Chartered Financial Analyst: Rising demand for finance professionals

In the contemporary era of liberalisation and globalisation, a host of opportunities have become available to chartered financial analysts in the newly emergent world of corporate and international finance

If you are good at numbers crunching, specialization in the chartered financial analyst(CFA) programme may well be the way to go as it unlocks many doors into the world of finance, particularly in the current new era of liberalisation and globalisation.

This is a postgraduate professional programme, which could give you a thorough grasp of corporate and international finance, investment management, and financial services. With their training and skills, CFAs can provide a host of financial services covering money market operations; merchant and international banking services; portfolio management; lease financing; mergers; mutual funds etc.

Conducted by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI), located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, the CFA study programme aims to turn out trained financial analysts and investment managers. The ICFAI programme is available as a distance education course as Regular CFA programme (three years) and Accelerated CFA programme (two years) with the added facility of refresher classes in the major cities. The institute provides comprehensive study material, books, model questions and answers, and conducts assignments, computer drills, special seminars, and simulated tests.

ELIGIBILITY. The minimum eligibility for enrolment is graduation or equivalent. An admission test is conducted to evaluate applicants’ verbal and quantitative reasoning capabilities. Professionals such as chartered accountants, MBAs, cost and works accountants, and officers in banks, insurance companies, and the civil services are exempt from the admission test. The course is divided into three components: preliminary, inter, and final. The duration of the programme is three years and can be extended to seven years.

The CFA study programme may also be pursued by way of the two-year full-time or three-year part-time campus CFA programme. This course is offered in several B-schools such as:

Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar
Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai
S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai
K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, MumbaiInstitute for Financial Management and Research, Chennai
Institute for Financial Management and Research, Chennai
Institute for Technology and Management, Mumbai
International Management Institute, New Delhi
Goa Institute of Management, Panaji
Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani
ICFAI Business School, Mumbai

The CFA admission test conducted in 31 centres across India in January every year comprises two sessions of three hours each. This test is common to all CFA programmes. Admission to the campus CFA programmes is based on the following factors: past academic record, recommendation letters, personality test scores, admission test scores, and performance in interview and group discussion. Moreover the ICFAI University introduced a  M.Sc (Finance) study programme. Indeed the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological  University, and Bharatidasan University have recognised CFA qualification as equivalent to a Master’s degree while considering applications for admission into their doctorate-level business management programme.

ICFAI has a placement network which helps to obtain employment for qualified CFAs and it has established close networking relationship with leading education institutions and professional bodies around the world. With the financial services sector expanding, job opportunities for CFAs have multiplied and salaries range from high to very high, depending on capability, initiative, and managerial skills of graduates.

With the growing popularity of CFA programmes, the ICFAI University, Tripura, has been established in 2008 as a statutory university approved by UGC and mandated by law to offer the chartered financial analyst programme and confer the CFA charter and designation on successful candidates, who will also receive the Master of Financial Analysis (MFA) degree. The duration of the course, for which graduates of any discipline are eligible, is 18 months based on self-study with examinations conducted four times a year in 168 test centres countrywide.

“Anybody who enters this profession now can expect to prosper as opportunities are multiplying for CFAs,” says Harish Kamath, a CFA from ICFAI, working with Centrum Finance Ltd, one of India’s leading merchant bankers.

An electronics engineering graduate of Mysore University, Kamath joined the ICFAI B-School, Hyderabad, and completed his postgraduation in 1997 to enter the world of finance. He started his career in Centrum Finance’s Mumbai office and is currently working as a relationship manager in the company’s office in Dubai. “Though recently new opportunities have emerged for CFAs to contribute as business analysts, software specialists etc, the demand for them is predominantly from the corporate finance, banking, and financial services industry with the focus on investment banking or equity research,” says Kamath.

For those considering chartered financial analysis as a career, it is important to understand that the work of a CFA is slightly different from that of a chartered accountant (CA) as the latter’s strength lies in accounting skills, whereas the former is trained for financial engineering, though both professionals have common subjects which overlap. Good analytical skills and quick and objective thinking are essential qualifications for a CFA.

Looking back Kamath says: “The study programme has helped me in various stages of my career. As a relationship manager, I advise people on how to manage their investment portfolios. This involves being aware of market trends and the ability to generate wealth for clients.”

According to Kamath, the future is bright for CFAs. “Opportunities have expanded for CFAs with new players entering this industry, and a substantial number of foreign banks and investment bankers shifting their back offices to India. This is a fast-track profession for youngsters with numbers on their mind,” he advises.