Hedge Fund Credential Faces Skepticism

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Add "CHA" to the alphabet soup of professional designations available to financial professionals.

The Chartered Hedge Fund Associate certification began enrolling candidates in June 2008. On its Web site, the program describes itself as the "only certification program designed exclusively for those professionals who work in the hedge fund industry or for wealth management and service providers who would like to better understand and serve hedge funds as clients."

The CHA will have to compete for attention with the CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst) - a five-year old, exam-based designation centered on investment analysis and portfolio management skills applied to hedge funds and other so-called alternative investments, such as private equity and real estate.

Each level of the CHA program costs between $499 and $599, and takes between five to six months to complete. About 400 people are expected to participate in CHA this year.

Many recruiters have never heard of the CHA even though the Financial Times and Institutional Investor published articles about the credential. Others are only vaguely familiar with it, though some recruiters say that's to be expected because it's so new.

"When the CFA started a long time ago, it did not have any credibility," observes Howard Ross, head of BOC Staffing Solutions in New York, who recruits for hedge funds. Over the long-term, the CHA may have a "major value-add to the industry," he says.

Breaking into hedge funds was difficult even before the global economic collapse and is becoming even more challenging as the industry shrinks.

Richard Wilson, who founded the Hedge Fund Group, the 17,000-person networking group that sponsors the CHA, argues the credential will help make people more effective at their jobs.

The CHA was originally aimed at people with two years or less experience in the hedge fund industry. Wilson soon found experienced professionals were enrolling in the program as well, according to an e-mail from the organization.

Ross says jobseekers might consider the CHA if they think it helps them stand out from other applicants. But he cautions the certification lacks the cachet of better known credentials, like the CFA and CPA.

Another New York-based recruiter, who asked to remain anonymous, is more skeptical. He says hedge funds value performance above credentials. "At the end of the day, you have to pick winners," he says.

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