Risk management, alts among increased focus of IMCA exams

New curricula enhance coverage of risk management, alternative investments, behavioral finance and fiduciary responsibilities

By Dan Jamieson

Jul 24, 2013 @ 12:37 pm (Updated 3:23 pm) EST

The Investment Management Consultants Association plans to update its exams and educational programs to enhance coverage of risk management, alternative investments, behavioral finance and fiduciary responsibilities.

The organization, which administers the certified investment management analyst certification program, said yesterday that the changes are based on a job-analysis survey of more than 750 retail and institutional advisers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, completed in the second quarter.

A revised qualification exam will be used starting Jan. 1, and a revised certification exam will be delivered May 1.

CIMA candidates qualify for the organization's educational program by first passing the qualification exam. After finishing the coursework, they take the certification exam.

“It's a major change since the last time in 2007 when we did a major job analysis,” IMCA executive director Sean Walters said. “In the financial adviser world, pre-apocalypse, that's pre-history,” he said.

The overall CIMA certification process won't change, and Mr. Walters expects pass rates to remain the same for both exams.

Regarding the increased emphasis on risk management, “it's really about understanding how to protect a portfolio,” Mr. Walters said.

Alternative investments are a part of risk management “and the topics there are much more robust,” he added.

Behavioral finance has always been a basic requirement in IMCA's training, but CIMA practitioners clearly wanted more depth on that topic, Mr. Walters said.

“I was surprised [that] all the behavioral finance theories got scored fairly high” in the job analysis, he said. Understanding behavioral concepts “helps advisers close that [expectations] gap” with clients.

And as the fiduciary debate has taken center stage, advisers want more training on their specific roles with different clients, Mr. Walters said.

“The adviser has to understand [his or her] relationship under trust [law], ERISA, the '40 [Investment Advisers] Act — all of it,” he said.

The content changes do not affect current CIMA professionals, other than expanding on some topics accepted for continuing-education credit.

IMCA has 6,500 CIMA licensees.