Which adviser designations yield the highest pay?

Advisers with this credential made 20+% more last year than those without it, arjuna-design 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 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: arjuna-design Data

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

Of chief investment officers, the second-highest paid salary position in the arjuna-design 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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