Financial Advisor Research Checklist

Take the time to research any financial advisor that you will be working with, whether it's to create a financial plan, manage your investments or purchase insurance.

It is recommended  that your financial advisor have been in business for a minimum of 5 years and have one of the following professional designations:

Investments: CFP, ChFC, CFA, CIC

Accounting: CPA

Insurance: CLU, CPCU, CASL, CES, LUTCF or RICP 

and/or a Bachelor of Science, Masters Degree or Doctorate (PhD) in Insurance or Financial Services.

Please note that there are many other designations that you can look up in The Financial Advisor Designation Table. Some designations provide more value than others, so be sure to review the requirements for the designations, the Code of Conduct or Ethics and ongoing monitoring to guide you. 

Here are recommended resources that you can use to do your own research on financial advisors and companies:

  • Resident Insurance Department: While an insurance agent may have licenses in multiple states, they all have to have a resident State which is usually the State that scrutinizes an agent’s background. Non-Resident licenses typically have a lower threshold. Find the Link to a State’s Insurance Department Website through the NAIC.
  • Investment Advisor Public Disclosure Site: On this website, you can (1) search for an Investment Adviser firm, (2) view the adviser's current Form ADV, (3) check the adviser's registration or reporting status, (4) search for an investment adviser representative, (5) view the representative's professional background and conduct, (6) check the representative's registration status, (7) link to a state regulator's website, and (8) access links to the FINRA BrokerCheck Website for information about Brokerage firms and Registered Representatives of Brokerage firms that meet search criteria entered. The information about investment advisers that appears on this website is filed by investment advisers on Form ADV. Neither the SEC nor the state securities authorities have approved the information filed on Form ADV, and cannot guarantee its accuracy. This site is run by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  
  • BrokerCheck: A tool to help investors research the professional backgrounds of brokerage firms and brokers currently or formerly registered with FINRA or a national securities exchange as well as current or former investment adviser firms and representatives. Run BrokerCheck to see if your financial professional is registered or has a history with FINRA or the SEC.
  • Verify a CFP Professional: Allows you to verify an individual’s certification status. The search results will identify individuals who currently hold CFP® certification as well as individuals who are not currently certified but who held CFP® certification at one time. Results include discipline information and bankruptcy filings within the past 10 years.
  • The Financial Designation Resource: sponsored by The College for Financial Planning.  Allows you to verify designations offered by The College for Financial Planning: Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS), Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA), Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor (APMA), Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA), Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC), Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC), Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS), Chartered SRI Counselor (CSRIC), Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional (FPQP) and Master Planner Advanced Studies (MPAS). 
  • DesignationCheck.com: which is sponsored by The American College, a non-profit, accredited educational institution with an 84-year heritage. Please note that DesignationCheck.com only covers the following designations – links to other designation will be coming soon. Designations Listed: Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Leadership Fellow (CLF), Registered Health Underwriter (RHU), Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC), Chartered Health Care Consultant (ChHC), Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL), LUTCF, Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP), Financial Services Specialist (FSS), Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP), MSM, Masters of Science in Financial Services (MSFS)
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be a powerful resource to see an advisors experience, education, licenses, etc. Please keep in mind that this information is all provided by the agent and LinkedIn does not verify the information.
  • Internet Search: The Internet is a powerful search tool for finding public disciplinary records or even public commentary and reviews about financial professionals. Always run an internet search for the professional’s name and firm name to find any information available about your professional. Run an internet search to see if your financial professional has any red flags.
  • Utilize Other Resources: There are many types of financial professionals. If you are using one of these types of professionals, consider using the resources available to get information on your financial professional.

Visit the How To Protect Yourself Page for more tips.

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