The Best Part of the CFA Charter and You Don’t Even Need to Pass the Exams

As a CFA charterholder of more than four years, I can tell you about the benefits of having those three little letters after your name. I’ve gotten my foot in the door to jobs that wouldn’t have been available and have found that I can charge more for my freelance services.

But it turns out, there’s another benefit to the CFA program and you don’t even need to pass the exams to take advantage. This benefit will help you open doors as well. It will connect you with all the right people and will help you shape your career.

I’m talking about connecting with the CFA community through the resources on the CFA Institute website.

We’ve covered some of the great resources on the CFA Institute’s website before. Earlier this year, we ran a five-part series on landing your dream job from networking to interviews. I’ve talked about how to fill the void after studying for the CFA exams by becoming more active in your local CFA society.

But there’s still some great resources and benefits I wanted to highlight, especially for the new readers that might not have seen the older posts. Check out the CFA resources below to network, keep informed on the industry and even make a name for yourself.

Again, best of all, your CFA candidate login gets you access to all of them. You don’t need to pass the exams to start benefitting.

CFA Institute Blogs

The CFA Institute Blogs are a relatively new resource on the website with posts dating back a few years. There are nine linked blogs though a few have been discontinued.

The most active blogs are the Enterprising Investor and Inside Investing. New posts are published on a daily basis and anyone can submit an article for publication. Not only are the blogs a great resource for staying up-to-date on market issues but could turn out to be an excellent way to distinguish yourself.

Check out the posts on one of the blogs to get a feel for the kind of issues discussed and how your expertise might fit in on the blog. Depending on your experience, you might need to research a particular topic to build enough expert knowledge to add something but it is easily doable.

Consider approaching a local CFA charterholder to team up for an article. They can provide the direction and you can do the research. Getting published on one of the CFA Institute blogs and building your expertise in a subject area is sure to get noticed by employers.

CFA Local Societies

I am a big supporter of the local CFA societies and sat on the board of directors to the Iowa society when I lived in the States. Besides the obvious benefits of networking with the people that direct the financial community, going to society events is just plain fun!

Check out a few of your local society’s events. Don’t worry about ‘networking’ at first, just talk to people and have fun. Going into the events without a motive other than just to talk to people and enjoying yourself will help lessen the stress of an unfamiliar room.

Remember, you aren’t restricted to only participating with your local society. Use the societies strategically to guide your career where you want it to go. If you want to end up in a particular city or at a particular firm, try contacting people in that city or with that firm.

CFA Institute Insights & Learning

The CFA Insights & Learning site is the main page for some great continuing education material.

My favorite section is Research & Financial Tools with topic-specific calculators, spreadsheet models, questionnaires and data sets for just about any need. The section is a great resource for data sets that has saved me a lot of time.

The Institute provides some excellent content for your clients in the For Investors section. This is material you can share with clients and other investors to help them understand the financial markets and basic investing principles.

The area also hosts the CFA Institute’s initiative on the Future of Finance, a long-term global effort to shape a trustworthy, forward-thinking financial industry that serves society. This project is on the forefront of the industry and will be a huge issue for years to come. It could be one area where you can make a name for yourself.

CFA Career Resources

Probably the most popular resource with candidates is the CFA Career Resources section with its resource library of presentations and the JobLine platform. The resource library hosts webinars, articles and presentations on everything from skills development to networking for that dream job. There are currently 2,623 jobs listed across five regions and by 175 employers on the CFA Institute’s JobLine.

It’s easy to let time slip away between study seasons for the CFA exams. You finish up the June exam and don’t even want to think about the curriculum or anything with CFA in its name. Pretty soon, it’s January and you have to start studying for the next exam. You’ve let a great opportunity pass by without taking advantage.

You’ve still got two months before you need to start thinking about your next CFA exam. Use those months to take advantage of all the CFA Institute has to offer and some of the resources available. If you haven’t attended a local CFA society event, make it a goal to attend at least one before the end of the year. If you’ve attended some of the events, make it a goal to start getting involved by volunteering. You won’t regret it and you will open up doors you didn’t even know where there.

‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

Studying for the CFA Exam without knowing your studying

It’s not even January yet and the last thing many of you want to think about is studying for the CFA exams in June. I always liked to start early and set a relaxed study schedule but I’m not going to tell you that you need to get busy studying immediately.

What I can tell you is that there is a way you can actually keep your skills fresh while waiting for later to really start studying. It’s a little thing I like to call stealth studying and everyone should work it into their daily routine.

CFA Institute Resources

Your first stop will be some of the great resources on the CFA Institute website and the Enterprising Investor blog. The Institute’s Publications & Multimedia page sports a seemingly infinite amount of research and resources. Resources are indexed by asset class and topic area with separate sections for career advice like networking, management and current topics. A lot of the resources are quick presentation-type material so you can look through it within a few minutes to get the general idea. It’s a great way to generate ideas for your own work.

Must Read Books

The Enterprising Investor blog also offers regular reviews for books related to the industry. Within the reviews, you’ll find a mix of educational books to further your skills and books that will entertain. I just finished Alan Blinder’s, “After the Music Stopped,” after reading the review on the site and really enjoyed the insightful analysis of the financial crisis.

Of course, Graham’s timeless book, “The Intelligent Investor,” is always a good start for those that haven’t yet read it. After months of detailed and rigorous study of the CFA curriculum, it’s nice to sit down with a relatively straight-forward and simple tome.

Networking with colleagues

Readers of the blog will know that I’m a big advocate of active involvement in your local CFA society. Most likely, you are going to want to approach these people for a job opportunity in the future so it’s best to get to know them first. Networking with other candidates and charterholders serves another function, getting some of the best insight from some of the best minds in the business.

So stealth studying isn’t really anything new, it’s just keeping involved in your industry. Reading books, whether for information or entertainment, watching presentations from other professionals and connecting with others in the field will all help to keep your mind sharp.

Whether you are working in investment analysis and management yet or not, it’s best to start thinking of yourself as a professional. You’ve committed to one of the most difficult professional designations out there and just the Level I CFA curriculum puts you well on your way. As a professional, it’s also best to stop thinking in terms of a period to study for the exams and the rest of the year in which you get to relax. Being a professional is about constant improvement and keeping up to date with the industry.

The resources above will not only help you prepare for your next CFA exam but will help you become a better professional.

‘til next time, happy…studying?
Joseph Hogue, CFA

A CFA Blog! How long has this been here?

Now that you are firmly focused on studying and passing the CFA exam in June, let me digress and ruin your concentration. Sorry, I just came across the CFA blog managed by the Institute and was so impressed that I wanted to bring it to your attention.

Where have I been?


In our hectic daily routines, it can be tough to find new sources of information. It certainly doesn’t help that there are more than 350 million registered domains, an increase from virtual nonexistence only two decades ago. I have 11 sites bookmarked to my navigation panel (Federal Reserve FRED, Bloomberg, Morningstar, along with email accounts and a few other finance sites) and probably only use a handful of others on a daily basis.

I am plastered to my screen between eight and ten hours a day, sometimes including weekends, and just do not have time to hunt around the web for great new sources of information. I generally try to keep up with things the CFA Institute is doing, especially the newer ideas but this obviously wasn’t the case with the new blog.

I have to give credit to Josh Armstrong, CFA for posting one of the Institute’s blog posts on the forum group. I regularly read the Financial Analysts Journal and other publications sent out by the Institute, along with other research posted on the Institute’s site. When I found the blog site, the material was familiar but offered an ease of reading that was great.

Across the blog’s navigation bar is six categories of posts along with nine other categories from the CFA topic areas and a link for About Us and Authors. Clicking on each category will take you to posts specific to it but the site does not include a dated directory so finding a specific post can be a little difficult. It is also nearly impossible (or at least impossible without loosing your sanity) to find the original posting date of the site since you have to scroll down and click, ‘older posts’ continuously.

The posts run the gamut of research, polls, book reviews and advice. Twenty-eight posts were written in December, pretty impressive considering most people are more focused on their holiday weight gain than on financial writing during the month.

As blog posts, the content comes across as more conversational and easier to read than some of the Institute’s other publications. While this may not be as welcome to some of the hard-core researchers out there, I enjoyed being able to make it through an article without taking a master’s level course in stats. Posts include links to other publications and other helpful sites.

If you can find a couple of hours in your busy weekly schedule of work and study to visit the blog, your time will be well-rewarded. The blog does a good job of highlighting important material from the Institute’s site as well as some new stuff. You probably won’t read all of it but it will offer a quick way to keep up-to-date on some important ideas in the industry. I have bookmarked the site and will probably go back at least a couple of times a week.

Always on the lookout of good sites for market information and data. Any ideas?

Ok, digression over. Back to studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

The Claritas Investment Certificate…Why should we care?

Public registration has opened for the Claritas Investment Certificate and the Institute is putting a lot of time in to promote the program. John Rogers, CFA Institute President and CEO has a full page update in the May/June issue of CFA magazine cheerleading the program. There will also be a luncheon forum with the CFA Society of Los Angeles on July 15th to highlight the program.

Talking with other charterholders and candidates, I still get the impression that most have not decided whether they really care or not about the program. I think the Institute has done a good job of allaying fears that the certificate will dilute the brand or as a watered-down substitute for the charter, but it hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate why the industry should embrace the program.

The Claritas program consists of an eBook (about 650 pages), chapter review questions, practice questions and a mock exam. The exam is computer-based and consists of 120 multiple-choice questions administered in English. Candidates will have 120 minutes to complete the test. The Institute estimates that passing the exam will require approximately 100 hours of study time.

The program is designed to help build, maintain and restore trust in the industry through creating educated and ethical professionals. The Institute states that, “For every investment decision maker there are up to ten other professionals working alongside them.  We want to help to build their knowledge in line with our mission to shape an investment industry for the ultimate benefit of society.”

The Institute asserts that the program will help to spread a clear understanding of the essentials of the industry and will benefit employees, organizations and the industry as a whole.

Beyond the more lofty goals of the Institute, it does look like the industry and charterholders can benefit from the success of the Claritas Certificate program in at least two important ways,

What your co-workers don’t know could hurt you,
The support staff in most of the offices where I’ve worked have been great resources but I have friends that find their colleagues anything but supportive. The profession can be extremely technical at times and the fact is that many in supporting roles just don’t get the industry-specific training they need to do their jobs.

If your tech support isn’t quite sure what the company does, how are they able to make sure that platforms and programs are doing what they need to do?

The idea is to provide an introductory understanding of financial services to those not working in investment roles so they can better understand the industry and more effectively work with colleagues. The 21 chapters in the Claritas course of study closely follow the CFA curriculum and should give someone a good understanding of the industry.

Making it a career rather than just another job,
Certificate members of the Claritas program will have spent upwards of 100 hours learning the basics to the industry. Along with firm-specific training to understand the company’s business model, this helps to integrate employees and develop a vested interest in the industry. The more effort a person has put into training for their role, the more likely they are to see the company’s success as their own and feel a part of the team.

Egos and the individualistic drive for success can be extremely strong in our industry and success or appreciation isn’t always shared with co-workers further down the ladder from the client-facing roles. Encouraging support staff to develop their skills with programs like Claritas helps to show that you value their role and their work.

The jury is still out on Claritas and probably will be until we get enough people through the program and see it ultimately benefits the industry. As charterholders, we’ve got a lot riding on its success and not only because the Institute is promoting it so heavily.

The Institute’s website for the Claritas program can be found at https://www.cfainstitute.org/programs/employer/claritas/Pages/index.aspx , look for updates from the Institute online and in the bi-monthly publication.

‘til next time,
Joseph Hogue, CFA

Last updated: July 19, 2016 at 9:27 am