After what was an abnormally long wait, those taking the CFA Level I and II exams were finally put out of their misery late yesterday and – as is usually the case – around 60 percent were told they had failed.
The good news, for those lucky enough to pass, is that the barrier to entry remains just as high, and therefore the value of the CFA is undiminished. For Level I, 38 percent passed (down from 39 percent last year) and 42 percent made it through the Level II exam (down from 43 percent a year earlier).
There’s been a surge in people enrolling for the course in recent years – an increase of 27 percent – no doubt fueled by a rush to professional qualifications as job cuts have accelerated.
The CFA has, of course, always been difficult – requiring, on average, 300 hours of study per level – but it’s been mooted that it’s been unusually tough this year (perhaps in an effort to keep the pass rate low), to the point where one crazed candidate was escorted out of the building mid-exam.
A spokesperson for the CFA says: “The appetite for professional education is strong and has helped drive demand to earn the CFA Charter. In growing and emerging markets, it makes individuals stand out from the crowd, and in established capital markets like the U.S. and UK, it is now difficult to enter and make your mark in the fund management industry without it.”
The CFA will undoubtedly provide a boost to your career prospects, but it’s questionable if the qualification alone is enough. Asset management and private banking headhunters inform us that it’s simply a standard barrier to entry, while those focusing on M&A and capital markets say that experience still counts more than qualifications (not that many firms are hiring currently).
The sad fact is that the CFA may no longer be enough to differentiate yourself from the competition – some training experts advise taking a CFA and an MBA in order to boost your job prospects.