Money Moves

Registered or chartered?

Today, would-be professionals enjoy even more choices, writes KS Lau

This week, let's briefly review the final two certifications for would-be professional financial planners: Registered Financial Consultant (RFC) and Chartered Financial Planner (ChFC).

Registered Financial Consultant
The RFC designation is awarded by the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants (IARFC), USA ( Established in 1984, the IARFC also awards Registered Financial Associate (RFA), a qualification in its own right. It is estimated that the IARFC currently has 4,000 members.

The RFA is the entry certification for recent graduates from an approved academic curriculum. Although the IARFC does not publicise what constitutes an approved academic curriculum, it seems that all the advanced institutes in Hong Kong which run courses leading to recognised financial planning certifications such as CFPCM or CFC, among others, which have not less than 120 credit hours (equivalent to a baccalaureate degree), meet RFA requirements.

As it requires experience in financial planning practices in addition to educational requirements, RFC can be considered a senior qualification. Normally, the requirement is for four years' relevant experience that is acceptable to the IARFC. Holders of other recognised certifications in financial planning, such as CFC, CFPCM and ChFC, may apply for direct entry into the RFC grade of membership.

It appears that RFC and RFA certifications can be attained through the evaluation of educational qualifications and experience. However, if a candidate does not hold a recognised qualification, he or she can still attain the RFA/ RFC designations by taking the RFC exams. These cover the principles of personal finance, debt and cash flow management, employee benefits, investment and asset allocation, insurance and estate and retirement planning.

Chartered Financial Planner
The designation of ChFC is an American qualification, awarded by the American College for Financial Planners. First offered in 1982, there are currently over 40,000 holders of this designation.

The primary requirement for the ChFC designation is that candidates pass eight courses provided by the college, five of which are compulsory and the remainder electives. After successful completion of the courses, candidates have to meet requirements, including three years of relevant experience and ethical standards, before they can apply for ChFC certification.

Mandatory examinations include (1) Insurance & Financial Planning; (2) Income Taxation; (3) Planning for Retirement Needs; (4) Investments; and (5) Estate Planning.

Elective examinations include any three of (1) Financial System in the Economy; (2) Financial Planning Applications; (3) Estate Planning Applications I; (4) Estate Planning Applications II; and (5) Financial Decision Making at Retirement.

Are you confused by the quantity of certifications for financial planning - including CFPCM, CFC, RFP, RFC and ChFC? If you find it difficult to choose something that suits your needs, take a look at the next article, where we will discuss this in further detail.

K S Lau, MSc, MBA, FCCA, FCPA, CFE. An accountant by profession, Mr Lau is specialised in corporate governance and management development. He is also the co-author of Q&A: Financial Planning Exams, a popular course book preparing students for financial planning examinations. For any enquiries regarding the article, you can contact Mr Lau on

Taken from Career Times 31 October 2003
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