Which adviser designations yield the highest pay?

Advisers with this credential made 20+% more last year than those without it, InvestmentNews survey shows

Sep 8, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

By Liz Skinner

The extra sweat it takes to earn a chartered financial analyst credential apparently pays off for financial advisers in terms of added compensation.

Lead financial advisers who have attained a CFA designation earned on average a median $147,743 in base salary and $30,000 in incentive-based compensation last year, 24% more than the total compensation for those with the certified financial planner mark and 23% more than advisers who also are certified public accountants, according to the 2015 InvestmentNews/Moss Adams Adviser Compensation and Staffing Study released Sept. 7. Lead advisers do not include firm owners or partners.

Those lead advisers with the CFP mark earned a median $115,000 last year, plus $27,750 in bonuses. Those with a CPA earned $112,250 and a median $32,330 in incentive-based comp, the survey of advisers found.

Lead advisers who have passed the Series 7 examination made about $102,000 in median salary and $20,500 in bonus, the survey of about 350 financial advisers found.

(More: Independent adviser growth slowing)

The quantity of designations doesn't appear to move the needle like the type of designation does.

With a single designation, lead advisers earned a median $115,000 in salary, while those with two designations earned $105,824, according to the survey, taken April through June 2015. Both categories earned $25,000 to $28,000 a year in bonuses. However, those with no designations earned an average $100,000 base salary and $20,000 bonus.

The CFP mark was the most popular for lead advisers, with 52% having this certification, compared to 11% for CPAs and 10% for CFAs.

About 44% of service advisers, a lower-level staffer, had CFP designations, while about 58% of practicing partners have CFPs.

Lead adviser pay
Source: InvestmentNews Data

(More: The makeup of independent advisory firms has fundamentally changed)

Of chief investment officers, the second-highest paid salary position in the InvestmentNews report, 43% are CFAs, 37% are CFPs and 12% are CPAs. Their median salary in 2014 was $200,000, while the median chief executive officer salary was $220,000 last year, according to the survey.

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