Wealth Management Specialist

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Wealth Management Specialist

The Wealth Management Specialist (WMS) designation is a self-study course and exam offered by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP) for new financial advisors as an introduction into the fundamental concepts of wealth management.

This article will explore the WMS designation’s well-rounded curriculum and benefits as well as why it’s so sought after in the field of wealth management. It’ll also help you determine if it’s the right choice for you given your current position and professional aspirations.

What is a Wealth Management Specialist

Wealth management specialists are a subset of financial advisors with the expertise necessary to offer comprehensive financial services geared toward affluent clients. This goes beyond basic personal financial planning advice to include additional services, such as tax and estate management.

Typically, wealth management specialists have the required skills to address a variety of the specific financial issues that individuals with significant assets might face. These issues can range from tax obligations and retirement planning to organizing wealth transfers among family members.

This makes the WMS qualification a natural next step for current financial advisors looking to broaden their service offerings. This professional credential also can suit those with a strong background in finance who aim to work with high-net-worth individuals.

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Becoming a Wealth Management Specialist

There are no qualification or training prerequisites required in order to pursue the WMS designation. However, you’ll need to take several steps to obtain it, as outlined below.

Enrollment and Course Structure

The first step is to enroll in the WMS designation program. Because it’s a self-study program, you can follow the curriculum at a pace that fits your own schedule before you take the final exam.

The WMS designation has a very broad curriculum that covers the most critical concepts of wealth management. Some of its core topics include:

  • Fundamental considerations in the wealth management process
  • Measurement of risk and return
  • Time value of money principles
  • Investment strategies
  • The asset allocation process
  • Insurance products in wealth management
  • Tax implications and strategies in the financial planning process

Note: When you enroll in this course, you’ll also have the option to enroll in the CFFP’s Financial Advising Accelerator Certificate course at a discounted price.

The Exam

The three-hour WMS exam will test your knowledge across all facets of wealth management, and you’ll need a minimum score of 70% in order to pass. This makes it crucial to prepare well in advance and take advantage of high-quality study materials.

The exam includes 60 items that range from multiple-choice questions to case studies and essays, evaluating your ability to apply theoretical knowledge in practical, real-world scenarios.

Note: You may make two attempts to obtain the 70% minimum passing grade, after which you must re-enroll in the course.

Cost and Financial Commitments

The initial enrollment fee for the CFFP’s WMS designation program is $1,375, which often includes study materials, access to lectures, and the examination fee. You also should budget for additional costs, such as any supplemental study materials you want to use to help improve your chances of success.

Importantly, some organizations also offer scholarships or discounts — particularly for those already employed in the financial services industry.

Continuing Education and Renewal

After you obtain the WMS certification, you must maintain it by completing continuing education courses every two years and paying a renewal fee. This ongoing education ensures you keep up with the latest trends, laws, and strategies in the evolving field of wealth management and finance.

All in all, becoming a WMS involves a dedicated journey that offers significant rewards — both in terms of career advancement and the deep satisfaction that comes from helping clients navigate complex financial landscapes.

Ready to get started? StateRequirement recommends Kaplan’s study materials and resources.

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Is the WMS Designation Right for You?

Deciding if the WMS designation is the right fit for your career goals and current professional standing requires careful consideration. This next credential isn’t a one-size-fits-all certification so it’s important to understand both its advantages and limitations.

Below, you’ll find an overview of the key factors to consider.

Who Can Benefit?

  • Mid-Career Financial Professionals: If you’ve been in the finance industry for a while and want to specialize further, the WMS designation can provide a comprehensive understanding of wealth management topics like estate planning, risk management, and taxation
  • Portfolio Managers: The WMS designation can help you diversify your skill set if you already manage investment portfolios, but want to offer more holistic services to your clients
  • Career Changers: If you’re switching from a related field like law, accounting, or real estate and already possess fundamental financial knowledge, the WMS designation may offer the specialized skills you need to transition successfully into wealth management

Who May Not Benefit?

  • Beginners: If you’re just starting out in the financial industry, you might find the WMS designation too specialized. Basic certifications or degrees in finance or financial planning may provide a more appropriate starting point
  • Niche Practitioners: If you focus solely on areas like taxation or estate planning, the WMS designation’s broad curriculum may offer more than you need. Specialized professional designation programs in your chosen field may prove more beneficial
  • Cost-Sensitive Individuals: The financial commitment required to obtain the WMS certification can be substantial. If you’re budget-conscious, this might not be the right time to invest in this designation

If you’re more interested in a generalized financial planning role, you may want to consider professional designations like the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional (FPQP) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. Similarly, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification could offer a better match if you want to focus primarily on investment.

While the WMS designation makes an excellent choice for financial professionals aiming to specialize in the field of wealth management, it’s not suitable for everyone.

Ready to get started? StateRequirement recommends Kaplan’s study materials and resources.

4.7 out of 5 starsKaplan Financial

Wealth Management Specialist FAQ

What is a wealth management specialist?

A wealth management specialist (WMS) is a financial professional with specialized training in wealth management. They hold the WMS designation to demonstrate their expertise in comprehensive financial planning, including estate planning, investment strategies, and tax considerations. Interested in the WMS designation? Check out our Wealth Management Specialist Salary article to learn about the earning potential of these professionals.

What does a wealth manager do?

A wealth manager provides comprehensive financial services to wealthy clients, which may include investment advice, estate planning, risk management, and tax optimization. Their goal is to grow and preserve wealth by crafting personalized strategies that address the unique financial circumstances and objectives of each client. For more information, see our How to Become a Wealth Manager article.

What is the difference between a wealth manager and a financial advisor?

Wealth managers are a subset of financial advisors who focus specifically on serving high-net-worth individuals with complex financial needs. While financial advisors offer general advice on budgeting, saving, and investing, wealth managers provide more specialized services that include estate planning, tax strategies, and risk management.

How long does it take to earn the WMS designation?

The time required to earn the Wealth Management Specialist (WMS) designation varies, depending on the individual needs. However, the program is typically designed to be completed within six months to a year.

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