APMA Designation

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

The accredited portfolio management advisor (APMA) is a prestigious professional designation in the investment portfolio management industry that’s often used as a benchmark for measuring competence and integrity.

This comprehensive APMA designation guide will cover what the APMA certification process entails, including an overview of the curriculum, the examination process, and the career paths it can unlock. It’ll also help you determine if the APMA program is right for you based on your interests, professional goals, and the financial planning industry’s demands.

Understanding the APMA Designation

The APMA designation signifies advanced expertise and mastery within the areas of financial planning and investment strategy. Obtaining it demonstrates an extensive knowledge of the key elements of portfolio management, including asset allocation, risk management, diversification strategies, and performance measurements.

Additionally, experienced professionals created this certification as an exhaustive approach to learning about finance. It combines book learning with real-world practice, ensuring those who obtain it can handle the different challenges they may face in the complex world of investments.

Finally, clients often prefer APMA professionals because government-authorized organizations like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversee them. This official oversight adds an additional level of security and peace of mind.

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A Closer Look at the Curriculum

Some of the core topics covered in the APMA designation’s curriculum include:

  • Portfolio Theory and Construction: This foundational topic explores the principles underlying the creation and management of investment portfolios. It touches on how various assets interact with one another and the ways to optimize a portfolio to achieve specific investor goals
  • Asset Allocation: Asset allocation is crucial in determining a portfolio’s risk and return characteristics. The APMA curriculum imparts strategies on how to efficiently distribute investments across various asset classes (e.g., equities, bonds, and alternative assets) in order to align with an investor’s objectives and risk tolerance
  • Investment Analysis: This topic equips professionals with the tools they need to scrutinize different investment vehicles critically. Whether it’s understanding a company’s financial statements or analyzing market trends, investment analysis plays a pivotal role in making informed decisions
  • Diversification Strategies: A cornerstone of investment management, diversification involves spreading investments around to reduce risk. The APMA curriculum delves into the nuances of diversification, teaching professionals how to mitigate specific risks while aiming for portfolio growth
  • Risk Management: Investments always come with a certain degree of risk. The APMA curriculum offers insights on how to identify, assess, and manage this investment risk, ensuring investment strategies are robust and resilient against market volatility
  • Behavioral Finance: Delving into the psychology of investing, this topic sheds light on the emotional and cognitive factors that influence investors’ decisions. Understanding these factors enables APMA professionals to better guide their clients, ensuring they base decisions on logic instead of emotions
  • Performance Measurement: It’s vital for investors to assess the performance of their portfolios against benchmarks or standards. The APMA curriculum equips a financial professional with the methodologies they’ll need to accurately track and report the performance of their portfolios, providing clarity and insight to their clients
  • Current Trends and Innovations: The APMA curriculum also ensures professionals stay informed about the latest trends, innovations, and disruptions in the investment landscape, allowing them to navigate and adapt to changing market dynamics

All in all, the APMA designation is a fantastic way to demonstrate your commitment to rigorous training as well as your dedication to serving clients with the highest standards of portfolio management expertise.

How to Become an APMA

To obtain — and maintain — the APMA designation, you’ll need to meet certain examination, experience, and continuing education requirements. Below, you’ll find the key prerequisites you must fulfill in each area.

Examination Requirements

The APMA examination process assesses candidates’ in-depth understanding of portfolio management and investment strategy across two levels:

  • Level I: This foundational exam covers essential elements of portfolio management, testing each candidate’s grasp of topics such as asset allocation, diversification, investment analysis, modern portfolio theory, and diversification across 180 multiple-choice questions
  • Level II: This advanced exam dives further into the complexities of portfolio management, exploring topics like performance measurement, portfolio adjustments in dynamic market conditions, and advanced investment strategies over 120 multiple-choice questions and two case studies designed to test candidates’ analytical skills

Experience Requirements

Beyond the examination component, APMA candidates also must meet the following experience prerequisites:

  • Work Experience: Candidates seeking the APMA designation should possess a minimum of two years of professional work experience in financial planning, investment advisory services, or a closely related field. This requirement ensures APMA designees combine academic rigor with hands-on industry experience
  • Ethical Conduct: All APMA candidates and designees must adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct established by the College for Financial Planning. This ensures APMA professionals maintain the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in their career

Post-Qualification Requirements

After meeting both the examination and experience benchmarks, APMA professionals must take some additional steps to ensure continued proficiency and association with the APMA community. These include:

  • Membership: After individuals earn the APMA designation, the College for Financial Planning encourages them to join affiliated financial planning and investment organizations. This membership not only solidifies their status as APMA designees, but also opens doors to ongoing learning resources, networking forums, and industry seminars
  • Continuing Education: The investment landscape evolves continuously. To ensure APMA professionals remain at the forefront of industry developments, they must engage in regular continuing education sessions as well as periodically reaffirm their commitment to the established Code of Ethics

Despite all of these requirements, you can boost your chances of earning the APMA designation by leveraging the right educational resources. Online courses are a great way to do this because they offer a flexible and targeted approach tailored to all candidates.

Ready to get started? StateRequirement recommends having a look at Kaplan’s study materials and resources.

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Is the APMA Designation Right for You?

Determining if the APMA designation is right for you hinges on a variety of factors, including your career aspirations, present role, and the amount of time and effort you’re willing to commit.

If your goal is a specialized position in portfolio management or investment advisory, the APMA designation can be a valuable asset. It’s especially relevant if you seek roles that require a deep understanding of asset allocation, risk management, and investment strategy.

Conversely, if your focus moves from portfolio management — perhaps toward domains like retail banking, insurance, or broad-based financial consulting — the APMA designation might not offer as direct a benefit.

Moreover, the value of this designation can vary based on regional market dynamics. In areas where portfolio management and personalized investment advice aren’t as prevalent, for instance, the APMA certification might not carry the same weight.

If you already possess similar or overlapping financial credentials, you also should consider how the APMA designation would further distinguish you. It’s essential to assess your long-term career objectives and trajectory when deciding if the APMA designation aligns with your professional journey.

Ready to get started? StateRequirement recommends having a look at Kaplan’s study materials and resources.

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APMA Designation FAQ

What is the difference between APMA and CFP?

The APMA designation emphasizes specialized proficiency in investment portfolio management, covering topics like pooled investments investing, fixed income features debt and the regulatory environment ethical considerations financial professionals must be aware of. In contrast, the certified financial planner (CFP) designation covers comprehensive financial planning topics, such as insurance, estate planning, and taxation.

How long does it take to get the APMA designation?

Pursuing the APMA designation typically requires several months to a year. This includes the time needed to complete the prescribed course of study as well as prepare for and take the associated exam.

What are the prerequisites for the APMA designation?

To attain the APMA designation, candidates must first undertake a designated course of study. This course delves into topic areas like asset allocation decisions, fixed income valuation and analysis, mutual funds, and analyzing investment policy statements. Following this, they must pass the APMA exam.

What is the best qualification for a financial advisor?

The optimal qualification for a financial advisor depends on their focus. The CFP designation is globally recognized for professionals who provide broad financial planning services. Meanwhile, the APMA designation is ideal for financial advisors who specialize in portfolio management. See our How to Become a Wealth Manager article to learn why your professional goals and area(s) of specialization matter when choosing a qualification.

What is the easiest financial license to get?

Among the available financial licenses, many regard the securities-focused Series 63 license as the easiest to obtain. However, selecting the “easiest” license can be subjective as some candidates might find other licenses easier to get because the content aligns better with their prior knowledge and experience.

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For all related articles, have a look at our Financial Advisor Resources page.