Two leading associations of investment professionals are undertaking a campaign to educate their constituents on the importance and role of alternative investment products in the current financial climate.

To fill this knowledge gap the Investment Management Consultants Association, better known as IMCA, and the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association, an Amherst, Mass.-based organization dedicated to advisor education, are offering an online certificate program that aims to provide a basic understanding of alternative investments and how they can be used to hedge risks.

“There’s a knowledge gap between the people who are eligible to invest in these products and the institutional investors who have historically invested in these products,” says Keith Black, managing director of curriculum for CAIA. “We want to ensure that there is adequate education available before advisors or investors move into this space.”

The Fundamentals of Alternative Investments Certificate Program was designed by CAIA and delivered through IMCA’s education platform. The online program consists of 20 hours of video-based modules, each of which concludes with a short quiz.

William Kelly, CAIA’s CEO, says the group wanted to make the program as flexible and accessible to neophytes in alt investing as possible. Enrollees have an 11-month window to complete the course, but may set their own pace within that timeframe.

Individual course modules cover topics such as hedge funds, real assets, private equity, commodities and structured products. Enrollment costs $795 for IMCA and CAIA members and $895 for non-members.

The fundamentals program is intended to be a stand-alone offering, and enrollees are not expected to continue on and complete CAIA’s advance certification program.

IMCA’s members have been expressed growing interest in learning more about alternative investments, and IMCA has been offering more seminars on the topic at its periodic conferences, says Ian MacKenzie, the association’s deputy executive director.

IMCA, which has lacked an introductory offering in alt investing, sought to fill this gap with CAIA’s fundamentals program. “It made sense to partner with them,” says MacKenzie.

“There are a lot of people who have aggregated content on alts, and there are a variety of alternatives [programs], but I haven’t seen anything else that really takes you through the basics,” he adds.

The two associations have launched a marketing push to raise awareness of the program, beginning among their own members. IMCA has about 9,000 investment professional members and CAIA has about 7,000 of the same.

With the stock market at an all-time high, Kelly expects interest in alternatives to continue growing, and that advisors will want to be in a position to offer their clients these products as a hedge against a market downturn. As Kelly puts it: “They need to have other tools in their kit.”

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