What Is a Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)?

A certified fund specialist (CFS) has received a certification from the Institute of Business and Finance (IBF) for their expertise in mutual funds and the mutual fund industry. Requirements for the designation, including passing the certified fund specialist exam. The certified fund specialist exam is one of the oldest certification designations in the mutual fund industry. 

Key Takeaways

  • A certified fund specialist is a financial industry professional certified in providing mutual funds assistance.
  • In order to become a certified fund specialist, a certificate must be acquired from the Institute of Business and Finance (IBF).
  • Certified fund specialists can be accountants, bankers, brokers, money managers, personal financial advisors, and other professionals within the financial industry.
  • In addition to holding a certificate, certified fund specialists must fulfill 30 hours of education every two years.
  • Before taking the exam, a prospective CFS must have a bachelor’s degree or 2,000 hours of work experience in the financial services industry and have completed the IBF self-study program consisting of six modules. 

Understanding Certified Fund Specialist

Certified fund specialists receive training for the exam from IBF, which is the creator and issuer of the CFS designation. IBF was founded in 1988 and developed the CFS designation in that same year. The CFS allows professionals, such as brokers, money managers, and accountants, to offer contemporary investing advice on mutual funds.

IBF also offers other industry certifications, including those in the following areas: certified annuity specialist, certified estate and trust specialist, certified tax specialist, certified income specialist, Social Security and Medicare certification, alternative investment certification, divorce certification, and a Master of Science in financial services.

Certified financial specialist certifications are typically obtained by individuals who work in the financial industry, such as personal financial advisors, accountants, bankers, brokers, money managers, and certified financial planners

Obtaining a certified fund specialist certificate can set analysts apart by giving them an additional certification to show added expertise.

Certified Fund Specialist vs. Series 6

The CFS certification provides financial service professionals with the additional expertise needed for advising clients as to which mutual funds best suit their particular needs. The designation does not license individuals to buy or sell mutual funds. The Series 6 license is a different licensing aspect that many certified fund specialists do have and use in their daily business dealings. Series 6 allows professions to buy and sell the funds for their clients and is helpful to have in the financial industry

Requirements for the Certified Fund Specialist

The CFS exam is designed to provide specialists with current market information on mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), real estate investment trusts (REITs), closed-end funds, and other similar investment offerings. It also includes material on advanced fund analysis and fund selection, asset allocation, portfolio construction, risk management, taxes, and estate planning.

Individuals must have a bachelor's degree or 2,000 hours of financial services work experience prior to taking the exam. A six-module self-study program provided by IBF is also a prerequisite. IBF estimates individuals can complete the certification in approximately 15 weeks, although they are given one year to complete the course once enrolled in the program. The CFS certification requires three proctored, online exams and a case study for completion.

The certification can be obtained from IBF for $1,365. The total cost includes registration, tuition, textbooks, review questions, practice exams, reference sheets, shipping, the final exams, case study, and a diploma.

Certified fund specialists must also fulfill continuing education requirements. Continuing education is also presented by IBF, which seeks to offer professionals an edge in awareness of contemporary investing tools and market practices. In order to keep up with the requirements, certified fund specialists must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years.