Le Violon d’Ingres (French idiom):
A second skill beyond the one by which a person is mainly known; to ‘have a second string to your bow’.
But once you earn it, the CFA charter holds a lot of benefit to professionals outside of finance as well, if not even more. If you’re a non-finance professional looking to upgrade your skills, here’s why the CFA charter could be a serious asset to you.
A few years ago, I was young, green and eager to do well in my financial services consultancy role. But when the 2007-2008 crisis struck and my firm then was in downsizing mode, I realised that I was actually leaning towards being laid off so that I could explore my interest in the advertising industry.
After being laid off, I spent a couple of months freelancing to fill in gaps in my CV while interviewing for advertising roles and studying for the CFA exams, all at the same time. Fast forward today, after passing all 3 CFA exams, I look back and realised that being laid off was the best thing that could’ve happened to my career – I wouldn’t have the courage and opportunity to pursue the path I was truly interested in, and moreover to combine my 3 interests into 1 role: advertising, tech and strategy.
Having a career in financial services, advertising and internet tech, you realize that the CFA charter can sometimes be even more useful outside of finance.
Here are the three most important reasons why:
1. You gain credibility in finance and analysis
When you’ve switched careers into a role where you don’t come from a ‘traditional’ path or background, the CFA charter gives you the an edge over other candidates as the additional financial skills is useful in any business. Of course, you have to demonstrate your knowledge and ability to work in your chosen field first (despite not having much experience in the new industry), but mentioning how your additional financial skill set can add value from the start is extremely helpful.
I broke into advertising as a brand consultant – a role that required me to value brands (e.g. for acquisition purposes, or to show an increase in the asset after an extended brand advertising campaign). Usually roles like these went to marketing folk that had an analytics slant, but the analytics quality is likely to be less rigorous than what you’d find in, say, an investment bank. An average financial analyst with CFA charter should easily exceed all expectations, while gaining valuable and diverse non-financial experience.
The modern work place is increasingly looking for candidates with cross functional skills for increased flexibility to adapt in a fast moving world, having a diversified background can be a useful asset that you should emphasise in an interview.
2. You are a rarity (and a prized asset) outside of finance
Working with finance teams in a corporation as a ‘tech’ or ‘advertising’ person is incredibly challenging – there can be a tendency to automatically assume you don’t know anything.
With my CFA exam background, I find it a lot easier to hold my own when working with the finance team. They will take your requests more seriously, and you won’t be afraid to dive into detail during a financial meeting. I had a boss who even used to just take me into meetings with finance as according to him, my presence ‘kept them in check’, even though I did next to nothing in these meetings.
Outside of financial institutions, the CFA charter is a lot rarer, and therefore I’ve found a lot more well-regarded as well.
3. The financial knowledge you gain covers all your personal needs, ever
I wasn’t an economics graduate. Stepping out of university, I barely had the basics of how a retail bank worked, never mind bonds, short butterflies, and Treynor-Black models. And just like knowing how to keep your mother-in-law happy, a good grasp of financial knowledge is key to ensuring your adult life goes well.
Post-CFA exams, I feel like every financial-related bit of knowledge I need for my personal life has been covered. Whether it’s getting a mortgage for my home, figuring out my credit cards or managing my investments, I feel like a professionally-qualified plumber fixing his house leaks. Confident, informed, and ultimately successful in my task.
You can undertake the CFA program no matter what you’re up to. Although the benefits are less clear and regulated compared to, say an accountancy qualification, or an MBA, the relatively less time and money required means that it’s a lot easier to undertake. It’s definitely not lacking on the effort required though, so make sure you have a lot of willpower stored up.
So should all non-finance people join the CFA program?
Not if you can’t take the commitment involved. There are plenty of other options to educate yourself financially –although there is nothing like taking a post-grad financial qualification to really focus your learning. I’m very glad I stuck with my determination to earn my CFA charter.
So it depends on how much dedication you’re prepared for: If you’re already considering going back to school full-time to learn financial skills, then the CFA charter is a good consideration. If you’re looking for a light part-time course to help you understand a bit more about finance, then you might not be happy with the level of work and involvement the CFA program will demand.
Are you in a non-finance path at the moment?
I’d love to hear your story. Let us know what you plan to do with your CFA charter in the comments below!