The Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA) announced Wednesday that after a four-plus year process, its Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) certification has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), making it the first financial services credential in the U.S. to be deemed worthy of meeting international standards.

IMCA’s leadership—Sean Walters, executive director and CEO, and John Granzow, president and a Wells Fargo advisor in Charlotte, N.C.—said in an interview with AdvisorOne on Wednesday that meeting the rigorous third-party accreditation required changes in IMCA’s internal structure and the certification processes that were difficult but necessary to meet the international standards, which in turn will benefit CIMA mark-holders and their end clients.

In addition, the certification will position CIMA holders to take advantage of “whatever shakes out in Washington” in terms of implementation of Dodd-Frank, said Walters (left), particularly the fiduciary standard and any other provisions concerning investment management. “We’re right in the wheelhouse of what’s going on in Washington,” Granzow said, with the IMCA program’s emphasis on transparency, objectivity and impartiality when it comes to providing investment management consulting to institutions and individuals. Granzow also pointed out that IMCA’s original code of ethics was based on ERISA standards.

In addition to meeting requirements of three years experience in investment management consulting, prospective CIMA seekers undergo a background check, a qualification exam to attend a one-week program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, then must pass a four-hour, 100-question comprehensive exam. Once the CIMA is attained, the certificant must take 40 hours of continuing education every two years, including two hours of ethics CE.

ANSI is the U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which certifies thousands of standards across multiple industries around the world, ensuring that products and programs meet international standards. The CIMA Certification has been granted accreditation under ANSI’s personnel certification program.

The certification is also not a one-time event. ANSI will conduct annual audits of IMCA to ensure continued compliance with the ISO standards, and each five years a more comprehensive examination is conducted to retain the certification.

One of the major changes required by ANSI was to separate IMCA’s governing body from its certification procedure, prompting creation of an autonomous CIMA certification committee elected by CIMA holders that oversees the certification process.

“In the future, credentialing organizations that are not transparent, objective, impartial and fair—and accountable through accreditation by a third party—will fall short,” Walters said in IMCA’s prepared statement about the ANSI accreditation.

Walters reported in the interview that membership in IMCA has grown 4% over the past three years, while Granzow (left) said that more than half of ICA’s membership comes from the wirehouses, 30% from the various independent channels, including RIAs, independent BDs and dually registered advisors—a channel from which much of IMCA's growth has emanated—and 7% from banks, regional BDs and other firms like asset managers and insurance companies.