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What Do All Those Letters Mean?

By Shawn Hyde, International Society of Business Appraisers (ISBA) –

Piggy BankLots of people have a series of letters behind their names. These are designations that indicate specific training and education. There are several different sets of letters from different organizations that one can obtain in the field of business valuation. The following describes a little about each of them and their most commonly awarded designations.

Business valuation, as an industry, began being organized in the United States in 1978, with the Institute of Business Appraisers (IBA) and a man named Ray Miles. Prior to then, practitioners were valuing businesses, but there were no collections of authoritative texts or industry experts. In the early years of this industry, certain stars began to shine and publish books to share their expertise with the rest of us. I am speaking of names such as Shannon Pratt, Jay Fishman, Robert Reilly, Robert Schweihs, Gary Trugman, and Chris Mercer. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just those whose names are on the spines of most of the books in my library.

I am mentioning these names as it is likely that few people who have not studied business valuation will recognize them. The same can be said for the various different designations, certifications, and letters behind experts’ names. Unless one knows what those mean, little can be understood about the person who holds them.

The Institute of Business Appraisers offered the Certified Business Appraiser (CBA) designation. The organization was purchased several years ago, and the CBA designation was discontinued back in 2016. There are still quite a few of us out there who earned their CBAs, but there are no more new CBAs entering the industry.

The American Society of Appraisers (ASA) began offering education on the topic of business valuation in 1981.1 The American Society of Appraisers certifies real estate, business, and machinery and equipment appraisers. The main designation for all three disciplines is the Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA). I know an appraiser who has all three ASA designations behind his name.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offered the first exam for the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential in 1997.2 In the beginning, this designation was only available to Certified Public Accountants, but in 2018 the AICPA removed that restriction, making the ABV designation available to non-CPA professionals.

The National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA) was founded in 1990,3 and it offers the Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) designation. NACVA also has another certification program, whereby one may obtain the Accredited in Business Appraisal Review (ABAR) certification.

The International Society of Business Appraisers (ISBA) was founded in 2008 and began offering the Business Certified Appraiser (BCA) designation and training in 2013.

These five different certifications have all been accepted as a “Qualified Source” under the Small Business Administration’s SOP (see page 203 of the SOP, effective as of April 1, 2019).

If one is looking for training on how to appraise privately held businesses, these organizations are places where that training can be found. The valuation of a privately held business is not an exact science. There is as much art as science involved, and these organizations provide the insights one needs to determine and communicate an appraiser’s opinion in a report.

If you would like to discuss some of the aspects of the “art” that is involved in such an analysis, please feel free to contact me at Also, for those who are located north of the United States; Canada has the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators which offers the Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) designation.


Shawn Hyde, ISBAAbout the author: Shawn Hyde, CBA, CVA, CMEA, BCA has over 20 years of valuation and appraisal experience in numerous industries. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the International Society of Business Appraisers (ISBA), He is a Certified Business Appraiser, Certified Valuation Analyst, Certified Machinery & Equipment Appraiser, and a Business Certified Appraiser. He has written and taught courses for the Institute of Business Appraisers (IBA), the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA), and the International Society of Business Appraisers (ISBA). He has served on the IBA’s Education Board, and the IBA’s Board of Governors, and is a past Editor in Chief of the IBA’s professional journal, “Business Appraisal Practice.”

1 The History of the American Society of Business Appraisers, by Edmund Leet, FASA. (Accessed on May 3, 2019, at See page 57, under the heading ‘Business Valuation.’
2 “The ABV Credential: Leading the Way,” by Neil J. Beaton and Michael J. Mard, published in the Journal of Accountancy, November 30, 2003. (Accessed on May 3, 2019, at
3 “NACVA’s Beginnings,” by Parnell Black. (Accessed on May 3, 2019, at

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