Although the post is long, it should appeal those considering the CFA designation (My current status is “CFA Charter Pending”, meaning that I have passed each of the three exams, but still have to submit my sponsorship application for the Charter)
Below, you will find my response to a series of questions for an article at BCJobNetwork.com. My answers are in blue.
What made you pursue a career in the finance sector?
The focus during my initial time at university was to create as many options as possible; I saw that people with financial backgrounds move into many different industries, and often transition into leadership roles. Once I began studying finance, I enjoyed the material I was being taught, and I could easily see that the principles taught were applied practically by analysts mentioned everyday in the media.
Why did you choose to further that with a CFA?
Several factors led to the decision. Here they are in rank of priority:
- Strong program reputation – Beyond the widely recognized financial rewards for earning the CFA charter, Charter holders are held in high esteem for their analytical abilities, and strong ethical backgrounds
- Intrinsic educational value – To complete the required coursework, you’ve got to have discipline, and a desire to learn the material. Without a real interest in the material, it would be extremely onerous to stay motivated for 3+ grueling years.
- Ability to work while earning the designation - Early in my career, I wasn’t ready to leave my job to go back to school. The CFA charter was a way to stay learning, and improve my financial credentials.
- Low relative costs - Although textbooks and exam costs are not negligible, relative to most other alternatives (and relative to the rewards of the program), the costs are less than one would expect. Costs are ~3-10% of the costs of an MBA.
What do you like about it?
I like learning the material on my own – being able to set they pace for my own learning. I also appreciate the relevancy of the material. Updated the curriculum (aka Learning Outcome Statements) every year means that textbooks are more expensive, but material stays fresh.
Also, the regional CFA societies offer many great resources – from providing selected conferences, to CFA job boards.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities at IBM?
My title is ‘Financial Management Consultant’. Our consulting organization is organized in a matrix, so my functional area is Financial management, while my industry is Healthcare.
Day to day responsibilities vary depending on what kind of project I’m on, but there are some common themes – I have worked on many healthcare strategy engagements, where we usually have a team of 3-6 consultants, with each consultant specializing in a particular role. A team could include several of the following roles: a project manager, a financial analyst, a data analyst, an architect, a business analyst, and several SME’s (subject matter experts). I would typically serve as the financial or business analyst, and would be responsible for developing financial models, stakeholder engagement materials, risk assessments, current state assessments, and coordinating with other team members for their respective responsibilities.
Our final deliverable is a report that outlines what recommended strategies the client should take – The recommendations are supported by a Current State, Future state, Gap, and Risk analysis. My projects have typically lasted up to 5 months, and I have worked in Ontario, Alberta, BC, and remotely with the US.
The teams are composed of individuals from across Canada, and the world – So I often spend much of the day on the phone, or on IM talking with coworkers. The team will come together every couple of weeks to meet with the client, or coordinate deliverables.
What are your long-term career goals and how are you getting there?
Long Term goals include developing both my people management and technical skills. I’m aiming to create quality work, and build a strong reputation within the industry. Right now, I’m working towards my goals by continuing to work on challenging projects, progressively increasing my level of responsibility within the projects I take, taking leadership roles for internal initiatives, and, most importantly, associating with people that have similar outlooks and expectations from their professional and personal lives.
And then with your education: What major did you have at university?
I graduated with a BBA from SFU – Concentrating in Finance
Why did you pick SFU?
My final choice was between UBC and SFU – The choice to go to SFU was made based primarily on the flexibility of the program (you can switch majors/ concentrations with ease; Co-op program offered; strong business faculty) and the school’s academic reputation. I was also an athlete during my university days (Football), so the athletic situation also influenced my decision. I essentially considered SFU and UBC to be academic equals – personal preference was what determined my choice.
What were the major challenges you faced while going through the certification?
It can be very difficult to work heavy hours, spend up to week 12 hours traveling, and then have to study until 1AM every night in the hotel room. During the times where I was studying, social life took a back seat to studying. Eventually, I developed a comprehensive study plan that outlined what I would be studying for each hour of every day. There were several deviations from the plan however; two entire weekends were unexpectedly lost to the DVD collection of the TV series ’24′.
What is the regulatory body called for the certification?
It was formerly known as AIMR, but has now changed to the CFA Institute http://www.cfainstitute.org/
What kind of person/career seeker would you recommend to become a member of the finance sector?
The first requirement is that you must be an analytical person. Your personality type can determine what kinds of job you can have within finance (and should not be a precluding factor), but without and analytical background, you would be at a disadvantage.
For more on the CFA, click here.