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CFA - Chartered Financial Analyst

All about CFA

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CA foundation course

Overview

CFA is a professional certification offered by the CFA Institute, USA. CFA Program is a 3-part exam that tests fundamentals of investment tools, valuing assets, portfolio management, and wealth planning.

CFA® charter is seen as a distinction in the investment management profession.

CFA Charter

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) charter is a designation given to those who have completed the CFA Program and completed acceptable work experience requirements.

To earn a charter, one must –

  1. Pass 3-level CFA Exams
  2. Achieve Qualified Work-experience
  3. Submit reference letters
  4. Apply to become Charter holder

CFA Exams

CFA Program includes a series of three exams: Levels I, II, and III.

 

Level I

Level II

Level III

Eligibility

Meet enrolment requirements

Pass Level I exam

Pass Level II exam

Exam format (Computer-based at Test centers)

Independent MCQs

Short Case Studies followed by MCQs

Short Case Studies followed by MCQs and essay questions

No. of questions

180

Short Case Studies & 4/6 MCQs
Total MCQs – 88

1st session
(2hr15 min) – 8 to 11 Short Case Studies with essay response

2nd session (2hr15 min) – Short Case Studies & 4/6 MCQs
Total MCQs – 44

Duration (optional break)

Two 2hr15min sessions
(90MCQs each)

Two 2hr15min sessions
(44MCQs each)

Exam result

Within 60 days

Within 60 days

Within 90 days

10-yr pass rate
(2012-21)

41%

45%

53%

Exam take

Feb, May, Aug, Nov

Feb, Aug

May, Nov

Enrolment requirements

CFA Exams are offered only in English. To register for the Level I CFA exam, the candidate must have an international travel passport and meet one of the following entrance requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree

Completed a bachelor’s program and received a university/college degree

  • Final-Year Student

Be within 11 months of graduation month for bachelor’s degree on the date of sitting for the Level I exam

  • Professional Work Experience

Have a combination of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education that was acquired over a minimum of three sequential years on the date of enrolling for the Level I exam. Dates of education and professional work experience cannot be overlapping.

Duration

If the candidate clears all 3 levels of the CFA exams on the first attempt, it will take about 1.5 years to 2 years to pass the three levels. CFA Institute’s policy is that there must be a minimum of six months between exams; this allows candidates 6-9 months between testing windows.

To earn a charter, the candidate must achieve qualified work experience i.e., at least 4,000 hours of relevant experience, completed in a minimum of 36 months. Work experience requirements can be met before, during, or after passing the 3 exams.

On average, it takes 4+ years to complete the full program.

Registration

Registering for the CFA exam is a two-step process. 

Step 1:  Enrol in the CFA exam through the CFA website – https://www.cfainstitute.org

Step 2: After a candidate completes the registration process and payment is processed, the candidate will see the “schedule your exam” option in the CFA Program profile. This will take the candidate to the Prometric scheduling tool where available testing centers with dates and times shall be mentioned. One must complete this step by the scheduling deadline.

Fees

CFA is an expensive course & actual costs vary depending on when a candidate decides to register for the exam.

  • US$ 450 one-time enrolment fee

Required to pay when a candidate registers for the CFA Program and Level I exam. It is not required for Level II and III exams.

  • Registration Fee for each level
    • Early Registration Fee – US$700.
    • Standard Registration Fee – US$1,000

Generally, the early registration period closes 6 months prior to the exam period, while the standard registration period closes 3 months before it.

For instance, for Level I and III exams in May 2022, the early registration period applies from 20 Jul 2021 through 1 Nov 2021 and the standard registration period applies from 2 Nov 2021 through 1 Feb 2022.

Total Fee (for Illustrative purposes)

 

US$

INR (US$1 = Rs.75)

Level I

1,150 - 1,450

86,250 –1,08,750

Level II

700 – 1,000

52,500 – 75,000

Level III

700 – 1,000

52,500 – 75,000

Total

2,550 – 3,450

1,91,250 – 2,58,750

Scholarships

  • Access Scholarship
    • CFA Program enrolment fee is waived, and exam registration is reduced to US$250
  • Women Scholarship
    • CFA Program enrolment fee is waived, and exam registration is reduced to US$350
  • Students Scholarship
    • For students currently attending Affiliated University
    • Exam registration is reduced to US$350
  • Other Scholarships
    • Includes Professor and Regulator Scholarship
    • Exam registration is reduced to US$350

Some employers also provide financial assistance to their employees for participation in the CFA Program. For more details on scholarships, visit: https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/programs/cfa/scholarships

University Affiliation Program

Academic institutions that include a significant portion of CFA Program topics in their curriculum are eligible to participate in the University Affiliation Program.

There is a Scholarship for students currently attending an affiliated university and who have not yet registered for their next exam. There are a total of 697 affiliated Universities worldwide - 19 of which are in India as of Oct 2021. Details regarding such Universities can be found on the CFA institute website.

Syllabus

Each level of the CFA exam is based on the curriculum of the prior level which evolves in complexity. The exams cover the following topic areas:

Topic

Focus

Weightage by Level

I

II

III

Ethical and Professional Standards

Ethics, related challenges, the role of ethics in the investment industry

15 – 20

10 – 15

10 – 15

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative concepts and techniques in financial analysis and investment decision making

8 – 12

5 – 10

0

Economics

Supply & demand, market structures, macroeconomic concepts, and principles, business cycles

8 – 12

5 – 10

5 – 10

Financial Statement Analysis

Financial reporting procedures and standards, a framework for conducting financial statement analysis

13 – 17

10 – 15

0

Corporate Issuers

Corporate governance, environmental and social considerations in investing, leverage, working capital management

8 – 12

5 – 10

0

Equity Investments

Characteristics of equity investments, security markets, and indexes; Analysis - industries, companies, and equity securities; Basic equity valuation models

10 – 12

10 – 15

10 – 15

Fixed Income

Yield measures, risk factors, valuation measurements, drivers, yield calculation, securitization of assets, fundamentals of bond returns and risks, basic principles of credit analysis

10 – 12

10 – 15

15 – 20

Derivatives

Conceptual framework, Valuation concepts, Arbitrage

5 – 8

5 – 10

5 – 10

Alternative Investments

Hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities, and infrastructure

5 – 8

5 – 10

5 – 10

Portfolio Management & Wealth Planning

Fundamentals of portfolio and risk management, range of available investment solutions, capital asset pricing model

5 – 8

10 – 15

35 – 40

Study Material

CFA Program is a self-paced, distance learning program. When a candidate registers for the CFA Program, he/she / they gain access to the CFA institute’s Learning ecosystem and various study tools and resources such as –

  • Official program curriculum
  • Study sessions for each level
  • Practice questions
  • Mock exams

Coaching

Candidates can prepare for CFA exams either through self-study only or self-study plus coaching. Through coaching, candidates can benefit from extra exam materials and practice. Before selecting a coaching institute, candidates should the check quality of the instructors, whether they specialize in the topic areas, and confirm that the coaching institute will offer concept explanations, notes, practice questions that are consistent with exam question formats.

CFA Candidates are required to spend an average of 300+ hours for each level of the exam.

Computer Based Exams

CFA Institute now conducts all CFA exams through computer-based testing centers.

Scheduling

Candidates have to self-schedule the exam in the exam window. There is a US$250 fee if the candidate wishes to reschedule an exam appointment within the exam window after initial scheduling.

Example: For Level I May 2022 exam, exam dates are 17 – 23 May 2022. Candidates have to schedule their exam within the above dates and the scheduling window deadline is 16 Feb 2022.

Locations

CFA Exams are conducted globally in 400+ locations.

In India, exam centers as of today, are based in 14 cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Chennai, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune.

Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis i.e., based on scheduling date.

Exam length

·       30 minutes allotted to pledge, tutorial, and survey

·       approximately 135 minutes for session 1

·       30 minutes for an optional break

·       approximately 135 minutes for session 2

·       Total testing time is 4.5 hours

·       Total appointment time is 5.5 hours

Things to carry

·       International Passport

·       Writing materials are provided during the exam

·       Calculator – either Texas Instruments BA II Plus or Hewlett Packard 12C

CFA Exam Calculator

Some equations and calculations can be complicated in the CFA exam. Calculators come quite handy for them. However, CFA Institute follows a strict calculator policy. Only two calculator models are authorized for use during CFA® Program exams:

  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
  • Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th-anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)

Both these models are widely available. Candidates can also order them on Amazon or Flipkart. Calculators are not available at the test center and candidates are also not allowed to borrow from or share a calculator with another candidate during the exam. Candidates should learn how to use calculators beforehand.

Which model to prefer?

It depends on preferences and comfort level. Most exam preparation providers focus on teaching how to use the TI BA II Plus model as it offers an algebraic operating system that allows one to enter numbers and combine operations into the calculator in a straightforward sequence as found in normal six-function calculators. TI BA II Plus model costs approximately ₹3,000.

Exam Results

After each exam administration, the CFA Institute Board of Governors sets minimum passing score (MPS) for each level. CFA Institute does not release the MPS or individual candidate scores.

Exam results are generally available approximately 8-10 weeks after the close of an exam window for Level I/Level II, and approximately 10 weeks for Level III.

Candidates receive a result of "pass" or "fail" along with information on their topic level performance via registered email id (Candidates who pass Level III do not receive detailed results).

Result Analysis –

 

Level I

Level II

Level III

10-yr pass rate
(2012-21)

41%

45%

53%

Most recent*

26%
(Aug 21)

40%
(May 21)

42%
(May 21)

*CFA Institute has explained that recent lower pass rates are because of candidates’ performance impacted by COVID-19 disruptions and exam deferrals. 

 

Job Prospects

Different types of organizations operate in the investment management sector. These include asset managers, asset owners, insurance companies, hedge funds, private wealth managers, private equity firms, investment banks, and brokerage firms. A wide range of job roles exist within these different types of organizations which are summarised as follows:

Advisory Roles

Analytical Roles

Investment Decision-Making Roles

Risk and Oversight Roles

·     Business Development

·     Corporate Finance Advisory

·     Financial Advisor

·     Financial Planner

·     Investment Consultant

·     M&A Advisory

·     Pension Fund Consultant

·     Private Banker

·     Private Equity Limited Partner

·     Private Wealth Manager

·     Sales

·     Stockbroker

·       Capital Markets

·       Commodity Analyst

·       Credit Analyst

·       Currency Analyst

·       Data Analyst

·       Data Scientist

·       Economist

·       Equity Analyst

·       Equity Strategist

·       Fund Analyst

·       FX Strategist

·       Macro Strategist

·       Quantitative Analyst

·     Chief Investment Officer

·     ETF Manager

·     Fund of Fund Manager

·     Hedge Fund Manager

·     Multi-Asset Manager

·     Portfolio Manager

·     Real Estate Manager

·     Sales Trader

·     Anti-Money Laundering Officer

·     Auditor

·     Compliance Manager

·     Compliance Officer

·     Fund Accountant

·     Risk Analyst

·     Risk Manager

·     Trustee

The compensation varies based on job function and region. Unlike other professional exams, 3 levels of CFA exams, however, carry their independent value as candidates can earn CFA® charter only after achieving 4,000 hours of relevant work experience.

In India average expected salary for a Fresher with Level I and/or Level II exams cleared, can range between Rs.4,00,000 p.a. to Rs.9,00,000.

Candidate Profile

Each year, CFA Institute surveys CFA® Program candidates. The June 2019 CFA candidates represented a diverse, global community, ranging in age from 21 to 76, from 184 international markets. 70% reported they have full- or part-time employment.

Top job-functions of employed candidates were –

  • Research Analyst, Investment Analyst, or Quantitative Analyst – 13%
  • Corporate Finance Analyst – 9%
  • Accountant or Auditor – 8%
  • Consultant – 7%

Risk Analyst / Manager; Relationship Manager; Credit Analyst; Portfolio Manager – 5% each

Conclusion

Until FY 2019 (pre-pandemic), every year higher number of candidates had taken CFA exams with 3,54,300 (+11% y-o-y) CFA exam administrations in FY 2019 of which the Asia Pacific region constituted 56%.

India consistently remains the top 3rd country in terms of exam administrations, after China and US. In 2019, there were appx. 35,000 CFA exam administrations in India across three levels which was a 15% increase over 2018. There was a 25% increase in candidates in ‘18, 20%+ in ’17; 16%+ in ’16.

Clearly, CFA Program has been gaining interest amongst working professionals and students in India and worldwide. Even though CFA charter holders and candidates find jobs across different sectors in the finance industry, CFA is considered more suited for investment management and equity research roles. For Finance roles, it is also considered as an alternative degree to an MBA. Many MBA students across top colleges in India, however, take up level I or II exams, both from the perspective of gaining deeper knowledge about Finance as well as signaling to their prospective employers about their interests and understanding about Finance.

However, one has to note that there is no direct campus placement assistance by CFA Institute or CFA societies in respective regions, but placement opportunities for CFA candidates are generally considered higher as compared to students with graduation. Being an expensive program, as compared to other professional courses (CA, CPA, CMA, CS, etc.), and time involved in earning the charter, one should make itself aware of their interest, placement opportunities before enrolling in the course.