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Jan 23, 2009 2:24 pm

   My long-term goal is to either run my business at ML like a multi-family office or start/join a multi-family office (If given no choice by ML/BoA). I have an MBA from NYU/Stern and my CFP®.  I am ready to start pursuing my CFA®.  Considering that my MBA and CFP® are relatively recent and much of the content is fresh in my mind, how much additional learning will be required fro the CFA®?

  If you have the CFA®, how helpful has in been in managing your business?  I spoke with two advisors who have their CFA®.  They told me that the CFA® has been relevant in their business and it has helped them get large referrals from professional relationships.  Have you had similar experiences?


Jan 23, 2009 4:46 pm

The CFA charter is an internationally recognized sign of diligence and intelligence, without which you could not pass the exams over three years.

  People who know the designation will appreciate your effort. People who don't will appreciate your professionalism.    
Jan 23, 2009 4:50 pm

From what I’m told, your MBA and the CFP are both a walk in the park compared to passing all three parts of the CFA.  Thankfully, I don’t work in a market where it’s in demand, but I wish you well on your journey and hope it helps you land some whales.

Jan 23, 2009 6:52 pm

I agree with Sailor, that the CFA is very challenging and passing it does get some recognition from those who know what it is…

  And I think that last part would be interesting to see if it would matter...
Jan 23, 2009 8:41 pm

 I spoke with two advisors who have their CFA®.  They told me that the CFA® has been relevant in their business and it has helped them get large referrals from professional relationships.  Have you had similar experiences?

I know of one advisor who has his MD, and it has helped him get large referrals from his professional relationships.  I also know a couple others who have their JDs and ditto for them with helping them with land other attorneys.   Nothing wrong with furthering your education, but be careful you don't miss the forest for the trees.  The real question isn't if additional advanced degrees or accreditations would be relevant or helpful, but if pursuing them is the best and highest use of your time.  Jack of all trades, master of none.   What efforts are you taking to get more clients now, where you are, with what you've got?  Very few, if any, advisors suffer because they lack a CFA or similar, but virtually every FA who lacks a sufficient client base will suffer or fail, no matter how many letters they have after their name.  Swing for the fence if you want, but keep your eye on the ball.   Good luck.
Jan 24, 2009 11:00 pm

I’ve heard it said that peoploe get professional credentials manily to impress their colleagues. I don’t think most (98%) of clients have a clue what all the diferent initials mean (Xst – I don;t evenknow 90% of em – MSFDEU?). However, it seems that people with a grad degree from some ploace like MIT ‘might’ travel in social circles where there’s some collateral benefit?

  Speaking personally tho, I like the continuing efforts entailed by augmenting my human capital. I doubt I'd have found non-linear programming and its benefits in down markets unless I'd done one of prof designations (CAIA). Now I'm working on finishing the CFA - why? because the local CFA group has a great summer gold outing.
Jan 25, 2009 2:56 am

A CFA or CAIA is the cover-charge to interview with a MD of a top 5 family office.

The CAIA (Chartered Alt. Inv. Analyst) is more focused and the trustees of large endowments are especially interested in engaging consultants with this designation.   Your current credentials are impressive ... good luck.
Jan 25, 2009 7:05 am

Hedge fund?

Jan 26, 2009 3:45 am

Earning your CFA charter is quite an undertaking.   I took the CFP exam a few year ago and was able to challenge the exam with my CFA status.  The CFA is 10x more difficult than the CFP exam.  Many smart people fail  the CFA tests.  The only people that fail MBA programs are those whose tuition checks bounce.  If you took Damadoran’s classes at Stern you should have a good foundation for much of the CFA’s body of knowledge.  

CFA took me approx 150-250 hours per exam.  For me level II was very
difficult (took it twice).  I studied for CFP for a total of 25 hours over the
10 days before the exam.

Many UHNW individuals are familiar with the CFA exams…the average retail investors has no concept of the difference between any of the alphabet soup that advisors are able to put behind our names. 


Jan 26, 2009 5:51 am

The only people that fail MBA programs are those whose tuition checks bounce.

    In addition to that bit of humor, I found the rest of your post dead-on.
Jan 26, 2009 3:53 pm

Thank you for all of the useful responses.

Looking long-term, I am confident that the CFA will help me with the business that I want to build.  Looking short-term, I am concerned that time/effort necessary to earn the CFA will get in the way of building my business.  What I’ve learned since my initial post is that individuals with a similar background still needed 150-250 hours per exam.  What I would love to be able to answer is if I will be able to acquire new clients or expand existing clients based on what I learn while going through the process of earning the CFA.  The optimist in me feels that landing one whale per level will justify the time/effort.  I think that I’ll poll my existing clients, referral sources and prospects as to if the pursuit of the CFA would encourage them to bring over more assets or send more/larger referrals.  At the very least, the polling exercise might lead to more assets/referrals.


P.S. The comment about who fails MBAs more accurate than I would like to admit

Jan 27, 2009 8:56 pm

I am a huge proponent of education and have always loved learning.

  However, I have a hard time understanding how the time and effort required to obtain the CFA designation would really help anyone.   Although I've only been in the industry for a little over three years, I've been amazed at how the experts of finance (i.e., Ph.Ds, CFAs, etc.) spend their days guessing at which stocks people should buy, where the market's headed, where the economy is headed and the measures we should take to get it there. You ask three different CFAs a market/economy-related question, and you get 5 different opinions.   Heck, the smartest folks on Wall Street are repeatedly beaten by their respective indexes.   What's the point of all the knowledge when so much of the performance of a stock comes down to investor emotion, and complex analyzation of companies really serves little purpose? 
Feb 1, 2009 2:18 pm


One of the keys to education and programs such as the CFA is to help us realize how much we don’t know.  Investment overconfidence can be very detrimental to portfolio returns.  Education helps us realize that hearing a 30 second tip on Cramer does not make us on expert on all the stocks he recommends in the lighting round.  The CFA made me realize how difficult it is to be a good investor or outperform the market.

The key to wisdom is recognizing what you don’t know. 

Feb 1, 2009 3:59 pm

If you really want to learn to make money try prop trading for a year or two. I think education is great. But the last year has given me the opinion that everything is secondary to actually making money in the market. Looking at “managed money” and its dismal failure maybe they should teach that cash is an asset class and going short is not evil. I have next to zero confidence in the opinions of my firms MBA/CFA/whatever and can trade circles around them. Looks to me like somebody needs to re-thing the curriculum. You can’t ‘plan’ on anything but poverty if you’re not making money. I’ve been studying probabilities and gaming theory … Do they have a designation for that? Just my very HO.