The proliferation of designations has left close to 70% of the country's brokerage firms using various "senior"-oriented titles and job descriptions, but supervision and definitions are all over the map.
FINRA polled the industry as part of its ongoing efforts to monitor activity that preys on senior citizens and discovered that firms review these designations on a case-by-case basis.
Some of these designations include "certified senior advisor," "certified professional consultant on aging," "chartered senior financial planner," and so on.
Requirements range from three days of bookwork to a comprehensive academic curriculum, and some are banned in various states, including New York.
As FINRA puts it, "in certain instances, senior designations approved by firms or widely used by registered persons did not require rigorous qualification standards. As a result, the existence of qualification standards to obtain a designation did not ensure that those registered persons holding the designation possessed financial services skills that were unique or valuable to senior investors."
That's a diplomatic way of warning that some of these certs are empty marketing fluff that can lure vulnerable clients into bad relationships.
For what it's worth, only two firms FINRA talked to say they require reps to get "senior" designations before working with older clients.
Among those that ban some designations, enforcement varies widely -- some prohibit one or two, while others establish a few certs as allowed and ban everything else.