This time, they hope to get it right. The boards of the Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA) and the Institute for Certified Investment Management Consultants (ICIMC) have agreed to a "consolidation." If approved by the respective memberships, the combination of the two organizations that serve the separately managed account business will operate more like a confederation than one central organization, at least at first.

After merger efforts that fizzled in recent years, largely over differences in the value of their designations, the groups – which represent about 3,000 consultants in total – decided to retain both IMCA’s Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation and the ICIMC’s Certified Investment Management Consultant (CIMC) title. Current thinking is to maintain the IMCA headquarters in Denver and the ICIMC headquarters in Washington for the present as well. A name change could come later, one source close to the negotiations said.

Among the benefits for members, says ICIMC President Jeffery Barefoot, would be "greater conferences and meetings, increased efficiencies and an increased use of technology."

"This is a good thing for IMCA, for ICIMC, and for the profession as a whole," said Jeff Van Orden, president of IMCA. "The two organizations have very similar goals. We’re both in the education business, we’re both trying to raise the competency level of investment professionals, and we’re both trying to improve the already high standards of ethics and practice of people who call themselves investment management consultants. So it only makes sense for there to only be one unified, non-confusing voice."

The two groups, now more than a decade old, were started by Arizona broker Dan Bott.

"Even if we pull together, there will only be about 3,000 of us investment consultants," said a veteran of one of the organizations. "There are over 30,000 Certified Financial Planners. The Financial Planning Association (the group affiliated with the CFP designation) is a big organization competing for our members with conferences and courses to continue their professional development. That’s one good reason for us to be coming together."

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