UCLA and The Retirement Advisor University have developed a CE designation for financial advisors specializing in defined contribution retirement plans.

The Certified 401(k) Professional Designation is being offered by The Retirement Advisor University in collaboration with the UCLA Anderson School of Management Executive Education.

Daniel C. Shapiro, a financial advisor in Miami, is one of the first 200 people in the country to earn the designation. Shapiro, a principal of DCS Pensionmark Retirement Group, said working for the designation appealed to him because of its affiliation with a respected university like UCLA. Pensionmark is a corporate retirement plan consultant headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., with offices in 11 states.

“There are a lot of industry designations that are worthwhile that you can earn, but this is one of the few done in collaboration with an independent university,” he says. “Plus, it is not an easy designation to earn. It takes one to two years.”

The course work is for advisors who handle company 401(k) and other defined contribution plans. It consists of 50 courses, a proctored examination, writing a case study detailing real examples using knowledge from the courses, and three days of classroom training at UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles.

Advisors must manage a minimum of 10 defined contribution plans with $30 million in plan assets and have at least three years of experience to qualify for the designation.

“Any advisor who deals with pension plans is a good candidate for this course of study,” notes Shapiro. “With the changes in pension regulations and new disclosure regulations, these courses are a sound addition to an advisor’s education. The courses focused on creating a better retirement experience for the plan sponsor and their employees.”

The program focuses on participant-directed pension plans such as 401(k)s and was developed because of the growing importance of these types of plans to people’s retirement success, says Fred Barstein, founder of The Retirement Advisor University.

The number of advisors allowed to enroll is to be limited to 1,000 between now and 2016 and three courses of 65 people each for 2013 have almost been filled, Barstein says.

“This is becoming a really important specialty for advisors,” Barstein says. “We want to promote best practices for these advisors.”

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