The Association for Investment Management and Research, the 54,000-member global organization of financial analysts, portfolio managers, investment advisors, and other investment professionals, is enhancing and broadening the scope of its capabilities. The measures affect consumers and AIMR members, as well as non-AIMR-affiliated independent financial advisors.

Owner of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential, held by 44,000 of AIMR’s members, AIMR in November proposed management guidelines designed to clear up for consumers the back-office mystery of actual trade execution. This is an area an AIMR task force head described as previously functioning “behind the scenes in relative obscurity and even mystery.” Also, in response to a rising demand for its CFA credential, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based organization announced that beginning in 2003, level 1 of its three-level exam will be held twice a year instead of once.

But what may be of particular interest to advisors is the organization’s recent ad campaign. Print ads, directed at consumers and financial services professionals alike, highlight the importance of a CFA, including the “rigorous exams” and “three years of hands-on experience” that designees must have. The ads also proclaim CFA-toting investment advisors’ “objective insights” and the mark’s global aspect.

Why all the hoopla and why now? AIMR Senior Vice President Ray DeAngelo says consumers view advisors’ credentials as important, but have trouble differentiating one from another. “It’s really an education campaign as much as it is a persuasion campaign,” he explains. While AIMR dabbled in a limited advertising campaign last year directed at the consumer, this year marks AIMR’s first full-scale effort. Ads are now running in the US and Canada; eventually they’ll run throughout the world. AIMR also is holding a conference on private wealth management in Phoenix Mar. 11-12, featuring speakers including John Philip Coughlan of Charles Schwab and advisor Natalie Choate. Information on the conference is available at www.aimr.org.

Does this mean that AIMR is positioning the CFA as a rival to such designations as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)? DeAngelo says the campaign is more a reflection of “where our members already are, rather than a large influx of our members moving into that field.” He adds that “not only is the CFA able to offer appropriate investment advice, but he or she can also serve the function of a kind of trusted advisor.”

An internal AIMR survey indicates that 37% of AIMR members now see high net worth consumers as their primary clients. That figure will undoubtedly grow, says AIMR President Thomas Bowman. “As baby boomers move toward retirement age and they require personal asset management, the role of the investment professional managing high-net-worth assets will increase,” he says. AIMR is making every effort to insure that those investment professionals will have “CFA” after their names.