I am one of the special ones. I passed the CFA level III more than 10 years ago. At the time, I didn’t really want to do the CFA level III exam, but my employer forced me to, telling me that I’d be made redundant if I didn’t take it. I passed but it turned out that I was then made redundant anyway – and replaced by someone who didn’t have a CFA Charter. So, then I was fully-fledged CFA Level III exam passer, and I was unemployed.
Believe it or not, this isn’t that unusual. I was working as an equity research analyst and the CFA wasn’t the preferred qualification. Instead, plenty of people had accountancy qualifications. Finance directors have accounting qualifications and they like to talk to analysts who are similarly qualified. At the same time, the management of top of investment banks and fund managers behaved like a CFA Level III pass wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
In my opinion, it can help to pass the CFA exams if you’re at the start of your career. – But not as you progress. The CFA is seen as a qualification for juniors. – How many CFA’s do you see at senior levels?
At any rate, a CFA Level III pass didn’t do it for me. I hawked my achievement around banks and the buy-side and after trying failing to get another job in equity research, I decided to leave London. I’m glad that I did – MIFID II is making all my friends miserable.
I now live in Berlin and I’m having a great time. I spend my days playing volleyball, writing blog posts and following Nassim Taleb “if wealth is giving you fewer options instead of more (and more varied) options, you’re doing it wrong” on Twitter. Perhaps my CFA helps with my equity portfolio – but I doubt it. Websites like stockopedia now calculate and weight the financial ratios that go into making an investment decision.
Sometimes I get a bit down about the olden days. But then I just read analyst research on Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays from a few years ago and remind myself that everyone was bullish back in 2010, except me. I saved some other analysts’ 40 page long, detailed research notes on an old hard drive, and use them to make me chuckle now. – They claim, Royal Bank could easily make 15% Return on Tangible Equity and be worth around 700p. – RBS struggles to make a 5% return. It always bothered me that the highest ranked sell side analysts were rewarded for publishing credible nonsense.
This isn’t to say that the CFA hasn’t come in useful at all. It’s just not useful in the way I expected. I’m thinking of buying a craft beer pub with some friends. The bank was reluctant to lend the money, because despite my hipster business partners’ impressive facial hair and fashionable Hawaiian shirts, they don’t have any business qualifications. Reassuringly though, the local SME bank branch manager is impressed by my CFA. At last, a result.
If you enjoy craft beer and are in Berlin, stop by at Kaschk.
Bruce Packard – Read more on efinancialcareers.com