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CFA® Program Benefits

 The general benefits of taking (and passing) the CFA® exams are described on the CFA Institute website (www.cfainstitute.org/cfaprogram/benefits).  In this space I’ll make a few points specific to candidates from Pakistan.

If you are in the finance industry and have aspirations of working abroad, you should consider enrolling in the CFA program because it is a globally recognized certification.  Even if you’ve graduated from a well know university in Pakistan, it is unlikely that finance professionals outside Pakistan have heard of your institution.  On the other hand, almost everyone in the global financial industry knows about the CFA program!  In fact, many organizations look favorably on candidates who have simply cleared Level I. Successfully completing the first level will not guarantee a job or a promotion, but it will certainly improve your chances relative to someone who is not pursuing the CFA desgination.  Even employers in Pakistan are paying increasing importance to the CFA designation. I expect this trend to continue and predict that the CFA designation will evolve from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for jobs related to treasury management, brokerage, security research and investment management in general. 

Technologies such as the Internet and low cost video conferencing are fueling the growth of knowledge outsourcing.  It is only a matter of time before this trend impacts the brokerage and investment research industry.  I foresee CFA charterholders sitting in Karachi and Lahore working for brokerage houses in Singapore, London, Frankfurt and New York. A Pakistani graduate with a CFA designation will probably be just as good at analyzing financial statements as an Imperial graduate working in London.  The only difference is that the Pakistani analyst will cost a fraction of the London-based analyst.  This does not mean that all financial analysis will move to low cost locations.  Most analysis will continue to happen from the central offices of firms.  However, I believe well defined work such as financial statement analysis will eventually be outsourced.  When this happens, professionals with a CFA designation under their belt will benefit.

While many Pakistanis focus on tangibles like international job opportunities, promotions and salary increments, the most significant benefits of the CFA program are intangible.  The principal advantage is the wealth of knowledge you will gain.  The CFA Institute has a rigorous and sophisticated curriculum development process which relies on input from practitioners and leading authorities in their respective fields.  As an example the fixed income segment has been primarily authored by Frank Fabozzi (www.frankfabozzi.com) who is currently one of the most well know experts on fixed income analysis.  The curriculum is updated every year which ensures that it remains current and relevant.  A very appropriate compliment for the CFA curriculum comes from Mr. David Harper who says: “I think this six-volume set for Level I is just about the best, most well-organized introduction to finance that you can find anywhere. If you could take only one finance text on your desert island sabbatical, I think it should be the Level I CFA readings.”

The fact that studying for the CFA exams will enhance your knowledge is clear to all. What might not be so evident is that preparing for the CFA also develops and sharpens your brain by creating new pathways of understanding. This is because many Pakistanis have grown up in an education system which emphasizes rote learning. While memorizing facts has its role in the CFA program, considerable emphasis is placed on understanding concepts and applying them.  Furthermore, the CFA exam does not give you the luxury of time.  On the Level I exam you only have an average of 90 seconds per question. This forces your brain to become fast and nimble!

This article has focused on the tangible and intangible benefits of the CFA program.  In the next article I will discuss the challenges associated with pursing the CFA desgination.
For comments, questions or suggestions write to arif.irfanullah@gmail.com.
 
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