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"My CFA Level III pass left me unemployed, but it has its uses"

I am one of the special ones. I passed the CFA level III more than 10 years ago.  At the time, I didn’t really want to do the CFA level III exam, but my employer forced me to, telling me that I’d be made redundant if I didn’t take it. I passed but it turned out that I was then made redundant anyway - and replaced by someone who didn't have a CFA Charter. So, then I was fully-fledged CFA Level III exam passer, and I was unemployed.

Believe it or not, this isn't that unusual. I was working as an equity research analyst and the CFA wasn't the preferred qualification. Instead, plenty of people had accountancy qualifications. Finance directors have accounting qualifications and they like to talk to analysts who are similarly qualified. At the same time, the management of top of investment banks and fund managers behaved like a CFA Level III pass wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

In my opinion, it can help to pass the CFA exams if you're at the start of your career. - But not as you progress. The CFA is seen as a qualification for juniors. – How many CFA’s do you see at senior levels? 

At any rate, a CFA Level III pass didn't do it for me. I hawked my achievement around banks and the buy-side and after trying failing to get another job in equity research, I decided to leave London.  I’m glad that I did - MIFID II is making all my friends miserable.

I now live in Berlin and I'm having a great time.  I spend my days playing volleyball, writing blog posts and following Nassim Taleb “if wealth is giving you fewer options instead of more (and more varied) options, you’re doing it wrong” on Twitter.  Perhaps my CFA helps with my equity portfolio – but I doubt it.  Websites like stockopedia now calculate and weight the financial ratios that go into making an investment decision. 

Sometimes I get a bit down about the olden days. But then I just read analyst research on Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays from a few years ago and remind myself that everyone was bullish back in 2010, except me.  I saved some other analysts' 40 page long, detailed research notes on an old hard drive, and use them to make me chuckle now.  - They claim, Royal Bank could easily make 15% Return on Tangible Equity and be worth around 700p.  – RBS struggles to make a 5% return.   It always bothered me that the highest ranked sell side analysts were rewarded for publishing credible nonsense.

This isn't to say that the CFA hasn't come in useful at all. It's just not useful in the way I expected.  I’m thinking of buying a craft beer pub with some friends.  The bank was reluctant to lend the money, because despite my hipster business partners’ impressive facial hair and fashionable Hawaiian shirts, they don’t have any business qualifications.  Reassuringly though, the local SME bank branch manager is impressed by my CFA. At last, a result.

If you enjoy craft beer and are in Berlin, stop by at Kaschk.

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AUTHORBruce Packard Insider Comment
  • Da
    29 July 2020

    Twice after I was awarded the Charter I had interviews where the interviewers had each unsuccessfully attempted Level III multiple times. I sensed a lot of negative energy towards me and was offered neither job.

  • LC
    L Carta
    28 December 2019

    I don't think the article's intention is to draw attention on the importance of holding a cfa certification. I think it's just a disguised ad for stockholmpedia..having said that, I am sure that if you pocket your cfa you are going to be just fine..

  • Pe
    23 July 2019

    Don't worry, I took some accounting qualifications (ACCA) after the CFA (passed in 2008) and I am still unemployed, working for free for FinTech to avoid a gap on my CV. I will follow my wife to Poland and teach English. The financial system will blow up soon anyway

  • Re
    4 April 2019

    In my opinion CFA is hard work, not smart work, that's why I quit after Lv II. Simply the market premium, or lack of it, doesn't justify the time and the effort. These days even more than previously what counts is expierience and connections not another quasi-academic designation which does not much more than make you feel better for couple days, cause later you simply forget and the outside world couldn't care less.
    I recently stumbled upon CFA curiculum, gosh!, so outdated and far from real busienss world. Complicated stuff technology does for you in 3 seconds but in CFA world you need to calculate it all yourself, no matter what. I get the point, but honestly these days it's about knowing how to use information not acquire all the information that's out there. Tons of ethics, obvuisly important but how to put it.. you either a decent person and make money or you're drawning in endless ethics' concepts.

  • Ab
    Abu Bakr
    3 April 2019

    After reading it twice it doesnt make sense. How does your boss' statement that without a L3 your "redundant" make sense? As the L3 is almost purely focused on portfoliomanagement and not on security analysis (you were an equity researcher). Why would he fire you just because you didnt have a CPA if you were working with him some time and had experiences? I dont see any reason to fire a person that was hired because at some point in time I find hes unqualified. Usually unqualified people get qualified on the job through some experience. So in your case its the opposite even despite advancing CFA Levels. This story is so hard to believe. It talks all about hard skills but for me it looks like there were completely other reasons like personal or cutting staff. Not finding work with a CFA (you didnt mention you had the Charter, so <4y working experience?) in the finance industry, when the CFA is the most qualifying finance designation, certainly has other reasons. Do not forget that a CFA is in addition a certification of dedication. Only very-hard-working people will make it. And why would I not want to have such an employee?

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