Asian job seekers in some sectors think far too much of the CFA

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Why Asian job seekers in some sector think far too much of the CFA

Don't love the CFA too much

Will having the CFA Charter to your name give your career a boost in Asian financial services? While the qualification may set you apart from the thousands of people struggling just to pass the CFA exams, job seekers in some parts of the finance sector are “overestimating” its importance, say recruiters.

Data from the CFA Institute shows that, for example, 7% of charterholders in both Hong Kong and Singapore work in risk management, making that function one of the most popular for charterholders. But recruiters say risk managers with the CFA don’t actually have an advantage in the job market.

“I’m never asked for people specifically with CFAs – it’s a great qualification generally, but it’s rarely on hiring managers’ list of prerequisites in risk management,” says Chris Jackson, director of risk and financial services governance at Pure Search in Hong Kong.

Similarly, as the table below shows, the CFA is popular among Asian relationship managers, but if you’re applying for a new RM job, banks won’t be interested in the qualification.

“They’re much more concerned about your client connectivity, assets, and revenue generating skills,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore. “And as a qualification, the MBA is more important for a relationship manager.”

“Candidates in Asia often overestimate the importance of the CFA for getting other types of roles too, particularly investment banking and private equity ones,” adds Jay Abeyasinghe, manager of banking and financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “We rarely, if ever, see employers in these areas paying attention to the designation.”

Where the CFA matters in Asia

By contrast, the high proportion of research analysts (14% in Hong Kong and 12% in Singapore) among charterholder in Asia is matched by the CFA's growing importance for job seekers in this sector.

“In areas like equity research, credit research, credit ratings and asset management research, the CFA is valuable and can provide an edge in your job search,” says Abeyasinghe. “And our experience is that the qualification is equally vital for research roles on the buy-side, sell-side and even in private banking research.”

Portfolio management is the most common function for Asian charterholders to work in, according to CFA data. While job descriptions in this sector typically don’t make the CFA mandatory, they often state it as an “added advantage”, says Annie Yap, group managing director of recruitment agency AYP Group in Singapore.

Image credit: Andrea Carolina Sanchez Gonzalez, iStock, Thinkstock

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