RIIA appears to be a good organization. So this story is not meant as a knock against RIIA.
 
Trouble is, consumers can’t tell whether the young accreditation body is for real. Nor do consumers know if the RMA designation is worth the paper it’s printed on.
 
The proliferation of advisor designations poses a major competitive threat to CPAs, CFAs, CFPs, CIMAs, CLUs, ChFCs, and other established professional designations.
 
Put yourself in a consumer’s shoes. Your financial advisor has a long list of designations after his name. Is an RMA better than a CFA or CFP? The consumer does not know. Even if a consumer checks, the answer is difficult to discern.
 
“Launched in 2009 through requests from RIIA members and in response to demand from financial advisors and consumers, the RMA designation is the only scientifically-based, rigorous retirement planning education and certification serving the financial services industry including defined contribution and retail distribution organizations, financial advisors, broker dealers, banks and insurance companies,” says the press release issued this morning.  “Individuals earning the RMA designation are uniquely prepared to deliver retirement income solutions and services to clients who want a secure income stream and ongoing professional management throughout their retirement years. To help RMA candidates prepare for the exam, RIIA partnered with software providers and leading universities.”
 
If a consumer goes to the RIIA website to find our about the RMA designation, the group is impressive. Its board of directors includes representatives from the largest and smartest companies in the financial advice business, Bank of America’s Head of Personal Retirement Solutions, David Tyrie, the former head of the mutual fund industry trade association, Matthew Fink, the top financial whiz from Ibbotson Associates, Peng Chen, and other powerful people.
 
RIIA’s home page features its effort to educate financial advisors so that Americans can find safer retirement solutions.
 
And it doesn’t hurt that "RIIA" sounds a lot like RIA. Consumers are bound the think RIIA is related to being an RIA. Nonetheless, the group looks like it’s doing good work.
 
But what’s really happening here?
 
Truth is, RIIA is a group created by product manufacturers. BlackRock, New York Life, Allianz and other powerful companies have allied themselves to create a designation of their own.
 
Now there is nothing wrong with that. These companies are a key part of the solutions professionals must provide to consumers.
 
But why did product companies have to go and create their own designation? Why didn’t these powerful companies just go to the existing professional organizations and support their effort to educate their professionals?
 
My guess is the CFP Board and even the well-heeled CFA Institute would have welcomed the assistance of the product companies in designing better educational programs for financial professionals. Does adding yet another accreditation help consumers?
 
While RIIA may actually do great work -- it is backed by big bucks to pay for research studies and has attracted numerous academics to its board of “special advisors” -- creating yet another designation for retirement advisors only will confuse consumers.
 
What do you think of the RMA designation? It looks like RIIA can add value because the product companies are where the money is.
 
Do you have room for one more designation on your business card?
 
What can established professional licensing bodies do to fight designation proliferation?
 
 
 
 
 

 

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