The Investment Management Consultants Association's stepped-up efforts to attract new members paid dividends in 2011, with overall membership up 7% for the year.

Total IMCA membership last year topped more than 8,400. The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based financial services organization aims at investment consultants and wealth management professionals.

IMCA Executive Director Sean Walters attributes the membership rise to an ongoing marketing campaign to draw more independent advisors to its conferences. IMCA has also been aggressively marketing its Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) and Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA) designations at conferences for the past four years.

"When you put a Wharton professor in a city like Dallas, followed by one of our top presenters of our Private Wealth Advisor credential program, people show up," Walters says. "We're a member-driven organization. If our members find our conferences and credential programs valuable, they'll come to them."

Walters says IMCA is also promoting its CIMA certification as the educational vehicle for independent advisors to provide clients more sophisticated investment management advice. He posits that the the CIMA certification is increasingly being recognized by independent advisors as something valuable to their practice.
IMCA began offering its CPWA designation in 2008 as an entrée for independent advisors to counsel wealthy households.

"The CPWA is really geared for high-net-worth clients, and it teaches a skill set that we don't believe is taught in the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) program, Walters says. "It's not to compete with CFP, but offers advisors another avenue.'' 

According to IMCA, 7.4% of its members are financial planners; 14.5% are wealth managers; 17.3% are asset management and wholesaler firms; 48.5% are investment consultants; and 11.9% listed their affiliation as "other."

An estimated 56% of all IMCA members work for national wirehouse firms and nearly 60% of IMCA members' clients have a net worth between $500,000 and $2 million.

"We really have a strong reputation and a high quality brand within the wirehouse community," Walters says. "They have always embraced these programs. That's the majority of our members."
Walters added that the wirehouses still hold more assets under management than any other advisory channel. "With the number of wirehouse advisors still close to 40,000 to 50,000, and  our representation at about 4,000 members, we have a long way to go before we reach saturation."

Notable 2011 IMCA membership profile highlights:

Approximately 27% of IMCA's advisor members are independent advisors, compared with 21% in 2010. An estimated 56% work for national wirehouses.

IMCA members' average assets under management is $233 million, compared with the industry average of $35 million.

Nearly 60% of IMCA members' clients have a net worth between $500,000 and $2 million.

Almost 85% of IMCA advisors and consultants provide fee-only or fee-based advice.

IMCA's conferences attracted 4,376 attendees in 2011-a 14% increase over 2010.

The number of CPWA designees increased 34% from 2010.