Emily Bratcher is a contributing editor at Associations Now.
With new courses and exams, one association is helping its international members boost professionalism and increase their industry's credibility around the world.
GAMA International has offered professional development courses to its overseas members for several decades. Now, for the first time, its members—leaders in the insurance, investment, and financial services industry—will be able to put their coursework toward earning credentials.
The association’s international members had been asking for help in professionalizing and lending credibility to the industry abroad, says CEO Bonnie Godsman. One way to do that is “to have an examination or test that would allow them to have letters after their name,” she says.
GAMA International isn’t accredited as an academic institution, so it couldn’t award credentials on its own. Instead, it went looking for the right partner. The search led to the American College of Financial Services, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit educational institution that prepares students for careers in finance. As it turned out, the American College didn’t have an international presence but wanted one. “It just made a natural synergy for us to partner together,” Godsman says.
The two organizations are now working together to create two new credentials—the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) and the Wealth Management Certified Professional (WMCP), which will become available in early 2018. To develop the courses and exams, they are relying on their existing content, while also leveraging the expertise of GAMA International’s chapters and members.
“We’ve gone out to them for feedback, saying, ‘Here’s the curriculum we’re thinking of building,’ or ‘Here’s the content. What’s relevant and what’s not?’” Godsman says. “It’s actually helped the association to strengthen the relationships that we’ve had with our chapters in some of the local countries—and of course our members. … It’s really been a community effort.”
These local insights are critical to the success of the credentials, which will be offered worldwide, because tax codes and other regulations vary in different countries. GAMA International is also translating its courses and exams into several languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish, to reach members in places where membership is the highest, such as Hong Kong and Mexico.
“We want to make sure that people are going to financial advisors and that there’s credibility behind that,” Godsman says. “A designation would say that they passed a certain number of courses, they passed an exam, and they meet the global standards for the profession.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Credentials for Credibility."]