If you want to work in a hedge fund, which many people apparently do (27% of respondents to our current poll say they'd rather be a hedge fund manager), you may be faced with a dilemma: should you embellish your CV with a CFA, or should you go for the more hedge fund- specific CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst).
Ostensibly, the CAIA is both quicker and easier. While the average candidate takes four years to achieve the CFA Charter and spends 300 hours studying for each of the three exams, the CAIA comprises two exams, with candidates advised to spend 150-200 hours studying for the first and 200 hours studying for the second.
The pass rate for level 1 of the CAIA also appears to be 71%, while the pass rate for level 1 of the CFA is a miserable 36%.
Possibly because of this, the CFA is seen as the mark of greater distinction - even among hedge fund recruiters operating in the CAIA's niche.
"The CAIA is certainly not something clients would ask for," says one hedge fund recruiter. Another says he hasn't even heard of it.
However, others say the CAIA is sometimes accepted as an alternative to the CFA- even though it's almost never written on hedge fund job specifications.
"A CAIA won't hold you back," says Peter Elliott at hedge fund recruitment firm Elliott James. "There are far more people with a CFA than a CAIA, so a CAIA shows you're keen to focus your career from an alternative investment perspective."
"The CAIA can be beneficial for people interested in analytical roles in hedge funds," says Barry Seath at hedge fund recruiter Mirage. "We've spoken to a few places recently which have recognised CAIA's on CVs and have viewed this as a useful qualification to have."
"The CFA is still the most well regarded qualification, but the CAIA is becoming better known and appreciated," Seath adds.
Bottom line: if in doubt still do the CFA.