Central Markets by Robert Lloyd, CFA

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but the accuracy of the  information cannot be guaranteed. All opinions and outlooks are subject to change.

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  • Robert Lloyd, CFA

Comparing Adviser Credentials

  • Comparing Adviser Credentials: CPA, CFA, CFP, what do they all mean?

  • Different credentials require different levels of study and preparation

  • While not a guarantee of competence, they indicate a base threshold of knowledge


If you are comparing advisers, you may notice many note their professional credentials after their name. There are several common designations advisers can earn: CFA, CPA, CFP, CRPC, or the AAMS for example. What do they all mean and which ones are likely to indicate a competent adviser or a relevant skill set?


Let's compare them:


Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is a designation sponsored by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, a non-profit organization that promotes and tests the standards they believe every financial planner should possess.


Subjects: Financial planning, professional conduct, regulation, risk management, insurance, benefits, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings, estate planning and financial plan development.


Tests and pass rates: 6-hour, 170 question exam with a 64% recent pass rate.


Hours of study recommended to pass exam: 250 hours.


Experience required: 3 years


Education required: Bachelors degree


Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) is a designation designed for newcomers to the financial advice business that is awarded by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP), a for-profit Kaplan company.


Subjects: Risk, return, and investment performance; asset allocation and selection; investment strategies; taxation, investing; deferred compensation and benefit plans, insurance products; estate planning; and fiduciary, regulatory, and ethical issues for advisers.


Tests and pass rates: 80 question exam/pass rate not available


Hours of study recommended to pass: 80-100 hours


Experience required: None


Education required: None


Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA®) a professional designation sponsored by the CFA Institute, a global association for investment management professionals.


Subjects: Ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, portfolio management, and wealth planning.


Tests and pass rates:

Level I: 6 hour, 240 question exam with a 43% pass rate

Level II: 6 hour, 120 question exam with a 45% pass rate

Level III: 6 hour, 120 question exam with a 56% pass rate


Hours of study recommended to pass each: 300 hours


Experience required: 2 years


Education required: Bachelors degree


Certified Public Accountants (CPA®) a professional designation sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a national association of CPAs.


Subjects: Financial accounting and reporting for business, non-profits, and governments, auditing and attestation, planning engagements, internal controls, ethics, law, tax procedures, accounting and federal taxation of individuals, entities and property transactions, economics, business structures, and technology.


Tests and pass rates:

Financial Accounting: 4 hour, 90 question exam with a 48% pass rate

Auditing: 4 hour, 90 question exam with a 52% pass rate

Regulation: 3 hour, 72 question exam with a 56% pass rate

Business Concepts: 3 hour, 72 question exam with a 56% pass rate


Hours of study recommended to pass each: 300-400 hours


Experience required: 1 year (Texas)


Education required: Bachelors degree in Accounting


Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) is a designation sponsored by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP), a for-profit Kaplan company.


Subjects: Client experience, principles and strategies of investing, social security benefits, health care in retirement, emotional effects of retirement, designing retirement income streams, achieving tax and estate planning objectives, ethics and regulatory issues.


Tests and pass rates: 80 question exam/pass rate not available


Hours of study recommended to pass: 80-100 hours


Experience required: None


Education required: None


There are other designations some people use, but these are the ones commonly encountered within the industry. Some are more difficult to achieve and reflect more study, preparation and education. Understanding what they mean can help you evaluate the caliber of the financial advisers directing your investments. Unlike the legal or medical field, there are very few requirements for proclaiming yourself a “financial adviser.” It will ultimately be up to you to evaluate and decide who you want to work with.


Note: Pass rates were obtained from the sponsor websites and generally reflect the most recent exams of 2018.


Robert Lloyd, CFA® is President and Chief Investment Officer of Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management, and author of the book CENTRAL MARKETS. Since 1994, he has held positions as a trader, analyst, portfolio manager, and wealth manager while working at Invesco, CCM Opportunistic Advisors, and Merrill Lynch. In another life, he served 8 years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Flight Officer flying in the S-3B Viking. For a complete resumé, visit his profile at LinkedIn.


Rob holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Chicago.


Rob is a Chartered Financial Analyst.



Lloyds Intrepid LLC is doing business as Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management. Lloyds Intrepid LLC offers investment advisory services in the State of Texas where registered and in other jurisdictions where exempted. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Lloyds Intrepid LLC and its advisers do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Lloyds Intrepid LLC formulates retirement plans, investment strategies, portfolio construction and investment due diligence for clients with signed investment advisory agreements with us. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. All opinions and outlooks are subject to change.


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