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Issue Brief

Preventing the Misleading Use of Senior Designations—What States Should Do

Financial services sales professionals use certifications or designations to differentiate themselves.  They use so-called senior designations to show they are experts in retirement investing or investing by older customers.  The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) maintains a listing of designations on its website, but it is not all-inclusive.

The criteria to obtain different designations vary widely.  Only 17 percent of the designations listed in the FINRA database had some sort of public disciplinary process, and a little over half allow investors to check the status of a person holding the designation online.  Individual consumers can be confused by these designations.  Respondents to a FINRA survey had trouble differentiating between a fictitious designation and real ones.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) have adopted model rules to regulate the use of the designations.  States should adopt and vigorously enforce both model rules.

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