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CAIA Association Creates Platform To Teach Advisors About Alts

The association wants to help private wealth mangers learn about alternative investments, allocate to the asset class, and convince some they should get CAIA certifications.

The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association launched its own education platform this week, called UniFi, specifically to help private wealth managers learn more about alternative investments. It also might encourage more financial advisors, who account for a small portion of CAIA members, to get the association’s certifications.

The number of CAIA designees has been growing in recent years, as more investors allocate to alternatives and the market expands. Since 2018, the association’s membership has grown from roughly 8,000 to more than 12,000 members, but only about 200 focus on private wealth management.

The association says that UniFi could help educate thousands of advisors who want to learn more about alternatives but aren’t interested in the rigorous process of obtaining the CAIA designation, which generally requires about 500 hours of study to pass two different levels of exams. To maintain the designation, members pay a $350 annual fee.

UniFi’s entry-level courses will include up to five hours of videos on specific topics, such as private credit, private equity, digital assets, and other alternative investments. The platform currently has only one certification program called “Fundamentals of Alternative Investments,” a 20-hour, video-based certification created by the association in 2014. (Anyone can get the certification, not just CAIA designees.) 

Over the next two years, the association plans to add more courses for professionals, who would earn a “micro-credential” for completing them. Ultimately, it wants UniFi to have a full library of courses and a user experience like popular streaming services, Aaron Filbeck, head of UniFi, told RIA Intel

Beyond private wealth managers, Filbeck said that other professionals can also benefit from the platform, such as those at asset managers who work with wealth managers and other intermediaries. “The way we see it, we’re thinking about the entire distribution chain of the private wealth management industry,” Filbeck said.

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The cost to take UniFi courses hasn’t been decided yet. The “Fundamentals of Alternative Investments” course is $895 and qualifies for continuing education credit with the CFP Board.

The CAIA Association created an advisory committee of 10 wealth and asset management companies to help develop the platform and shape the course catalogue. The committee includes Morgan Stanley, Blackrock, Savant Wealth Management, Vanguard, and others that will meet a couple of times a year, Filbeck said.  

“They're on the ground and seeing what's most important to the end client, and so having a voice to help us think through what are some of the most important things that we should be covering,” Filbeck said. “They play a pretty critical role on the content side of this and helping us think through curriculum and then beyond that the business decisions.”

Rick Studer, head of RIA Sales at PGIM Investments, the retail distribution arm of PGIM with several alternative investment products and funds, said multiple members of his team have the existing CAIA Charter designation and that education-focused companies, like CAIA, help the industry.

“I think the services provided by all those organizations that are educating advisors are important because otherwise you're never going to have a good experience if people don’t understand what they're getting into,” Studer said.

Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.

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