Fiduciary Training and Retirement Industry Designations

Fiduciary education is an important topic at any time but seems to be garnering further attention in recent months. Rumor has it that questions about training are being asked of in-house fiduciaries during U.S. Department of Labor audits. According to “Developing a Fiduciary Training Program,” ERISA attorney Sheldon Smith explains that this federal regulator “views fiduciary training as a critical element of good governance.” I concur.

Hiring third party experts is one solution to closing a skills gap. Requiring in-house investment fiduciaries to demonstrate a minimum level of proficiency is another option. In either case, there is a real need for instruction about topics such as ERISA plan governance, risk measurement, fee assessment and service provider due diligence.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of organizations that offer retirement plan fiduciary training as part of a certification program or for continuing education purposes. To learn more about this knowledge-sharing alphabet soup, read “Sorting through Professional Credentials” by financial journalist Ed McCarthy (Wealth Management, September 27, 2017). I am quoted in this article as saying “… the value of any one designation will depend on other credentials one has, the kind of work they do, the kind of client base they serve, how well someone explains the value of that credential to his or her clients …”

In my case, credentials are aplenty. Besides a PhD and MBA in finance, an MA in economics and lots of financial industry experience, I successfully met requirements to become an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst, Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder, certified Financial Risk Manager, Certified Fraud Examiner and Professional Plan Consultant. I adhere to continuing education mandates. While it’s difficult to know which designation, degree or type of industry position ranks highest on clients’ “must have” list, I am aware of an increased appreciation of programs that are rigorous in terms of content, candidate requirements and emphasis on high ethical standards.

McCarthy’s article correctly points out the role of continuing education. I’ve long held the opinion that point in time training is worthwhile but ongoing instruction is likewise needed. High integrity professionals who study hard to pass designation-related exams understand the advantages of lifetime learning. Many of their clients acknowledge the seriousness of advisors who stay abreast of new rules and regulations and strive for an A game on behalf of investors.

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