Benchmark CFA credential enhances career opportunities

by Isabella Lee

Jan Squires, CFA, managing director, Asia Pacific operations
CFA Institute
Photo: Johnson Poon

Global institute promotes highest standards of financial analysis through education

In the internationally expanding wealth management industry, employers seek candidates with credible and standardised academic qualifications and proven expertise.

CFA Institute is a global membership association that offers access to one of the financial world's most sought-after educational programmes. CFA Institute administers the worldwide Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) curriculum and examination programme, highly rated in portfolio management, investment research, advisory services and investment banking. The programme offers a challenging self-study model for busy investment professionals and indicates a global benchmark for competence and integrity in portfolio management and investment analysis. As a result, investment professionals who pass the CFA examinations are in great demand.

Meanwhile, CFA Institute also administers the Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM) curriculum and examination programme which covers professional ethics, performance measurement, attribution and evaluation, as well as application of the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS), for people working in performance evaluation and presentation.

For the long-term development of the investment industry, CFA Institute also publishes research, conducts professional development programmes and sets voluntary, ethics-based professional and performance-reporting standards.

Strength to strength

CFA Institute creates easy access to a wide range of continuing education tools to help facilitate its members' professional and personal growth. These include print- and web-based materials, such as the Financial Analysts Journal and CFA Magazine and a multitude of web casts and pod casts. Seminars include the CFA Institute annual conference that usually attracts more than 1,000 members from across the world.

"In order to build closer ties with the business sector, we conduct face-to-face employer outreach programmes to raise the profile of CFA Institute," says Jan Squires, CFA, managing director, Asia Pacific operations, CFA Institute. Other initiatives include advertising campaigns aimed at the financial industry, and services and products tailored according to employer needs.

As more and more employers recognise and accept its programmes, CFA Institute members will likely find that the designation brings enhanced career opportunities, Dr Squires says, adding that recruiters are increasingly seeking candidates with CFA credentials.

He points out that CFA Institute has expanded greatly over the past decade, setting up regional offices in Hong Kong and London, establishing the CFA Institute Centre for Financial Market Integrity and growing to include 135 member societies.

CFA Institute is currently in the early stages of rolling out an exciting lifelong learning strategy to address members' specific needs. Teamed with this initiative is a substantial push towards enriching and personalising the institute's online resources for both members and candidates.

Since its establishment more than 60 years ago, the main focus of CFA Institute has been to maintain a high level of professional ethics. All its members and candidates must agree to adhere to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct and attest to this through an annual Professional Conduct Statement. Ethics also play a substantial part in the study programme for the CFA designation.

Global network

CFA Institute currently has about 95,000 members, including 82,000 CFA charterholders in more than 131 countries and territories. About 30 per cent of members work for investment companies or mutual funds, while 16 per cent are employed by investment banks or broker dealers.

And additional nine per cent serve as private client wealth managers or advisers, seven per cent fall in the category of commercial retail or mortgage banks and six per cent are involved in hedge funds. Another four per cent work for insurance companies, while two per cent work for pension funds and foundations. The remainder are employed by governments, or by organisations such as consultancies and regulatory, academic or research firms.

"The current business atmosphere in Hong Kong has definitely helped to create a favourable career development environment for CFA charterholders," Dr Squires says. "Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre, its diverse product offerings, the depth and maturity of its market and institutions and the fairly pronounced talent shortage all match well with the global nature, practical focus and ethical foundation of the CFA programme."

The scope of the CFA programme in mainland China has rapidly expanded over the past five years-from 2,200 examination registrations in 2003 to 13,000 in 2007, demonstrating that the body of knowledge mastered by CFA charterholders is as applicable and valuable in China as it has been in Hong Kong and around the world.

All CFA charterholders are required to have four years of relevant work experience, with at least 50 per cent of the time in the investment decision making process. This aspect is highly valued in markets such as mainland China, where the shortage of talent and experience seems to be particularly pronounced.

Every market has a unique set of requirements when it comes to understanding local practice and conventions, Dr Squires stresses. This is certainly true of China, but as the mainland's financial sector continues to develop, there will undoubtedly be a greater convergence between its requirements and those of Hong Kong, he believes. This has been the experience elsewhere, as the CFA programme has grown and been accepted around the world.


Taken from Career Times 23 May 2008, p. A2
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