The second version bears the name of Lynch's sideline business, an agency specializing in long-term care insurance, which he believes is one of the most valuable products financial planners can bring to clients' attention. This card sports three designations, too, but they're different: CASL (Chartered Advisor in Senior Living), CLTC (Certified in Long Term Care) and CSA (Certified Senior Advisor).
You'd need a third card, though, to list the full gamut of Lynch's credentials. He holds a total of 15 professional designations and is working on four more. "I believe all the continuing education (CE) you receive is worthwhile," he says, "if you gain something from the program that will help you serve your clients better."
Although Lynch's CV of CE might be extraordinary, he's not the only planner to discover the allure of multiple designations--and the ones he has earned are far from a comprehensive list. "We estimate that there are 89 designations, certifications and degrees available to financial services professionals," says Ed Morrow, CEO of Financial Planning Consultants in Middletown, Ohio.
Morrow made his comments before the Retirement Income Industry Association, which announced that it will offer a series of programs culminating in a new designation for retirement income professionals. That brings the total of letter groups up to about 90, a number that may rise even higher by the time this article is in print.
Are all these designations helpful for planners--or for clients? As might be expected, opinions differ. Some planners are satisfied--and professionally successful--with only one designation.
THE MINIMALIST APPROACH
"I have only a CFP," says Dan Moisand, principal at Spraker, Fitzgerald, Tamayo & Moisand, a planning firm in Melbourne, Fla. "As a CFP, you're required to get a great deal of continuing education," says Moisand, now the president of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). "There's no need to get another designation."
Similar sentiments are expressed by Peggy Cabaniss, president of HC Financial Advisors in Orinda, Calif., who is now the chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). "I probably get 50 to 60 hours a year of continuing education by going to conferences and workshops," she says. "I haven't seen a sideline that I thought was worthwhile, so I just have the CFP." Such a broad-based designation is necessary, she states.
Cabaniss' firm hires CFPs for comprehensive planning and CFAs on the investment side; both designations cover a lot of ground and require intensive study. "If I were interviewing someone with, say, a mutual fund designation, but not a broad designation such as a CFA, I would not feel comfortable hiring that person," she says.
Yet another leading planner who holds just a CFP is Marilyn Capelli Dimitroff of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She serves on the Board of Governors of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards. "The knowledge base you need to acquire and maintain a CFP is so broad that I haven't been tempted to get a specialty designation," she says.
Nor is the CFP the only professional designation that can stand on its own. "Among financial credentials, there's a 'Big Four,' " says David Legeay, senior vice president and director of portfolio management for investment management services at Key Private Bank in Cleveland. "Those are an MBA, a CFP, CPA and CFA. I hold the CFA because that's the basic designation in the investment industry. It's a difficult designation to get, and it tells people you are well schooled, that you've made sacrifices to complete the course of study."
MAXING OUT ON INITIALS
Obviously, some planners see the logic of seeking additional credentials, or there wouldn't be 90 designations (and counting). "I just got my CFP and I need to do a certain amount of CE," says Ed Dunlap, a vice president at M&T Bank in Harrisburg, Pa. "While I'm doing it, why not get another designation?"
This reasoning led Dunlap to begin work in June 2006 on a Qualified Plan Financial Consultant (QPFC) designation, recently introduced by the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA). The QPFC, which is so new that none has been awarded yet, requires four exams, two open book and two proctored. "I've been an associate member of ASPPA for over 20 years," says Dunlap, "so I know it's a respected organization. All my work now is in the area of retirement plans: IRAs, qualified and nonqualified. So I decided it made sense for me to take the course."