Titles can mislead, Check out these financial adviser certifications

financial adviser certifications

Yesterday I met a doctor who holds 8 degrees in his name, due to which there were 24 letters along with his name on his visiting card. I was wondering, with so much of confusing accreditations , had there been no specialization specified in medical profession, then how would a lay man got to know which doctor should be approached to for which illness. Though having multiple accreditations clearly reflects the seriousness of a person towards profession. But for an outsider it may create confidence and confusion both.

This is happening in financial services space too. With so many financial adviser certifications coming up in this sector it is very much important for people to understand which one is the genuine and which one is manufactured by seller .Unlike medical profession there’s so much overlapping here, with no specified specialization, anyone can do anything. To make the things worse here advisors use fancy designations like financial consultant, financial doctor, certified adviser, registered adviser etc. that no investor can differentiate which one will suit his requirements the most. In many cases even investors also don’t bother to ask the consultant/adviser about his qualification. If he is working with a big bank or broking house this seems enough to the client.

Some of the financial adviser certifications are related specifically to some products advisory and are mandated by the regulator, where as some act as an additional qualification which adviser earns him by further study.

There’s nothing wrong with an adviser adding to his or her credentials through additional education, but it’s important for an investor to understand this “Alphabet soup”. This is also important as there’s high probability of an adviser get missold by an unauthorized or unregistered person. I got the idea of writing on this topic when one of my prospect showed concern on CFP certification that I have, but became my client when I got registered with SEBI. Here we look at some popular certification in this space and also a brief explanation on education and expertise every designation possess.

1.       NISM Series V-A certification for Mutual funds distributors:

SEBI has mandated this financial adviser certifications for all those who are involved in selling and distribution of Mutual funds including Individual distributors, employees of organization engaged in sales and distribution of Mutual funds and also for employees of Asset Management Companies. This examination seeks to create a common minimum knowledge benchmark.

Though as SEBI mandates, only certified people can sell or advise in Mutual funds but investors should also confirm that he is dealing with a certified person. Many times investors tends to ignore this while dealing with bank representative, they feel that big brand name people don’t do wrong, whereas realty is quite different. Certified person will have ARN (AMFI Registration Number) in his name or if he’s working with some financial intermediary then he must have EUIN (Employee Unique Identification number). Calling oneself a financial consultant or registered adviser will not only do.

2.       IRDA Certification for Life and general Insurance:

One has to be IRDA certified to become Life or general insurance agent. Candidate should complete 50 hours training from an IRDA approved institute. If one wants to become a composite agent ( life Plus general) then agent needs to complete 75 hours of training. After this training they have to appear for specified exam and score minimum 50% marks.

Unlike as in Mutual funds, one IRDA certified person can engage with only one Insurance company.

In both the above financial adviser certifications one thing is to be observed that the education criteria are not very stringent. Anyone who’s just 10th pass with no experience can enter into these financial products advisory and start advising investors on their hard earned money. Though theoretically they have gone through training or passed an exam but practically I know how this thing actually works out. I keep on delivering NISM mutual funds training to different banks and you won’t believe situation is pathetic. And these people have sold crores of Investments to retail investors.

As financial services space keeps on changing, so it is important for an adviser to remain updated with latest developments. None of the above mentioned financial adviser certifications actually calls for continuous education.

So here you can say that even if your adviser NISM or IRDA certified, this should not be enough for you. Do look out for something more, in addition to these.


 This is not a mandatory financial adviser certifications, but whosoever wants to upgrade his knowledge and move a step ahead from only product advisory can enroll and get this certification.  It is the most prestigious and internationally accepted financial planning qualification. CFPCM certification is awarded to competent and qualifying candidates fulfilling the 4E criteria i.e

Education, Examination, Experience and Ethics.

To complete the education criterion candidate has to pass through 4 exams on subjects like Risk analysis, Retirement planning and employee benefits, Investment Planning, Tax and estate Planning  and then have to clear Advanced Financial planning exam where he’s to solve virtual real life financial planning case.

Once Certified, CFPCM certificant has to fulfill the continuos education criteria every year to stay current and updated on financial planning strategies, products, trends affecting their client. CFPCM certification is granted by FPSB India through an agreement with FPSB Ltd U.S.

Minimum 3 years of work experience is necessary to gain this certification.

( find out CFP certificant near you. Click here)

 4.       Chartered Wealth Manager or CWM®

 This is another internationally acclaimed financial adviser certifications in wealth management and Private Banking. This certification is directly awarded by American Academy of Financial management, US. This also deals in various aspects of wealth advisory like Investment strategies, taxation, behavior finance, Alternative product etc.

 This is one of the specified education certification accredited by NISM to become SEBI Registered Investment adviser.

  5.       SEBI Registered Investment advisors

Lately SEBI also got confused with the fancy titles that advisors use, the financial adviser certifications they own and advice they provide to client. It found that many Mutual funds advisers who are Only NISM V A certified, are advising variety of products like corporate FDs, NCDs etc. and many CFP or CWM certificants were only selling Insurance products and misleading general Investors on the certifications they have.

(Read : Is your Investment adviser Registered with SEBI)

 So in Jan 2013 it came up to the rescue of public by announcing “SEBI (Investment advisors) Regulations, 2013” Here SEBI wants to regulate the Investment advice and investment advisor. It laid down strict conditions on education and experience for those who are into this business of Investment advice. SEBI also restricted the use of title “Investment adviser” by every tom, dick and harry and now onwards only those entities or individuals which are registered with SEBI can call themselves investment adviser.

Check out the latest list of SEBI Registered investment advisers here

 While financial adviser certifications are not everything but it’s advisable to give extra credit to professionals who have them. These certifications require candidates to put many hours of study and meet high ethical and professional standards. But these financial adviser certifications should not only be only criteria to select financial advisers. Regulator has played its part by registering investment adviser, but still it has excluded “single product distributors” like Mutual funds and Insurance who are being regulated under other regulations. If your requirement is more than product and you are looking for some holistic advice, then do look out for advisors having experience, knowledge and also as now you know what different financial adviser certifications mean, do look out for one of the certification mentioned above.

 Its important for someone who looks after client’s investments, assets, Loans, Insurances etc. to have sound financial knowledge which require a sound financial expertise which these financial adviser certifications provides.

 So whenever you are dealing with a financial adviser, be a banker, or some broker who has some fancy designation with his name, so ask for his qualifications and other accreditation.

What are your views? Do you think financial adviser certifications are important in selecting financial adviser?


  1. Thanks Manikaran for this informative article. I would like to ask one question, why have you not mentioned CAs or ICWA anywhere here. Don’t you think they also act as financial advisers?

    • Shivani, very valid point raised. Actually technically the qualifications that you have mentioned has different specialisation like Corporate accounting, or cost accounting, so these certification generally does not get make them expert in personal finance space. Financial advisory involves understanding of different products and their usage as per different personal financial profiles, which these other experts may not be able to devote time too.
      Yes there are many CAs who are expert in financial advisory as they are purely into this space only and has taken other certifications to excel in this area. They have their hold on taxation front which is an important aspect in personal financial planning.
      But , you cannot just generalise this thing that if your CA advise you on tax saving investments, he’s a financial planning expert too.

  2. For being an Independent Financial advisor what all certification does individual should have ? Is Nism Investment Advisor Certification Sufficient ?

    • IFA is a confusing term. SEBI wants all advisors to be registered with it. You should better go through sebi Investment advsors guidelines 2013 to have more clarity

  3. Hello Manikaran .. I have 17 yrs experience in IT industry..working as project head with IT MNC. I have MBA marketing.

    I want to switch my career and want do CWM ..so that I can get into wealth management..how should I go about it


    • Randhir, you should better consult the education providers for this. and also i advise you to talk to some CWM to find out the Job/Practice market scenario. Wealth management is a very broad subject, better to do your homework first before deciding on plunging into this field.


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