What Is a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA)?

The Certified Trust and Fiduciary 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. Previously called the Certified Trust and Financial Advisor certification, the ABA replaced "Financial" in the title with the word "Fiduciary" in 2020.

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 Fiduciary 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 also complete regular continuing education (CE) requirements.

Understanding a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA)

The CTFA certification demonstrates expertise in the trust and financial advising profession. To receive the designation, candidates must have a minimum level of wealth management work experience, complete approved training programs, and pass an examination. Continuing education (CE) is also needed to maintain the CTFA designation.

The ABA defines professional wealth management experience as providing client advice, either directly or indirectly, relating to trusts, estates, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other 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 banking trade association, as is fiduciary regulatory oversight with a state or federal regulatory agency and fiduciary compliance or risk management activities. The ABA adds that these services can be delivered in "an integrated or specialty-focused manner."

Experience in employee benefit trust, corporate trust, or securities/trust operations does not qualify as wealth management experience, according to the ABA.

Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) Requirements

Applicants must have three years of experience in wealth management and have completed an accredited training program in the last seven years, including one of the following:

  • 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 Institute 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 accumulated within the past seven years and a bachelor’s degree.
  • Ten or more years of wealth management experience, at least five of which must have been obtained in the past seven years.

In addition to satisfying these requirements, applicants are required to sign the ABA professional certifications’ code of ethics statement.

Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) Exam

Applicants must pay $750 to take the exam or $450 for retakes.

The exam has a maximum 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 Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) 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 $275. Individuals who hold two or more ABA certifications receive a renewal discount.