In today’s world of wondering whether information is reliable or not, it is critical to protect our kūpuna and their families. You may hear or see an advertisement for a business professional with a bunch of initials after their name and wonder what do all those initials really mean? Does it mean they know more than another professional, are they certified to sell more things or is it just a way to market themselves more?

There are literally hundreds of business professional designations with initials that you see after a person’s name.

To make sense of this alphabet soup of financial and other designations, you need to find out about the educational and certifying process for those designations. Then you can decide whose certification can be relied upon.

Certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity of an agency, firm, group, or person is awarded by a duly recognized and respected accrediting organization.

What to look for in checking out designations is an “Accredited Designation.” This means the professional is required to do continuing education on an annual basis and not just take a test once and use the designation for life. It is vitally important to check the professional out on the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) website at or call 808-587-3222, and with the industry’s professional association.

Step 1:
Ask “Are you licensed to sell me this product or service?”

Legitimate business professionals — including brokers, investment advisers, insurance and real estate agents — must be licensed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and in “good standing.” If they say they aren’t licensed, say goodbye — and don’t buy.

The DCCA’s Professional & Vocational Licensing Division licenses 51 different professions and vocations, and has a database you can search using the name of the business or individual:

Step 2:
Check if the designation is accredited.

Many state securities and insurance regulators do not allow financial professionals to use a designation — in particular a “senior” designation — unless it has been accredited by either the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Numerous state regulators also allow financial professionals to use a designation if the organization that awards the designation is on the Department of Education’s list of Accredited Agencies, and the designation does not primarily apply to sales and/or marketing.

It is always good practice to take the time to look into the accreditation of the professionals you turn to for advice before applying your trust, in order to protect your own valuable resources.