Alphabet Soup

Financial professionals often have an alphabet soup of letters after their names. These letters represent designations, credentials or educational milestones that that advisor has earned. They indicate the advisor has a certain qualification in different areas of financial planning or the law.

What follows are the descriptions of these designations and credentials, in the words of the organizations that bestow the designation or credential.

Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) provides specialized access to information, education, tools and support that enhance Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential holders’ ability to make a genuine difference for their clients and employers. ABV credential holders may brand or position themselves as premier business valuation service providers who differentiate themselves by going beyond the core service of reaching a conclusion of value and creating value for clients through the strategic application of this analysis.
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Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)
A CDFA is someone who comes from a financial planning, accounting or legal background and goes through an intensive training program to become skilled in analyzing and providing expertise related to the financial issues of divorce.
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Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
The Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) is a specialty designation that identifies CPAs with the unique ability to bridge between business and technology while meeting the strict requirements for a CPA license as well as additional training and experience in Emerging Trends, IT Assurance and Risk, Business Solutions, Data Analytics and Security and Privacy.
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Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential is the most respected and recognized investment designation in the world. The curriculum covers academic theory, current industry practice, and ethical and professional standards to provide a strong foundation of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. A work experience requirement and an annual attestation to ethics ensure career-long professional excellence by those who have earned the charter.
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Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential denotes proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. CFEs around the world help protect the global economy by uncovering fraud and implementing processes to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place.
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Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) established the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credential in 2008 for CPAs who specialize in forensic accounting. The CFF credential is granted exclusively to CPAs who demonstrate considerable expertise in forensic accounting through their knowledge, skills, and experience. The CFF encompasses fundamental and specialized forensic accounting skills that CPA practitioners apply in a variety of service areas, including: bankruptcy; electronic data analysis; family law; valuations; fraud prevention, detection, and response; financial statement misrepresentation; and damages calculations.
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Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Anyone may call him or herself a “financial planner,” but only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of the CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks, which represent a high level of competency, ethics, and professionalism. CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct require CFP professionals to look out for your interests above their own.
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Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
Your Chartered Financial Consultant® has completed the most extensive educational program required for any financial services credential. Each ChFC® has taken nine or more college-level courses on all aspects of financial planning from The American College, a non-profit educator with the highest level of academic accreditation. The average study time for the program is over 400 hours, and advisors frequently spend years earning this coveted distinction. Each ChFC® must also complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years, adhere to strict ethical standards, and meet extensive experience requirements to ensure that you get the professional financial advice you need.
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Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)  
Your Chartered Life Underwriter® has earned the premier credential in the insurance profession, representing eight or more comprehensive college-level courses covering all aspects of insurance planning, estate and retirement issues, taxation, business insurance, and risk management. For more than 80 years consumers have trusted this mark, which is conferred by The American College, a non-profit educator with the highest level of accreditation. The average study time for the program is over 400 hours and can take years to earn. Each CLU® must also complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years, adhere to strict ethical standards, and meet extensive experience requirements, ensuring the knowledge you’re counting on is both comprehensive and current.
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Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
If you think all accountants and other business advisors are alike, think again. Those who are able to call themselves “CPAs” have met stringent education and experience requirements, must perform their work in accordance with high quality technical and professional standards, and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. Individuals have worked hard to obtain the “CPA” designation, and they are committed to working even harder to deliver the value that it conveys. As advisors to businesses and individuals, Certified Public Accountants provide the technical expertise, innovative thinking and personal service that help organizations thrive and families and enable individuals to achieve financial security. In today’s global, competitive and information-driven environment, CPAs’ core competencies – integrity, objectivity and independence – bring new and diverse value to clients. The type and range of services offered by a particular CPA firm will depend on the skill, interest and experience mix of the partners and staff.
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Certified Public Accountant/Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS)
A CPA/PFS is more than a financial planner—he or she is a CPA with the powerful combination of extensive tax expertise and comprehensive knowledge of financial planning. This knowledge is critical to obtaining the most valuable, objective advice possible. All areas of personal financial planning—including estate, retirement, investments and insurance—have tax implications, and the PFS professional has the experience, ethics, and expertise to get the job done right.
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Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC)
As of September 1, 2009, the CRC® officially met the certification accreditation standards of the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The rigorous, independent NCCA standards are designed to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Of over 100 financial designations, the CRC® is one of only a few retirement and financial planning-related certifications independently accredited by the NCCA. Certification accreditation requires that the program itself be vetted to meet the highest standards regarding governance, responsibility to stakeholders, exam process, and recertification – an important difference from designations being offered by Colleges that are accredited.
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Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA)
The CVA is the country’s most distinguished and widely recognized BV (business valuation) credential, known for the superb training and challenging examination process that leads to earning this prestigious credential. Requirements for this credential include holding an active, valid CPA license or holding a business degree (i.e., in management, economics, finance, marketing, accounting, or other business field) and/or an MBA (master of business administration) or higher business degree from an accredited college or university and two years or more of full-time or equivalent experience in business valuation and related disciplines for non-CPAs. In addition to these requirements, CVA applicants must complete and pass specified training courses and exams and complete a case study or submit an actual and sanitized fair market value report, prepared during the last 12 months, for peer review.
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Esquire (Esq.)
An attorney.
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Master of Business Administration (MBA)
A master’s degree in business administration.