Why Credentials Matter

L to R: Sean Campbell, CFP®, CDC®;  Larissa Grantham, CFP®, CDFA®; Brian Poe, CFP®, ChFP®, AEP®;  Ryan Munroe, CFP®, CDC®, CIMA®; Liz Shabaker, CFP®, CDC®

By Lisa Greve


Professional credentials are meaningful in today’s knowledge economy. Not because adding letters after your name looks important, but because credentials represent the attainment of knowledge and are an indication of commitment to professional excellence. You can’t peer into someone’s head to see how much they know, so credentials help us understand their range of abilities. Credentials show someone’s human capital — a record of their skills, expertise, and experience.

Many people think all financial planners are “certified,” but that’s not the case. Anyone can say they’re a financial planner. Only people who have completed the certification requirements of the CFP Board can use the CFP® trademark. Every one of Versant Capital Management’s advisors (wealth counselors) has the CFP® credential. It signifies a high level of competency, ethical behavior, and professionalism. CFPs are held to a fiduciary standard of care, so they are required to always act in a client’s best interest.

For these reasons, the CFP® designation is generally considered the “gold standard” of financial planning certifications and is required to be even considered for a planner position at Versant Capital Management. Once a financial planner has the CFP®, there are other designations to pursue that are aligned with a firm’s specific client base. At Versant, we primarily serve individuals, multi-generational families, and those going through life transitions such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, death of a spouse (often women), or selling a business. Versant’s advisors continue to be educated in multiple areas of study to ensure that we are meeting our client’s needs.

Several of our advisors have recently completed coursework and received new designations in fields of concentration pertinent to our clients. They range from helping people facing the financial logistics of divorce, guiding families with loved ones who have dementia, Alzheimer’s or other related disorders, navigating multi-disciplinary aspects of estate planning, and approaches to investment and portfolio construction.


CDFA®Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®

Larissa Grantham, CFP®, CDFA®, senior wealth counselor, has earned the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) designation from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA). The IDFA prepares financial advisors to become experts on the financial aspects of divorce. For many people, divorce is the largest financial transaction of their lives. A CDFA professional can address the particular financial issues of divorce with data to help achieve equitable settlements. With her CDFA® credential, Larissa can provide litigation support for both the lawyer and client.

“Lawyers often see the benefit of bringing a financial expert into the divorce process at the very start. If a couple cannot solve their financial difficulties while the marriage was underway, it is unlikely that they will be able to agree on pressing financial issues when it has fallen apart,” Larissa said. “Solid information and expert analysis are important resources to achieve the best possible resolutions for our clients.”


CDC® – Dementia Care Certified®

Versant’s CEO Liz Shabaker, CFP®, CDC®; Sean Campbell, CFP®, CDC®, senior wealth counselor; and Ryan Munroe, CFP®, CIMA®, CDC®, senior client associate, have all earned the CDC® (Dementia Care Certified) designation from Dementia Care Education, a recognized provider of dementia education, training, and clinical trials recruitment. Their programs are specifically designed to meet the educational needs of professionals who work with people who have Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

This education has prepared Liz, Sean, and Ryan to be proactive in recognizing the early signs of dementia in clients, sometimes before their own families. They can assist their clients by providing specially-tailored financial advice before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and after. While some financial planners don’t understand the complications of elderly clients, Liz, Sean, and Ryan find working with seniors satisfying. “As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of people with Alzheimer’s and related disorders will increase. Getting a financial team ready is as important as a medical one,” Liz says.


AEP® – Accredited Estate Planner®

Brian Poe, CFP®, ChFP®, AEP®, wealth counselor, is newly certified as an Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) designee by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC). The AEP® designation is a multi-disciplinary specialization in estate planning, obtained in addition to already recognized professional credentials within the various disciplines of estate planning. Brian explains, “From foundational estate planning basics to intricate planning issues — such as complex assets, complicated family situations, or other unique circumstances — my AEP education helps me to prepare our clients for countless life scenarios.”


CIMA® – Certified Investment Management Analyst®

Ryan Munroe, CFP®, CDC®, CIMA®, senior client associate, has received the CIMA® certification through a technical portfolio construction program for investment analysts, financial advisors, and wealth managers. The education emphasizes the combination of theory and practical application. Ryan says, “the CIMA® program provided practical knowledge that goes beyond the fundamentals, with deep dives into advanced portfolio management, portfolio constructions, and risk management techniques.”

Credentials provide concrete evidence that an advisor is knowledgeable and experienced in specific disciplines, and usually require rigorous study, experience, and high ethical standards. Our clients are best served when a recommended strategy is tailored to their specific wants and needs. Ensuring that we stay educated in those strategic areas is key to helping them achieve their goals.



Lisa Greve is the marketing and administrative manager at Versant Capital Management, a wealth management and investment firm located in Phoenix, AZ, serving high net worth individuals and their families since 2004.


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