Straight talk on the designation debate

Opinion

In a recent discussion with top advisors we asked them about designations and in candid conversations, they spoke their mind about the topic. While you may not agree with them, their comments are unfiltered and spoken with conviction. If you would like to join the designation debate, please leave a comment below.

On designations and your thoughts on discussing the topic with your clients:

My take on this is quite simple. Does any particular designation assure the client that you will do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it? Does any particular designation assure the client that you will not lose their money or on the flip side, that you will earn them more than a peer that does not have that designation? And my favorite: Would you be more comfortable having your nest egg managed by a person who has seen a few full market cycles – back to back for the last 15 years or someone who has just earned his “designation” with less than a few years in our business? Is there not a reason most people prefer that their surgeon has been around awhile compared to the fresh-faced person who just graduated from medical school and who has just put out an “Open for business” shingle?

Then I simply state to the prospect: Actions speak louder than any words. Check out my background and also let me know if you would like to speak to some of our current clients.

-          Travis Morrow

I quite honestly have never had a client ask about my designations. I always inform them that I use insurance-based products in my retirement planning as I am an insurance agent. There is usually no other questions that arise from that after I show them how they could benefit by transitioning to an insurance-backed solution such as annuities.

-           Suzanne Buska

Back in late ‘80s/early ‘90s, I spent a lot of time finishing the course requirements for CFP. I did complete all six exams then they changed the gig to include a comprehensive exam. While I feel that while education is a must, designations are not and sometimes cloud the issue and create too much dogma in the industry. Most people consumed with degrees don’t understand the real world. Education comes from books and being in the financial trenches. I don’t even display my CLU anymore. Don’t get me wrong, proud of it, but that’s more for me, not the consumer.

-          Tony Walker

In my dealings with clients, the topic of “designations” doesn’t come up too often. Clients and prospective clients want to know, first and foremost, that you are acting in their best interests and not your own. Being Series 65 registered on the investment side in a fiduciary capacity goes a long way in helping them understand that difference.

-          Curt Knotick

Obviously, since I don’t have any designations, you might believe I haven’t felt a need for them. Actually, I’ve wondered if I should get the ChFC so I could display it and clients might feel more comfortable with my expertise. The reality is I’ve been so busy working with clients and training planners that my studies had to be more focused on the information and skills I needed to get the job done on their behalf. Much like Harry Truman, I’m a self-taught financial planner and read voraciously to better myself, but have not taken the classes formally. I target what I want to learn and am confident in my abilities.

Over the last 20 years I can count on one hand the times a prospect has asked me about my designations. I think it’s largely because they’ve come to my seminars and workshops, received my bio, listened to my planning concepts and felt comfortable with my expertise. It’s also highly probable that, because the bulk of my business comes through referrals, especially now, that prospects are convinced by the planning I’ve done for their friends and the long-term nature of the relationships I’ve had with my clients, that they haven’t needed to see any designations or plaques on the wall.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about getting a designation, I just thought I could study financial textbooks, industry books and journals, attend lectures, classes and webinars to acquire the information and solutions I need to plan for my clients. Again, I feel very confident in my abilities to perform for my clients. I’ve also had the luxury of being surrounded by and mentoring very successful planners across the country and have learned a great deal from them.

So, I think there are two reasons to get a designation. The first reason would be to acquire the information and skills that would help advance a planner’s ability to serve their clients. The second reason would be for planners to have a designation enhance their credibility with prospects so they can market confidently. Both are valid. I’ve just been successful in my practice without the official designations. Might it enhance my knowledge and credibility? Probably, but I just pursue both of those in ways that better suit me.

As for licenses, I’m life/health licensed and have a Series 65. I used to have my Series 6 and 26, but dropped them to focus on managed money solely.

-          Dave Vick

For more from Daniel Williams, see:

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