What Is Certified Trust and Financial Advisor?

The Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) is a professional designation offered by the American Bankers Association (ABA), which provides training and knowledge in taxes, investments, financial planning, trusts, and estates. The CTFA credential is appropriate for professionals who have a career in banking, brokering, financial planning, taxation, or trust administration.

Key Takeaways

  • The Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) is one of several professional designations offered by the American Bankers Association (ABA).
  • The CTFA designation is intended to assess and certify a financial professional's knowledge and ability in the field of trusts and financial advice, broadly construed.
  • Applicants must meet minimum work experience requirements in the financial industry and pass a rigorous examination. CTFAs must complete regular continuing education requirements.

Understanding Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA)

The CTFA certification demonstrates your expertise in the trust and financial and advising profession. To receive the Certified Trust and Financial Advisor designation, candidates must have a minimum level of wealth management work experience and approved training programs. Applicants are also required to pass an examination successfully. Continuing education is needed to maintain the CTFA designation.

According to the ABA website, wealth management experience is defined as client interaction, whether direct or indirect, in the furtherance of delivering fiduciary services relating to trusts, estates, IRAs, qualified retirement plans, custody and individual asset management accounts. This experience may also include providing specialty services and solutions in one or more administrative, investment management, tax, legal, financial, and estate planning services and solutions. It is recognized that these services can be delivered in an integrated or specialty-focused manner. Please note that experience in employee benefit trust, corporate trust or securities/trust operations, and regulatory compliance does not qualify as wealth management experience.

Certified Trust and Financial Advisor Requirements

Applicants must have three years of experience in wealth management and meet one of the following training options:

  • Hold foundation, intermediate and advanced ABA Trust Certificates. These can be earned online at an ABA Trust School, at an ABA-led in-bank Trust School or a combination of both. If applicants complete all three certificates online, the ABA’s CTFA Exam Online Prep course is also required.
  • Completed Cannon Financial Institutes Trust School’s Level I, Level II and Level III courses.
  • Completed Campbell University’s Trust and Investment Management Degree.

Or have:

  • Five years of wealth management experience and hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • 10 or more years of wealth management experience.

The ABA defines professional wealth management experience as providing client advice relating to trusts, estates, IRAs, qualified retirement plans, custody, and individual asset management accounts. Providing specialty services in administration, investment management, tax, legal, finance, and estate planning is also considered professional wealth management experience by the ABA.

In addition to satisfying these requirements, applicants are required to sign the ABA Professional Certifications’ Code of Ethics statement.

Certified Trust and Financial Advisor Exam

Applicants must purchase the exam, which is $725. Retakes of the exam cost $425. The exam has a duration of four hours and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. Areas of knowledge tested include fiduciary and trust activities, financial planning, taxation law and planning, investment management and ethics. The exam also tests applicants' ability to apply their knowledge to practical examples. Applicants are not permitted to use a calculator or any mobile device during the exam.

Certified Trust and Financial Advisor Renewal

To maintain the CTFA designation, holders must complete 45 CE credits every three years, adhere to the ABA Professional Certifications' Code of Ethics and pay an annual renewal fee of $249. Individuals who hold two or more ABA certifications receive a renewal discount.