Q. Over the last seven years, I have been an external auditor with two Big Four firms, the last three as a manager. Now, I now want to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and get into capital markets. What sort of position should I consider in order to make this career shift?
|The Expert Panel
Rod Williams, a job market consultant with New York-based Lee Hecht Harrison, notes the market for accountants right now is hot. "With the market for accountants being what it is right now - and what it's expected to be in the forseeable future - the options are tremendous for CFAs," he says. "Taking one of the many accounting jobs currently available while working on the CFA is a terrific possibility."
Williams believes an even wiser move would be to take a junior position at a firm that would hire or promote you into the capital markets arena once you've completed your CFA.
However, the first thing you might have to do is narrow your scope. Saying you want to be in "capital markets" is like saying you want to be a "musician," observes David N. Schwartz, president and chief executive of the New York-based executive search firm D N Schwartz & Co.
Broadly speaking, there are only two directions you can go in capital markets, Schwartz says: trading, where you would be buying and selling securities for either clients or your firm, or sales, where you'd be talking to potential investors, understanding their needs and objectives, and helping them enter into transactions that meet their goals.
Broadly speaking, there are two product types: fixed-income products and equities. As a general rule, capital markets professionals fall into one group or the other - traders or salesmen, fixed income or equities. The first step is to figure out what interests you and then pursue a career in that direction, Schwartz says.
"Studying for a CFA is an extremely good idea," he believes. "It is an increasingly valuable credential, and the difficulty people have in obtaining it makes it a truly respected credential in the financial services business."
As you do your training, you will inevitably meet people who are in one or another part of the capital markets business. Use these contacts to discover which area interests you the most, Schwartz suggests. You can then use your network to find out more about specific career paths, what they involve on a day-to-day basis, and where the opportunities lie.
"Many people with your background go into investment banking-type jobs rather than capital markets jobs," Schwartz says. "The skill set you develop as an auditor at Ernst & Young or PriceWaterhouseCoopers is actually pretty close to the company valuation techniques that merger bankers and private equity professionals use when they are pursuing their deals."
However, if you move in that direction, a CFA is probably less relevant, Schwartz says.