Consumers in the process of vetting financial advisors should include training, certifications, and continuing education among their selection criteria. After all, the most well-meaning and client-centric fiduciary advisor is only as good as his/her knowledge base, experience, and skill set.
Unfortunately, many of the designations and certifications floating around the financial services industry are nothing but marketing ploys requiring a minimum of study, an open-book test, and a membership fee. For some excellent insight on the murky world of financial advisor designations and business models, please read this recent Financial Planning magazine article on advisor certifications and licensing requirements.
Thankfully, various states are beginning to crack down on bogus certifications, especially those aimed at misleading seniors.
...financial advisers are brandishing a baffling array of new credentials - some of which can be earned with minimal or no study and a few hundred dollars. Increasingly, say regulators, financial advisers are using these dubious designations as marketing tools to win the trust of older, wealthier clients, in hopes of selling high-fee investments that aren't appropriate for them.
- a Wall St. Journal article
For those of you complacent in the knowledge that your financial advisor knows what he/she is doing, check out the following PricewaterhouseCoopers survey results reported in a New York Times article:
Among wealth managers who advised clients with $500,000 to $20 million:
- only 7 percent said they felt strongly that they had received adequate training to complete their job to the highest standard, and
- some 36 percent said they believed they were not fully qualified to do their job.
The article rightly goes on to conclude: "Why haven't firms addressed this issue? The leading suspect is the industry's focus on advisers who can bring in clients with lots of assets as opposed to advisers who can actually counsel clients."
The biggest challenge the industry faces today is asset allocation. Advisers need to be qualified to do this. There might only be 10% of advisers that are qualified to do it today. That's not where it needs to be....we have a long way to go to get the average adviser qualified.
- Paul Hatch, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley
The vast majority of life insurance companies have no formal education requirements for becoming an agent.