The ranks of Charter Financial Analysts in Canada are growing.
More than 9,990 are registered to take the CFA exam in June, up 68 percent from 5,914 in 2006. Bob Johnson, deputy chief executive of the non-profit CFA Institute, says that's a sign of growing interest in the certification by employers, and the greater availability of training at colleges.
Moreover, Johnson says, the number of candidates taking the exam for the first time soared 41 percent this year, surpassing the 29 percent growth seen in the U.S.
Canada ranks fifth in the world in the number of CFAs per capita, behind Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Singapore and Hong Kong, according to the latest data from the CFA Institute. The U.S. is in eighth place.
"I think it is becoming better known in Canada," Johnson tells eFinancialCareers News. "As more and more obtain the charter and get into positions of responsibility, they want to hire more and more of their own. Our best marketing is when people who have earned the credential either recommend the program to their co-workers or people who report to them."
C. Ross Healy, head of the Toronto-based financial research firm Strategic Analysis Corp., says candidates without the CFA are at a disadvantage against those who have it.
"If you fail to have a CFA, then you better have very good credentials above and beyond that," Healy says. "They really would like you to have both (an MBA and a CFA) ... If you come in with an MBA, one of the first ten questions is 'are you working on your CFA?'"
The CFA's popularity in Canada has been bolstered by a strong network of local societies in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver and Quebec City, Healy adds. Membership in the Toronto organization, the world's second largest behind New York, has risen from 5,800 a few years ago to more than 7,000 today, according to the society.
In addition, employers are increasingly seeking candidates with the CFA, something Johnson noticed while reading the want ads in local newspapers while he was in Canada for an institute conference not long ago. In fact, many people with MBA degrees also are earning their CFA certification to gain an edge, since job postings often require candidates have one or the other to be considered.
"We are seeing more and more employer either require - or very much encourage - the charter," Johnson says. "We have really strong support from colleges and universities in Canada. We have three Canadian universities (Laval, Sherbrooke and Concordia) which imbed the CFA curriculum in their degree program. When their students graduate, they are in very strong shape to sit for the examination."
The CFA Institute prides itself on the rigor of its certification process. Candidates need to pass a three-part test that requires a detailed knowledge of corporate finance, accounting, investing and economics. Only 20 percent of the applicants for the exam complete all three levels, and the average candidate needs four tries to pass.
"We believe candidates need to commit to a minimum of 250 hours reading and reviewing the curriculum and taking online sample and mock exams to master the material," says the institute's Web site. "This recommendation, however, may substantially underestimate the hours needed for appropriate exam preparation depending on individual circumstances and academic background."