Should you bother with the CFA horror?
Is it worth spending your mid-20s in a darkened room for the sake of achieving a qualification thatprobably won’t increase your pay, but might make you look good – especially if you want to work inequity research or asset management. Feelings are mixed.
“I’m not really sure how useful just having Level I is,” says one financial services professional (speaking anonymously) who’s only passed Level I. “I guess it shows that you’re dedicated to learning about finance and have a good brain, but it hasn’t made that much difference to me.”
Louise Cooper, an independent financial analyst and former Goldman researcher, says Level I won’t do much good on its own. “Level I is meaningless,” she tells us. “It’s a brilliant qualification, but you need the full Charter.”
The problem is that the full Charter requires 900 hours of studying after work and at weekends. That’s often too much. “I can’t be bothered with Level II,” the anonymous finance professional told us. “I’ve got friends who’ve been through Level II and have failed Level III multiple times. It ends up just eating up your life and it’s not worth it.”
The real benefit of being a CFA CharterholderAnd yet, Cooper argues that being a full CFA Charter holder (of which there are comparatively few) brings a huge benefit which is often overlooked: it stops you getting stuck in a career silo.
“What the CFA really does it to give you a very broad but very detailed knowledge of all areas of finance,” Cooper says. “And that makes it possible for you to move across areas into different jobs. For example, I started out in equities, but the CFA exams also taught me everything about bond pricing. It’s a brilliant qualification – far better than an MBA.”
Cooper also challenges the notion that passing all three levels of the CFA is akin to drinking a vat of onion juice. “It’s really hard work and it’s a lot of maths, but I passed all three levels first time,” she says. “I also did the last exam when I was eight months pregnant.”