Is a CFA really worth the hassle?

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New entrants looking to break into the ultra-competitive fund management industry have a significant obstacle in their path: the notoriously difficult Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme. The professional qualification comes in three parts, takes four years to complete, and 80% of candidates fall before the final hurdle.

Moreover, as more people take the exams, CFA insiders say the pass rate is bound to fall. A total of 119,000 candidates globally turned up for the final stage three exam this year and their numbers are swelling at the rate of 25% per annum.

Given the difficulty in acquiring the accreditation, it's unfortunate perhaps that it's becoming increasingly mandatory. Chris Manfield, managing director and head of the asset management practice in Europe for Whitney Group, says it's become the norm for new entrants to asset management: "For serious asset management players in the institutional space it is a must-have."

Whether completing the CFA actually adds to your pay packet is less of a certainty. Some industry surveys have put CFA holders' salaries 25% ahead of those of non-CFA holders. But Steve Wellard, spokesman for CFA Institute in London, says the issue remains unclear: "It's not black and white to say that being a charterholder means you can secure more money."

For new entrants fretting about attaining CFA status, Philip Darling, partner at Korn/Ferry International, says most fund managers will put graduates through the programme, particularly if the parent company is American.

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