Work Experience and Applying for Your Charter

Thought I would take a break from exam prep and cover a decidedly more fun topic that many of you (hopefully) will need to address pretty soon, applying for your CFA charter. The process is fairly straight forward but I still get a lot of questions from candidates and there are a few road blocks that present themselves.
After you’ve passed all three exams you need to:

  • Meet the requirement for 48 months of ‘qualifying’ work experience.
  • Have two sponsors fill out the Institute’s sponsorship application.
  • Pay member dues and sign the Professional Conduct Statement

‘Qualified’ Work Experience
This is the part that trips up most candidates. The Institute gives some detail in what they are looking for with:

  • Evaluating or applying financial, economic, and/or statistical data as part of the investment decision-making process involving securities or similar investments, which includes, but is not limited to, publicly traded and privately placed stocks, bonds, and mortgages and their derivatives; commodity-based derivatives and mutual funds; and other investment assets, such as real estate and commodities, if these other investment assets are held as part of a diversified, securities-oriented investment portfolio; or
  • Supervising, directly or indirectly, persons who practice such activities; or
  • Teaching such activities.

The focus is really on ‘front’ office activities that directly relate to analyzing and selecting investments but there is some leeway. I found it a little frustrating when my years as a financial analyst were denied credit (presumably because it was corporate finance-related rather than investment analysis) but was later approved after I re-worded my application to focus on the parts of my job that were more investment-related.
When filling out your profile, try to focus on activities that relate directly to the Learning Outcome Statements in the exams. I have even heard of candidates listing the LOS beside each work activity though it’s not necessary. Most people working in finance can find at least a few of the qualifying activities within their resume or current job.
If you do get denied based on work experience, take another look at the description you listed. Compare this to some of the work experience descriptions listed on the Institute’s website. Looking through the descriptions, it becomes clear that the Institute is not requiring applicants to be Gordon Gekko incarnate but there are some ‘concepts’ that need to be obvious from your job description. Re-write your description, again focused on material in the curriculum, and resubmit your application.
If you do not perform any approved activities in your job, or do not have at least 48 months, you will be put on Affiliate membership until you meet the requirements. You will still receive all the benefits of a regular membership but will not have voting rights or be able to use the designation.
Sponsors
The Institute will send you an email when you have registered for the Level III exam that will initiate your membership process. Within this email will be a link to email two people that will act as your sponsors for membership. The requirement is that one sponsor is a direct supervisor while the other is a member of the local CFA Society, but I have seen exceptions where two local society members can be used.
I would HIGHLY recommend you send your sponsorship request early. Others do not always have your priorities in mind and it would suck to have your charter held up because you were late getting your sponsorship material in to the Institute. The questionnaire is short and won’t take much time for your sponsors to fill out. The biggest issue I have seen is finding a local society sponsor. Many candidates neglect their local society until they come hat-in-hand for a sponsorship need. As a member of the Board of Directors for the local society, this is a pet peeve of mine. The society is there for your benefit and there are some great local programs available. Get to know your society and some of its members before you come begging for sponsorship.
All for today. We’ll cover another Level 3 exam essay question and some Level 2 material on Wednesday.
‘til then, happy studyin’.
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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