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Middle class stops at $5 million: Investment Management Consultants Association, (IMCA)

notoriously fuzzy with its definitions. One private bank's "high-net-worth" investor is another's "mass affluent" middle class and yet another's "ultra-high-net-worth."

One group is seeking to add a bit of semantic uniformity: the Investment Management Consultants Association, or IMCA, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based nonprofit professional and credentialing organization for investment professionals. The group put out its own recommendations last Thursday based on a survey it took of nearly 400 finance professionals. It has offered the Certified Private Wealth Advisor designation since 2007 and also provides a Certified Investment Management Analyst designation, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

The IMCA wanted to assess whether wealth management was a distinct field unto itself, says Sean Walters, CEO of the association, and decided it mandated its own body of knowledge beyond what had been required as part of the certification process.

The IMCA also defined a high-net-worth client: at least $5 million in net worth. According to the survey, 43% of respondents gave that as a minimum figure.

The number makes sense, says Walters, because many of the discussions surrounding tax strategies and estate planning tend to begin at the $5 million threshold.

WSJ / Julie Steinberg

Wealth management can be practiced by financial planners, accountants, estate-planning attorneys or investment professionals, but the IMCA says it requires more nuanced skills than you might need as an ordinary financial planner, for example. Wealth management should refer specifically to those who cater to the $5 million net worth demographic, according to the group; the knowledge needed consists of 169 topics across four different areas: human dynamics, wealth-management strategies, client specialization and legacy planning.


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