The global market place is increasingly competitive and for businesses to succeed, they need employees with the right skill sets. The finance industry itself, along with respective financial functions for every medium and large company, forms an important part of economic progress.
Banking (including investment banking), stock markets, commodities, Forex markets and financial research are the spine of any economy. The CFA charter members fill up these critical positions that move money within their respective countries and across the world.
In the year 2011, China and Brazil (emerging markets) were the hungriest countries for CFA in terms of demand, according to Della Bradshaw of Financial Times. The western markets are still absorbing CFA charter holders into their banking and investment industries, while the Asian markets are the ones that have been increasing their CFA charter holder intake.
More than 100,000 investment professionals are working together to make the financial markets work, as they should.
The need for high standards of ethics, knowledge, experience and skills is never ending. CFA has about 100,000 CFA charter holders spread over 58 countries. More than 3000 students from 700 universities around the world compete in the CFA Institute Research Challenge held every year.
CFA? What’s the big deal?
The Charted Financial Analyst charter is globally recognized and is one of the most respected credentials in the world. Earning a CFA would demonstrate a candidate’s ability to analyze, make decisions and work with a high level of professional excellence owing to strict adherence and pledge to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards or Professional Conduct.
A CFA charter member automatically means the following for an employer or a client: high level of credibility, competence and commitment (over 300 hours of dedicated study). A CFA charter member also possesses great network with access to a member network of more than 100,000 investment professionals spread across 100 countries. A CFA member also has access to resources for continuing education, support and lifelong learning.
Peter Jakobus, CFA and Senior Manager Ernst & Young, Frankfurt Germany, believes that CFA charter holders standout from the rest because they would have already demonstrated tenacity and hard work as the CFA program is demanding and rigorous.
According to the CFA Institute CFA charter holders gain prestigious occupations such as (but not limited to) portfolio managers, consultants, financial advisors, investment banking professionals, traders, auditors, brokers, chief executives and research analysts.
Linette Lopez of Business Insider does a comparison on MBA and CFA and finds that, while CFA can be grueling to earn, it works out cheaper than an MBA with every CFA level test at $1000 to $1500 with three levels of exams. As for the pay, an average CFA makes $27,000 more than those with only an MBA and about $13,000 more than MBAs specializing in finance.
Rachel Sanderson of Financial Times has a long report on CFA; it’s origins, the current state of Interest on CFA and more.
CFA is indeed inexpensive (when compared to II-tier MBA schools, for instance) and is held in equal (if not more) regard in investment banks.
CFA is the gold standard in investment banking and it’s also considered as an MBA equivalent in the U.K. The Association of Certified International Investment Analysis (ACIIA) is the nearest competitor to CFA Institute. Other competitors include Financial Risk Manager Award and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) – some of these exams can also be taken as a complimentary to CFA charter certification.
A CFA Program Candidate Survey conducted in June 2013) reports that over 97% of candidates feel that CFI is implementing its mission effectively. About 37% of candidates take up CFA for career advancement or development opportunities. Another 21% of candidates take up CFA for attaining a higher level of knowledge, while 11% under CFA training to increase their chances of getting a job.
What does it take to earn a CFA? What are the Benefits?
The CFA institute lists out that a candidate would need about four years on average to complete the program. Alternatively, CFA mandates that candidates would take about four years of qualifying investment work experience.
Candidates would have to allocate six months of preparation for each exam and there’d be a total of 300 hours of minimum study time.
The June 2013 CFA Program survey mentioned above reveals that on average candidates spend about 307 hours for the exams. More than 92% of the candidates agree that the exam questions are based on Learning Outcome Statements (LOSs). A good 91% of them think that exam reflects CFI’s high-standard curriculum and over a 90% of all candidates agree that the exam tests for topics that are of relevance for investment professionals.
More than 86% of the candidates revealed that their employers were aware of CFA certification and about 33% of these employers currently reimburse/pay for enrollment and registration fees. About 40% of the candidates feel that the employment prospects for CFA charter holders will increase in the next 12 months.
In all, it takes a candidate complete mastery over the CFA curriculum, passing all the three exams, and pledge to adhere to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.
A CFA program goes deep and not broad like an MBA program does. CFAs focus on Investment knowledge with a self-study format allowing professionals to undertake CFA qualifications without letting go of their full-time work. For employers, a CFA charter demonstrates competence and hard work along with persistence and flexibility.
CFA is still the trophy achievement for every finance professional interested in pursuing careers within the sphere of financial investments, investment research, banking and financial consulting.
Do you think that a CFA Charter holder still holds value in a global market place? What do you think about CFA and the CFI Institute? Do you think employers prefer a CFA to an MBA?
Please share your thoughts below.