Investment advisors looking to add some heft to their professional credentials now have a new platform for industry growth – a new certified management professional designation.
The Wealth Management Certified Professional program comes from the Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based American College of Financial Services. The college describes its nascent designation as a “comprehensive curriculum in goals-based investment management.”
The curriculum is designed for practicing advisors “who understand the fundamentals of planning but would benefit from a much deeper dive into applied wealth management techniques that help clients meet their goals,” the college said.
The new designation’s platform is built on what the college calls a foundational knowledge of financial economics, including portfolio and life-cycle theory.
It will enable advisors to build better strategies tax-efficient, diversified investment portfolios to fund future client goals, the college said, all based on using the following strategies:
• Analyzing a broad range of financial instruments;
• Evaluating the unique wealth management needs of business owners and executives;
• Developing strategies to meet estate and charitable planning goals; and
• Incorporating behavioral finance to improve client outcomes.
"We designed the curriculum to build knowledge in concepts that go beyond a traditional investment education by focusing on how investments can be used to meet the goals of individual investors," said Michael Finke, chief academic officer at The American College.
'A Deep Overview'
The program provides “a deep overview” of tax strategies, financial instruments commonly used by advisors, applied behavioral finance, and sophisticated wealth management techniques, he explained.
In addition, estate, charitable, and small business planning issues faced by wealth managers will be covered.
Shifting industry practices are the biggest reason the new designation should find a market, industry experts say.
“We’re seeing an increasingly mature financial advising profession from an industry focused on sales, to one based on planning and consultation,” said David Blanchett, head of retirement research at Morningstar.
The new designation is somewhere in the middle of current advisory designations, he added.
“It provides a relatively broad scope of what advisors need to know to be effective wealth managers, including information about some of the important economic theories that you often don’t see in other designations,” he said.
The college platform approaches the material different than other designations, Blanchett said.
“For example, most designations don’t mention concepts like human capital, the wide variety of complex investment tools available to advisors, and they don’t go in-depth into the portfolio theory of individual investing. All of these issues are covered,” he said.
The “deep dive” theme is a recurring one with the new designation. It starts with “across the board” portfolio management strategies and builds up from there, said Curtis Cloke, an adjunct professor who help write some of the curriculum for the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) program.
The new designation will “explore some of the latest deep-dive into tax financial and tax strategies commonly used and some not so commonly used by advisors,” he said.
A primary emphasis on behavioral finance, more sophisticated wealth management technics and an “in-depth overview” of estate, charitable and small business issues faced by wealth managers are the main planks in the designation’s platform, Cloke said.
'Bigger and Better Rewards'
The new designation has a chance to become as popular among advisors as the RICP designation, he added, will ultimately become an important staple of training for today’s professional advisors.
“This designation will also lead to bigger and better rewards in confidence, practice style, compliance and potential awards for their work in this field,” he said. “It will take off as a needed component of training and accreditation going into the post Department of Labor world of financial services.”
Industry experts aren’t as sure.
“I know the adoption of their RICP designation, which is a bit more specialized and is focused on retirement income planning, has been very popular,” Blanchett said. “That said, I highly doubt the WMCP is going to supplant something like the CFP.”
The new designation might catch on as something for advisors interested in moving in the direction of offering more comprehensive financial planning services but not willing to commit to something like the Certified Financial Planner program.
Others are more bullish.
“The designation will gain momentum, partly because industry training in general is already gaining momentum,” said Steve Parrish, adjunct law professor at Drake University, who has reviewed the WMCP program. “We all recognize that insurers and broker-dealers have over the years lessened their direct involvement in non-sales training.”
At the same time, the new emphasis on the fiduciary standard has increased the need for such training, Parrish added.
“The WMCP strikes a nice balance in that it takes a holistic approach to wealth management, but keeps the program from being overwhelming in terms of time,” he said.
Brian O'Connell is a former Wall Street bond trader, and author of the best-selling books, The 401k Millionaire and CNBC's Guide to Creating Wealth. He's a regular contributor to major media business platforms. Brian may be contacted at [email protected]