If you’re considering pursuing a professional designation in the increasingly globalized financial services industry, you’d be wise to consider one that’s recognized internationally, according to Ernest Biktimirov, associate professor of finance at Brock University’s faculty of business.

Working abroad or serving clients who live abroad is a reality for a growing number of financial advisors. In such cases, having a designation that’s recognized in other countries can help you make an impression on employers, clients and regulators.

“It can broaden your career opportunities,” says Biktimirov.

“Because of globalization, the opportunities to work in other countries have increased,” he continues. “Employers are looking for people who have internationally recognized designations.”

Many Canadian designations, Biktimirov points out, are unknown outside of the country.

“You can have many designations in Canada,” Biktimirov says, “but as soon as you go outside of Canada, they almost become worthless, because they’re not recognized.”

> Consider a designation that’s directly transferable
In a recent report on professional designations, Biktimirov points out, only six financial designations are directly transferable to any country in the world. They are the chartered financial analyst, the certified treasury professional, the financial risk manager, the professional risk manager, the chartered alternative investment analyst and the energy risk professional.

“They’re directly transferable, and also recognizable,” he says. “If you go to another country, there is no cross-border certification process. There are no rules regarding restrictive use [of these designations].”

Other designations may be known internationally, but cannot be directly transferred. The certified financial planner designation, for example, exists in many countries around the world. But individuals must undergo a certification process in each country in which they wish to use it.

Many CFP affiliates have reciprocity agreements, which exempt CFP professionals from having to re-take the core curriculum education when moving to another affiliate jurisdiction. But candidates must meet other requirements, including successfully completing exams that are specific to each jurisdiction to ensure competence related to the tax laws, regulatory environment and other aspects of the jurisdiction.

If you don’t go through the cross-border certification process in another country, you’ll face restrictions in citing the designation when prospecting clients in that country.

> Compare curriculums
Of the financial designations that are transferable internationally, Biktimirov considers the CFA and CAIA most useful for financial advisors.

The CFA covers the most comprehensive body of knowledge of all the designations, covering equity analysis, portfolio management and aspects of statistics, economics and accounting. Because it’s the oldest and most well-known of the six designations, Biktimirov says, it’s most likely to impress clients.

“It will give higher credibility, compared to others,” he says. “It’s the most recognized by potential clients.”

The CAIA curriculum is narrower, covering alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities and futures. Biktimirov considers this designation most appropriate for advisors who work with high net-worth clients, who have enough assets to invest in these types of investments.

“It will give you expertise in … the type of investments where wealthy individuals may be interested in investing, because they’re not just interested in mutual funds or individual stocks.”

> Consider the time commitment
Before committing to a designation, make sure your schedule will be able to accommodate the heavy workload that most involve. Preparing for each of the three CFA exams, for example, takes an estimated 250 hours of study time.

“It’s a big commitment,” says Biktimirov, “but at the same time, it’s worth it.”