If you want to make yourself employable and to indemnify yourself against redundancy, you may be thinking of trying for the CFA Charter. This is probably a good plan, there is nothing wrong with taking the CFA exams, they are sufficiently hard that few people pass them and they are one of the most sought-after qualifications in financial services jobs.
However, as we have pointed out before, the CFA isn't the only exam that will get you a job in the industry. There are plenty of other qualifications that may prove more effective. They may not necessarily ensure your employability in the front office, but the front office is not where the jobs are being created.
If you are concerned about your employability and thinking of qualifications, may we suggest:
1) The Private Client Investment Advice and Management Certificate
Under the Retail Distribution Review, which comes into effect on 31st December 2012, investment advisors will be required to have a higher level of qualification than at present. The Private Client Investment Advice and Management Certificate will meet the FSA's requirements for a transitional qualification.
Lora Benson, head of media at the CISI, which runs the qualification, says it's attracted, "record numbers of candidates" as a result. Jonathan Shaw, director of training company 7City says more and more people are taking the PCIAM Certificate as a career move. "In the past, people often fell into wealth management, now there's a proper career path and this is a route into it," he says.
2) The Cass MSc in insurance and risk management
Cass has run an MSc in Insurance and Risk Management for a decade. This year, the school tells us there were 350 applications for 60 places.
The course may become more popular in future. Under Solvency II regulations, managing risk is becoming far more important for insurance firms. Traditionally they used actuaries but now they're building independent risk functions of their own.
"We are seeing an increase in demand for senior risk professionals at insurance firms," says Adrian Marples at recruiters Leathwaite International.
Marples cautions the Cass qualification is unlikely to make an immediate difference to your employability: "Insurers are looking for people with practical experience of financial, enterprise and operational risk," he points out.
3) The Certificate in Quantitative Finance
Despite costing around 14k, the CQF is becoming ever more popular according to Shaw and is seen as a, "job-getter."
"It seems pretty much recession-proof," he says. "It's growing strongly in America and Asia and is seen as a vocational qualification that acts as a bridge between academia and the trading floor."
If you can't use the CQF to get a quant-related front office role, you may at least be able to use it to get a quant-related risk role. Dominic Connor at P&D Recruitment, says quant risk jobs are still plentiful. However, he teaches the CQF and may therefore not be entirely impartial.
4) The Diploma in Investment Compliance
Also run by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, the Diploma in Investment Compliance is there for people who want to go into compliance. At present, Shaw says very few banks put their people through it. However, he predicts this will change as banks realize they need to build a pipeline of compliance staff. Taking the qualification now may facilitate a desperate move into compliance if necessary - particularly if you come from a sales or trading position.