Understanding financial designations is one of the first steps in selecting the right financial professional for your needs.
To that end, here’s the quickest and easiest list of financial designations you’ll find anywhere.
CFP – Certified Financial Planner. They offer a broad range of knowledge and services in order to help you with your overall financial planning.
CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst. They do a lot of portfolio management and have to pass three challenging exams to earn their certification. This is known as one of the most difficult designations to earn.
FRM – Financial Risk Manager. This is a much newer designation, having come onto the scene in the late 1990s. They perform credit risk and investment risk assessment, among other things. Very specialized.
ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant. Like the CFP designation, this one signifies advanced knowledge in financial planning. That means a broad range of knowledge: taxes, estate planning, investing, and insurance.
CPA – Certified Public Accountant. Known for its rigorous exam, this profession deals mainly in taxes and accounting rather than financial planning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know anything about other areas. They mainly stick to accounting and taxes, though.
CFS – Chartered Fund Specialist. Need specific financial advice about mutual funds? Here’s your specialist. Got questions about REITs or ETFs? This is your guy.
CIMA – Certified Investment Management Analyst. Not for planning, but more for managing your investments, the CIMA is trained in due diligence, risk management, and asset allocation.
CRPC – Certified Retirement Planning Counselor. The name is self-explanatory, but understand that their training is very narrow and don’t offer the breadth of knowledge a CFA possesses, for example.
The finance industry probably has more designations than any other industry. The medical field has Dr. , LPN, RN, and a few more, dentists are pretty much always DDS, and lawyers have found Esq. to be sufficient for over one hundred years.
But in the last 20 years or so, financial designations have multiplied, so much so that it’s become more confusing than ever to know what they all stand for (with there being over 1oo and all!). Therefore, don’t worry about memorizing them. Just keep this post handy and familiarize yourself with the most common sets of letters that you will see when you look for a financial advisor. Curious about all the rest? Feel free to check out the FINRA* website for kicks.
*FINRA is a non-governmental and not-for-profit organization created to regulate the securities industry. Their list of financial designations is an ultimate resource for looking up the 100+ financial designations.