPA
  • ChFC
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • CFA
  • Ph.D. in business or economics
  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Attorney's License
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:30 hours every 2-years
Investor Complaint Process:Online at Submit a Complaint
Public Disciplinary Process:Online at Public Disciplinary Actions
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at Search for a Certified Financial Planner Professional
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CFA Institute
Acronym:CFA
Designation:Chartered Financial Analyst
Organization's Web Site:http://www.cfainstitute.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • Undergraduate degree and 3 years of professional experience involving investment decision-making, or
  • 4 years qualified work experience (full time, but not necessarily investment related)
Educational Requirements:Self-study program (250 hours of study for each of the 3 levels)
Examination Type:3 course exams
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:Online at Professional Conduct Complaint Form
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Request by email to: info@aimr.org
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Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA)
Acronym:CAIA
Designation:Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst
Organization's Web Site:http://www.caia.org
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • Bachelor's or equivalent degree and more than one year of business experience in the financial industry, or
  • 4 years of experience in the financial industry
Educational Requirements:Self-Study certification program requires the successful completion of both the Level I and Level II examinations
Examination Type:2 CAIA exams
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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College for Divorce Specialists
Acronym:CDS
Designation:Certified Divorce Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.cdscollege.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • Must currently have an approved professional designation, or
  • Must currently be a financial professional with 5 years work experience
Educational Requirements:4-day workshop or equivalent self-study course
Examination Type:Final certification exam and case study exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:10 CE credits every two years on divorce related topics
Investor Complaint Process:By email to: info@cdscollege.com
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at the CDS Member Directory
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College for Financial Planning
Acronym:AAMS
Designation:Accredited Asset Management Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fp.edu/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (11 modules totaling 96 to 120 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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College for Financial Planning
Acronym:CMFC
Designation:Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fp.edu/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (9 modules totaling 72 to 90 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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College for Financial Planning
Acronym:CRPC
Designation:Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fp.edu/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (11 modules totaling 88 to 110 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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College for Financial Planning
Acronym:CRPS
Designation:Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.fp.edu/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (11 modules totaling 88 to 110 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Estate Planning Institute
Acronym:CEPP
Designation:Chartered Estate Planning Practitioner
Organization's Web Site:http://cepp-epi.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Professional license in one or more of the following areas: securities, insurance, accounting, legal, banking, real estate, social worker, etc.
Educational Requirements:Self-study program (3 segments, each of which can be completed over a 2-day period)
Examination Type:Final exam for each of the 3 segments
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:
  • At least 20 insurance credits in Virginia;
  • 8 CEPP continuing education credits ever 2 years in all other states
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Request by email to: reg@cepp-epi.com
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:BCA
Designation:Board Certified in Annuities
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Hold CAS designation;
  • 2 years experience in the financial services industry;
  • Letter of recommendation from a superior of at least one year and;
  • Letter of recommendation from a client of at least 2 years.
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:Open-book case study
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:BCAA
Designation:Board Certified in Asset Allocation
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:2 years experience in the financial services industry
Educational Requirements:BCAA course (3 modules totaling 45 hours)
Examination Type:Final exam for each module
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:BCE
Designation:Board Certified in Estate Planning
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:2 years experience in the financial services industry
Educational Requirements:BCE course (5 modules totaling 45 hours)
Examination Type:3 course exams covering the 5 modules
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:BCM
Designation:Board Certified in Mutual Funds
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Hold CFS designation;
  • 2 years experience in the financial services industry;
  • Letter of recommendation from a superior of at least one year;
  • and Letter of recommendation from a client of at least 2 years.
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:Open-book case study
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:BCS
Designation:Board Certified in Securities
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:2 years experience in the financial services industry
Educational Requirements:BCS course (3 modules totaling 45 hours)
Examination Type:Final course exam for each module
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:CAS
Designation:Certified Annuity Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:CAS course (6 modules totaling 60 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:CFS
Designation:Certified Fund Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:CFS course (6 modules totaling 60 hours)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Business & Finance
Acronym:CSC
Designation:Certified Senior Consultant
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icfs.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (5 modules totaling 25 hours)
Examination Type:3 course exams covering the 5 modules
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:15 hours per year, first 5 years only
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Institute of Certified Bankers (ICB)
Acronym:CTFA
Designation:Certified Trust and Financial Advisor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.aba.com/ICBCertifications/default.htm
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • 3 years of personal trust experience plus ICB-approved training program, or
  • 5 years of personal trust experience and a bachelor's degree, or
  • 10 years of personal trust experience
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:45 hours every three years with a minimum of 6 hours in each of 4 knowledge areas
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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International Association of Qualified Financial Planners
Acronym:QFP
Designation:Qualified Financial Planner
Organization's Web Site:http://www.iaqfp.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate holds one or more of the following designations:
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Master of Science with a Financial Planning concentration (MS)
  • Master of Science in Financial Services with a Financial Planning concentration (MSFS)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
Educational Requirements:Varies according to designation above.
Examination Type:Varies according to designation above.
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:30 hours every 2 years, or 15 hours annually
Investor Complaint Process:Online at Complaint Filing Process
Public Disciplinary Process:Online at Disciplinary Process & Procedures
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at QFP Registry of Qualified Financial Planners-Verify/Find a QFP
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International Association of Registered Financial Consultants (IARFC)
Acronym:RFA
Designation:Registered Financial Associate
Organization's Web Site:http://www.iarfc.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Bachelor's or graduate degree in financial planning, at an institution offering an IARFC-approved curriculum
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:None
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:40 hours per year;
Designation continues for up to 4 years, after which designee must have completed 160 hours of CE, plus provide evidence of licensing or registration as an investment adviser in order to convert to the RFC designation.
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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International Association of Registered Financial Consultants (IARFC)
Acronym:RFC
Designation:Registered Financial Consultant
Organization's Web Site:http://www.iarfc.org/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Undergraduate or graduate financial planning degree, or have earned one of the following designations: AAMS, CFA, CFP, ChFC, CLU, CPA, EA, MS, MBA, JD, or completed a CFP equivalent, IARFC-approved college curriculum;
  • Must meet licensing requirements: -- If operating on a commission basis: must meet licensing requirements for securities and life and health insurance -- If operating strictly as fee-only and not licensed, then must be registered as an investment adviser;
  • 4 years full-time experience as a financial planning practitioner
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:Candidate's educational curriculum must have included an IARFC-approved examination process. If not, an experienced self-studied candidate must pass the RFC Challenge Examination.
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:40 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at Registered Financial Consultant Search
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Investment Management Consultants Association
Acronym:CIMA
Designation:Certified Investment Management Analyst
Organization's Web Site:http://www.imca.org/certify/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • 3 years of verifiable professional consulting experience;
  • Must answer "no" to all disclosure questions on Form U-4 that cover criminal and regulatory violations, civil judicial actions, customer complaints, etc., or else satisfactorily justify a "yes" answer
Educational Requirements:Self-study program (4 to 6 months), followed by a one week on-site course
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:40 hours every 2 years
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Investment Management Consultants Association
Acronym:CIMC
Designation:Certified Investment Management Consultant
Organization's Web Site:http://www.imca.org/certify/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Will not be offered after Dec. 2003; replaced by CIMA

Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:

  • 3 years of verifiable professional consulting experience;
  • Must answer "no" to all Disclosure Questions on Form U-4, which covers criminal and regulatory violations, civil judicial actions, customer complaints, etc., or else satisfactorily justify a "yes" answer.
Educational Requirements:Self-study program (2 to 4 months), followed by a one week on-site course
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:40 hours every 2 years
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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National Association of Estate Planners & Councils
Acronym:AEP
Designation:Accredited Estate Planner
Organization's Web Site:http://www.naepc.org/estate_planners.web
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Must be an attorney, CPA, CLU/ChFC, CFP, or trust officer;
  • Must be in good standing with their professional organization and not be subject to disciplinary investigation;
  • Must have a minimum of 5 years experience in estate planning in one or more of the prerequisite professions
Educational Requirements:2 graduate level courses administered by The American College
Examination Type:Final exam for each course
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:30 hours every 24 months, including 15 hours in estate planning; Re-certification is required every 5 years
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at Search Accredited Estate Planners
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National Institute of Certified College Planners
Acronym:CCPS
Designation:Certified College Planning Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.niccp.com/about_niccp/financial_planners.php
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet one of the following requirements:
  • Professional financial certification/designation or
  • Professional financial license (securities, insurance, accounting, etc.), or
  • A combination of education and experience deemed satisfactory by the NICCP Advisory Council
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (3 modules totaling 18 to 25 hours)
Examination Type:Final course exam for each module
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:12 hours per year
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at CCPS Listing
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Registered Financial Planners Institute (RFPI)
Acronym:RFP
Designation:Registered Financial Planner
Organization's Web Site:http://www.rfpi.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:For 2-year designation: 2 years financial planning experience
For 5-year designation: 5 years financial planning experience
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (4 modules totaling 70 hours) or RFPI-approved classroom course
Examination Type:None
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:Online at RFP Member Search
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Society for Certified Senior Advisors
Acronym:CSA
Designation:Certified Senior Advisor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.csa-csa.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Must satisfactorily complete a background questionnaire
Educational Requirements:3-1/2 day live class with pre-class study, or self-study course (12 taped lectures and 700-page study guide, to be completed within 6 months)
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:Minimum of 20 hours every 2 years.
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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The American College
Acronym:ChFC
Designation:Chartered Financial Consultant
Organization's Web Site:http://www.amercoll.edu/Current_students/Designations/chfc.asp
Prerequesites/Experience Required:3 years of full-time personal finance or insurance experience
Educational Requirements:5 core and 3 elective American College courses
Examination Type:Final exam for each course
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:30 CE credits every 2 years
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
Acronym:PFS
Designation:Personal Financial Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.aicpa.org/members/div/pfp/index.htm
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Be a member of the AICPA;
  • Hold an unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a state authority;
  • Earn at least 100 points under the PFS point system. For example, 30 points are awarded for each year of 1,200 hours of experience; 40 points are awarded for passing the PFS exam, one point is awarded for three CPE credits, etc. (See the PFS Credential Handbook for more on earning PFS points);
  • Substantiate business experience in personal financial planning-related services
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:Final certification exam
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:Must obtain a combined total of 60 PFS points in personal financial planning business experience and qualified "life-long learning" activities every 3 years. The PFS point system is described in the PFS Credential Handbook
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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The Center for Senior Studies
Acronym:CSS
Designation:Certified Senior Specialist
Organization's Web Site:http://www.centerforseniorstudies.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:None
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (5 modules)
Examination Type:Final exam for each module
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:None
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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The Institute for Certified Divorce Planners
Acronym:CDP
Designation:Certified Divorce Planner
Organization's Web Site:https://www.institutedfa.com/
Prerequesites/Experience Required:2 years of experience in the financial services field.
Educational Requirements:Self-study course (4 modules totaling at least 5 to 10 hours per week for 3 to 4 weeks)
Examination Type:Course exam after module 3
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:20 CE credits every 2 years
Investor Complaint Process:By email to: fadi.baradihi@institutedfa.com
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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The Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc. (ICAA)
Acronym:CIC
Designation:Chartered Investment Counselor
Organization's Web Site:http://www.icaa.org/html/cicp.html
Prerequesites/Experience Required:Candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Employed by a member firm of the ICAA in an eligible occupational position for at least 1 year;
  • A minimum of 5 cumulative years' work experience in one or more eligible occupational positions;
  • Complete the CFA exams and hold the CFA
Educational Requirements:None
Examination Type:None
Continuing Education/Experience Requirements:Must annually certify that charter holder is employed by an ICAA member firm in an eligible occupational position, and has not been the subject of disciplinary proceedings
Investor Complaint Process:None
Public Disciplinary Process:None
Check Professional's Status Online:None
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Other Terms Used by Investment Professionals

Financial Analyst, Financial Adviser (Advisor), Financial Consultant, Financial Planner, Investment Consultant or Wealth Manager are generic terms or job titles used to refer to investment professionals. Anyone can use these terms without registering with securities regulators or meeting any educational and experience requirements.

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Selecting Your Investment Professional

Before you engage an investment professional, make sure you know more about an investment professional than just their name and professional designation. Here are some steps you can take to find an investment professional that can meet your financial needs:

  • Think about your financial objectives and know what type of financial services you need. There is a wide variation in the range of products and services that investment professionals offer. Some professionals can provide financial statement preparation and analysis, investment planning, tax planning, estate planning, retirement planning, education planning, and risk management services. Other professionals may only be able to recommend a limited number of investment products. Knowing what you need will not only help you find the professional that's right for you, but prevent you from paying for services you don't want.

  • Get names of professionals from friends, neighbors, family or business colleagues. If you receive a name of an investment professional from an individual or group that you don't know, be certain to ask for several references.

  • Talk with several professionals. Meet them face-to-face in their offices, if possible. Ask each of them about their:
    • Areas of specialization
    • Professional designations
    • Registrations or licenses
    • Education
    • Work history
    • Investment experience
    • Products and services
    • Disciplinary history

  • Understand how you will pay them for their services. Investment professionals are typically paid in one (or more than one) of the following ways:
    • An hourly fee
    • A flat fee
    • A commission on the investment products they sell you
    • A percentage of the value of the assets they manage for you
    • A combination of fees and commissions

  • Ask whether they receive any additional compensation or financial incentives based on the products they sell. Sometimes investments professionals and their firms receive additional compensation for selling a particular mutual fund or other investment product.

  • Make sure that the investment professionals and their firms are properly registered with NASD, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or a state insurance or securities regulator and learn about their professional background, business practices, and disciplinary history. Most investment professionals need to register as investment advisers, investment adviser representatives or brokers (registered representatives). Others may only be licensed to sell insurance. NASD's Web site can help you find registration and other background information on these professionals.

  • Check out any professional designation by contacting the issuing organization and determining whether they are currently authorized to use the designation and whether they've been disciplined. And make sure you understand the requirements for a professional designation. The criteria used by organizations that grant professional designations for investment professionals vary greatly. As noted earlier, some require formal certification procedures including examinations and continuing professional education credits. Others may merely signify that membership dues have been paid.

  • If the investment professional will sell you investment products, ask if the firm they work for is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). SIPC provides limited customer protection if a firm becomes insolvent. Ask if the firm has other insurance that provides coverage beyond the SIPC limit. SIPC does not insure against losses attributable to a decline in the market value of your securities. Learn more about SIPC protection and its limitations.

Remember, part of making the right investment decision is finding the investment professional that best meets your financial needs. Do not rush. Do your background investigation. Resist investment professionals that urge you to immediately hire them.

Once you've selected an investment professional, you still need to keep eye on your investments. In our Investor Alert - 10 Tips to Keep Track of Your Investment, we offer you advice on how to monitor your investments to minimize the risk of errors or fraud.

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Additional Resources

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Disclaimer

NASD does not endorse any professional designation. The list is provided to assist investors in evaluating the professional designations an investment professional may hold. NASD is not responsible for and cannot verify information from sources other than NASD, and does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information.

This listing is in no means inclusive of all financial professional designations and specifically does not include insurance or employee benefit related designations or designations related to finance degrees from accredited colleges or universities. Representatives of organizations issuing professional designations may submit their securities or investment professional designation for possible inclusion in NASD's listing of designations by completing our Professional Designation Form. NASD reserves the right to determine which designations are appropriate for our listing.

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