Certifications: Why Do You Need One?

Financial professionals help clients with various aspects of their financial life, from investments to budgeting to retirement planning and beyond. 

How can one best help their clients without the most up-to-date and advanced knowledge? Professional certifications are key to furthering your career and ensuring you are offering your clients advice during the planning process. 

Of course, continuing education and certification programs are a big time investment, both financially and time-wise. However, these certifications help recognize your specialized knowledge or specialized skill set – which can benefit both your own career and help you with planning for your client’s future. Let’s dive into why certifications can be beneficial to your career and your clients and learn more about the many different types of financial certifications out there. 

benefits of certifications

Why are certifications beneficial? 

Certifications are a key cornerstone to your career as a financial advisor. Certifications can also help you position yourself within a niche. Being known in a niche market can allow for a steady referral stream and recognition as a thought leader. 

1. Competitive advantage 

When you have certifications and training that your competitors don’t have, it sets you apart. Certifications help distinguish you from your fellow colleagues, proving you have demonstrated commitment to excellence in your field. Introducing your clients to competitive products, strategies or technology can help account for a stronger referral base. 

2. Improve productivity 

Advanced training and more knowledge can help guide and direct you in your work – saving you time and effort. With more training, you can manage all aspects of your work more effectively and be more productive. 

3. Maximize your potential income 

It’s simple: clients want to work with established professionals in their field, and CFPs are often seen as specialists, and knowledgeable in their industry – and therefore, worth the added price.

financial advisors certifications

Different Types of Financial Advisors Certifications 

Certifications come in all shapes and sizes from a variety of professional organizations. You can receive one of these licenses from professional organizations like the Financial Planning Association, the American College of Financial Services, the American Academy of Financial Management, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, among others. Let’s dive into the different types of financial advisor certifications. 

1. CFP: Certified Financial Planner 

What is CFP? A CFP stands for a certified financial planner or someone who is trained to take a holistic, all-encompassing approach to financial planning for their clients. CFPs help their clients with budgeting, retirement planning, estate planning, and more. CFPs are certified financial planner fiduciaries and must work in their client’s best interests. 

If you’re wondering how to get the CFP credentials, know it can be a big commitment. CFPs must take multiple classes, pass a notoriously difficult exam and accrue years of experience before they receive this certification. 

2. ChFC: Chartered Financial Consultant 

A chartered financial consultant (ChFC) works with personal financial management, retirement planning, tax issues, estate planning, and life insurance. However, this certification is slightly more in-depth than the CFP and requires more coursework. However, unlike a CFP, this certification requires a test after every section instead of one large exam. Like a CFP, ChFCs are required to act as fiduciaries. 

3. RIA: Registered Investment Advisor 

A registered investment advisor is a certification for a company, not a financial advisor. RIAs must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state regulatory agency. Again, RIAs must act as fiduciaries. 

4. IAR: Investment Adviser Representative 

Investment adviser representatives, or IARs, are financial professionals who work for an RIA. IARs are certified with Series 65 or Series 7 exams. They must also take Series 66 and/or Series 63, which is administered by the FINRA, which the federal government authorizes to oversee US broker-dealers. Most IARs will often have CFP or CFA certifications as well. 

The big draw for clients? IARs have a strong commitment to fiduciary responsibility and must disclose conflicts of interest. In addition, they must tell clients about more efficient products – even if it means smaller commissions.

5. FSCP: Financial Services Certified Professional 

An FSCP, or Financial Services Certified Professional, is a certification that offers financial professionals more knowledge in products, marketing skills, and planning skills. There is no educational prerequisite, but you must complete multiple courses and an exam to get the certification. The certification is issued by the American College of Financial Services. 

6. RICP: Retirement Income Certified Professional 

The retirement income certified professional, or RICP, gives financial advisors the training to help clients better plan for retirement. This means claiming Social Security, defining risk factors, and managing distributions from retirement plans. The program also helps advisors understand Medicare, life insurance management, long-term healthcare, and retirement tax issues, among others. 

RICP certifications are administered by the American College of Financial Services. Financial advisors, lawyers, accountants, and bankers seek out this certification to gain a better understanding of all factors that play a role in retirement planning. 

7. CPWA: Certified Private Wealth Advisor 

The certified private wealth advisor certification, or CPWA, is meant for wealth managers who work with affluent clients. Wealth management advisors work with specific portfolios of investment securities for their clients. They manage their client’s portfolios, but these financial advisors generally do not offer a big variety of advice. CPWAs do not normally, for example, offer financial advice for their entire financial life and instead work with investments. 

8. CLU: Chartered Life Underwriter 

A chartered life underwriter certification, or CLU, teaches financial advisors about life insurance planning. CLUs work as part of an estate planning team, most often for high-net-worth individuals with complex holdings. CLUs often deal with family businesses and asset structures, as well. This certification is administered by The American College of Financial Services. 

Key Takeaways 

Financial advisors can take their business – and their own skills – to the next level with specialized certification. Certifications help convey to future clients as well as current clients that you know what you’re doing. In fact, 84% of consumers who work with CFP-certified professionals say they are extremely or very satisfied — and 71% are more confident about their finances. Obtaining certification may not only help you with a more niche market but also help in delivering a better experience to your current clientele.





Tina Spenzos

Director, Practice Development

Tina brings to Empire Wealth Strategies her passion for helping financial professionals dream big and gain clarity on how they define success. She helps high-producing financial professionals and teams take their success to the next level by encouraging them to challenge the status quo. Just as important, Tina stays in the trenches with financial professionals as a strategic plan for achieving success is created and implemented. Financial professionals often share that having a coach who helps them never lose track of the end goal is what sets their experience with Tina apart.

Tina is an active member of Women In Financial Services (WIFS), as a founder and board member, for the New Jersey Chapter. She is a graduate of Lafayette College and holds an MBA from the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University.

Steffani Crawley

Director, Practice Development

Steffani has a 20+ year tenure serving professionals in the financial services industry. Many financial professionals find that to truly operate as a business they need a team around them. Steffani specializes in coaching teams through the crucial early team formation process, helping them capitalize on strengths, avoid common pitfalls, and maintain sales momentum. Financial professionals share that Steffani’s guidance was instrumental in them putting a solid foundation in place.

Steffani is a graduate of The University of Texas, a Registered Corporate CoachTM, Kolbe CertifiedTM Consultant, and DiSC Specialist.

Chelsie Hartline

Director, Practice Development

Chelsie has been working with professionals in the financial services industry for more than 15 years. She is passionate about helping financial professionals gain awareness about how their mindsets impact their communication, confidence, and productivity.

Chelsie uses an integrated approach between coaching, which focuses on growing the financial professional as a leader, and hands on consulting support to identify business needs and solutions. She provides financial professionals with tools and strategies to work through challenges, shift their thinking and create new insights so they can make extraordinary transformations in their businesses and lives. Financial professionals share that having Chelsie as a coach is inspiring, thought provoking, and opens the door to limitless potential.

Chelsie is a graduate of Iowa State University, holds her series 7 & 66 and is a DiSC Specialist.

Jen Viscosi

AVP, Practice Development

Jen has an extensive 20+ year tenure serving financial professionals. For the past 10 years she has focused on coaching and consulting, with an emphasis on helping financial professionals transition from salesperson to business owner.

Jen leads a team of credentialed business coaches who help financial professionals envision what they want to build and execute a strategic plan to achieve it. This team regularly coaches on topics such as practice management, client engagement, leadership & culture, and transition planning,

Jen is a graduate of The University of Iowa and earned her ACC coaching credentials from the International Coaching Federation.

Judith Maligno

Director of Operations

Judy started working in the life insurance industry in 2005, working at MetLife in the Back Office. She came to Penn Mutual in 2011 where her knowledge of Case Management was further solidified as she began to work more closely with financial professionals. As the agency grew and expanded, so did her work experience, initially working out of the Uniondale office, moving to the Hauppauge office, and then, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, now working from home.

Judy is in charge of educating newly-transitioned financial professionals on our underwriting process and ensuring they are equipped to successfully serve their clients’ needs. Judy’s customer-centric mindset helps to keep our financial professionals’ experience at the agency front and center.

When she is not working, she enjoys spending long hours in her backyard either digging in her garden or swimming in her pool, and always with family: either her husband, son, and daughter, or her two brothers and her sister. Her favorite pastime is riding around Long Island, where she has lived her whole life, and finding new places to explore and wander.

Simon Weinstock

Business Development Field Leader

Simon Weinstock joined Empire Wealth Strategies in 2018 as a Business Development Field Leader, bringing his invaluable life insurance industry experience. He has been part of the life insurance and financial planning industries since 2002. For the first three years of his career, Simon directly interacted with and sold insurance to small business owners and families.

Since 2005, Simon has built a longstanding career helping experienced life insurance agents build their firms, get new clients, build long-lasting business relationships, create long-term business success strategies, and more. He also mentors and guides new players in selling life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and annuities.

At EWS, Simon created his own team, The A1A team, of qualified and experienced brokers. He uses the invaluable resources EWS offers to its clients to help support brokers, life insurance professionals, and other clients qualified to join the A1A team.

Simon’s strength lies in his keen understanding of human emotions, problem-solving ability, meticulous approach, and indubitable passion for life insurance. He teaches brokers and insurance agents to understand the consumer and coaches them to keep a humane approach in their business vision and day-to-day approaches.

Despite being a mentor for other brokers, Simon has not forgotten his roots and what made him excel at his job. He remains engaged with consumers to maintain his field knowledge and better guide other insurance agents. Simon believes his passion for life insurance came from his parents, who were a part of this field. Today, his wife and two sisters are also in this industry.

When Simon is not occupied as a consummate professional at EWS, he likes spending time with his wife and kids and educating himself on new material focused on professional development. Simon also travels a lot since he has multiple offices spread across New Jersey and New York and enjoys meeting brokers in their offices - at their convenience.

Outside of work and family, Simon thoroughly enjoys winemaking and prepares yearly quantities of red wine for his family and friends. He relishes in the harvesting process as it is similar to mentoring brokers; it requires a keen eye, experience, attention to detail, and time to perfect the wine. Simon also occasionally prepares white wine and Concord grape juice.

Simon ventures to help people with chronic illnesses by guiding them toward the right medical professionals for their condition. He uses his insurance underwriting experience and connections in the medical field to provide people with the tools they need to make informed decisions for their health. Simon uses his unique underwriting and medical insurance knowledge and his industry expertise and ties to help people find the guidance they need when approaching medical professionals.

Jonathan Self

Managing Partner

Jonathan Self has been a part of the financial services industry for an extensive period of time. Ever since Jonathan could remember, he had always wanted to be involved in financial services. He credits this to his family roots and father’s involvement in the business 40+ years ago. Jonathan built a successful practice before transitioning into leadership. Jonathan’s experience building his practice allows him to truly understand what it takes to be a successful financial professional. He is a passionate advocate for the life insurance industry and currently holds his series 6, 7, 63, and 24. Jonathan is currently living in North Carolina with his wife and three daughters. They enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors skiing.

Karen Murray

VP of Operations

Karen is the VP of Operations at Empire Wealth Strategies, bringing years of experience in the industry as an Office Manager, Recruiting Coordinator and Administrative Assistant. She has extensive experience in issue resolution, process improvement, relationship building, and office administration. She is a NYS Certified Paralegal, Notary Public and holds the Customer Experience Essentials Certificate from LOMA.

When she’s not working, Karen enjoys spending time with her two grown children and her dog, Bailey.

Vanessa Vigilante

Field Administrative Associate

With more than 20 years of experience working in various industries as an Administrative Assistant, Vanessa has a strong ability to streamline processes, maximize efficiency, and foster professional relationships within organizations. Vanessa’s philosophy centers around what role she can play in helping others find solutions. She is committed to excellence in service. She predicts the needs of others and always practices personal accountability in the workplace.

Michael Kane

CEO/Managing Partner

Michael Kane joined Penn Mutual in November 2016. He started his career in Richmond VA at New England Financial working as a Financial Professional. After several years there was an opportunity to transition into leadership at one of Met Life’s largest agencies. As a Managing Director, he was able to build several locations across the tri-state area. Michael and his team were recognized as leaders in the organization each year he was there. When MassMutual and MetLife were merging he helped with the integration which resulted in a smooth transition.

As an industry leader, Michael has been sought out to speak at industry events all over the world. He has been recognized by the general agents and management associations for his agency's growth. Empire Wealth has been recognized as the #1 career agency at Penn Mutual for 3 straight years beginning in 2020 through 2022.

Michael currently sits on the Penn Insurance and Annuity NY Board of Directors and also serves as President of the Finseca NY board of directors.

Michael graduated from Virginia Tech and holds the series 6,7,24,63 and 65 licenses. He has a passion for helping others and bringing the arts to the foster care community in NYC. Michael and his wife Mara reside in NYC with their three children.

Chris Andrews

Director of Sales and Recruiting

Chris Andrews joined Empire Wealth Strategies as Director of Business Development in August of 2019 after 7 years serving as a financial advisor. Chris is involved in all aspects of Empire’s growth and national expansion. His key role is to identify talent and align strategic partnerships that lead to symbiotic growth. He is passionate in his work to empower the voices and success of the right leaders in the financial advisory and insurance industry. With a marketing degree and background, Chris enables the leaders of our profession who are passionate in serving a specific target market to align the right resources, support and partnerships to expand their businesses exponentially.

Outside of work, Chris is a family man, a socialite, and an avid outdoorsman. He likes spending his free time with his wife, family and friends, running, hiking and biking, reading and traveling as much as he can. He’s traveled to over 15 countries around the world between Asia, Europe, Africa, North, South and Central America. When he’s not hopping on planes, you can find him at his home in Astoria, Queens with his wife, Morgan.

Zach Bloemen

Director of Sales and Recruiting

Zach Bloemen is a fierce leader at Empire Wealth Strategies helping to serve new and existing clients and evaluate potential partnerships with other financial advisors around the country. With nearly a decade of experience as an advisor he is authentically familiar with the importance of partnerships, access to decision makers and the ease of doing business in order to deliver prudent financial planning to individuals, families and business owners.

Zach relates to advisors who seek growth and sustainability through all market cycles in true business owner fashion and understands the importance of surrounding the right leaders with right resources in an effective team environment. While motivated to scale his own business to a transferable enterprise in the future, Zach is passionate in helping other financial professionals do the same. With a multitude of experienced advisors searching for more independence, support, marketing flexibility, control and ownership of their books of business, Zach believes there is no better time than now to partner with a firm that promotes the growth of your business your way.

With extensive leadership experience in Marine Special Operations, sports and business, Zach aims to empower other leaders, learn from them, support them and celebrate their success in partnership with EWS.

Zach is a Colorado native married to Dawn, his middle school sweetheart. Together they have three children, Noah, Reagan and Jaxon who all enjoy the outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing, sports, exercise and good food. Zach instills accountability in himself each morning by telling his kids to “Be a Leader!”

Scott Francis

Vice President of Sales

My role at the agency is to partner with each of the departments that make the day to day operation run well. By partnering with the teams recruiters I am able to share my experience as both a leader and as a former financial advisor to help attract top industry talent. I also work closely with both the internal sales desk and internal coaching team to provide the type of support necessary for our financial professionals. There are also times where we will work with outside experts as well to enhance the experience for the financial professionals. With a background in operations from when I entered the industry I will spend time each day working with the agency internal team as well as the home office team to facilitate Life New Business and Broker Dealer operations. This has been useful to tie the sales and operations side of the agency together and work towards our common goal of growth. Finally I am constantly thinking and working with the agency experience team to make sure all of the team members are top of mind and doing business with ease. Most of my day is spent solving problems for our financial professionals.

If there is one thing that I believe is important it would be service. I make it a point to put myself in the shoes of the person I am trying to help. When problems occur I find that communication is critical. I also am always working on proactive items to tackle issues before they arise. My goal is to grow our agency with quality people both in sales and on our leadership team. I am very proud of what the agency has accomplished in the past 5 years.

I hold a series 7, 65, 63 and 24 as well as Life and Health.

When I am not working I am usually at a field with one of my 3 children or watching some type of sport.

Linda Vescio

Director of Business Development

Linda began running her family business in 2013. Through that experience she has gained an aptitude for being process driven and results oriented. Her knowledge of marketing and experience has developed throughout her tenure as a business owner in addition to what she has accomplished at Empire Wealth Strategies.

Since joining the agency in 2017 Linda has developed into one of the front line leaders. In her previous role as the Vice President of agency operations Linda lead a team of 7 and developed workflow and efficiency parameters that propelled the agency into doubling in size in only 5 years.

In her current role Lin has taken new hires and their teams to the next level of business potential. Starting with transition support and moving into Brand, Logo and website creation Lin uses her past experience and creativity to help agents fulfill their vision. In addition Lin has also put together a team of marketing and practice management support including some leaders in the industry.

Lin is always up to a new challenge and welcomes the opportunity to work with new advisors and new ideas. Her main objective is to stay on the cutting edge of technology and industry standards.

Angelina weeks

Director of Coaching

Angelina Weeks is a certified business coach with 16 years experience in the financial services industry. She has mastered the art of coaching financial advisors and learned to be the best resource possible to help them breakthrough and elevate their business. As a business development coach, she offers guidance, unique strategies and tools to level up your business. With an outside perspective from someone you can trust, you are offered ideas and advice to help you capitalize on growth opportunities. Angelina shares, “Your business is similar to that of an elite athlete. You may have the drive, the skills and the vision, but there are times when you need support to ensure you stay on the right path to reach your goals.”

Through well-designed tools and systems, Angelina will help track and measure your performance allowing you to break through barriers that level up your performance and business. Most everyone knows or has heard the phrase that “motivation is temporary” and it’s true. We all get excited to start something and at some point while pushing through the hard work, the excitement wears off. As your coach, Angelina is what’s on the other side when the motivation and excitement loses its energy. Every advisor has the potential to breakthrough and perform at a higher level; it’s all about having the right people on your team supporting you to get you there.


Director of Advanced Sales

Jim Cooney, as the Director of Advanced Sales, is dedicated to supporting the growth of your business. As a CFP, ChFC, CLU, and FSCP, he has committed to maintaining an extensive knowledge of the industry and the ability to create unique financial solutions to bring to your clients. He offers a wide range of case design support offerings, from fact find analysis, inforce insurance audits, investment allocation analysis, Monte Carlo and cash flow planning, to ‘in the field’ support for joint case work. Jim also has experience in aiding financial professionals expand their practices utilizing concepts such as premium financing, executive compensation planning, and business insurance strategies. He can offer book of business reviews to help discover new opportunities to assist your existing client base with these advanced concepts.

Areas of Expertise

  • Premium Financing
  • Monte Carlo Analysis & Retirement Projections
  • Business Insurance Strategies
  • Executive Compensation Strategies
  • Cash Flow Analysis & Tax Advantaged Investing