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Educating the Educated: More Requirements for the CFA Charter?

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If you are a CFA® (Chartered Financial Analyst) charterholder, congratulations on your hard work. To become a charterholder, you have earned a university degree, worked as a professional for at least four years, and spent at least three years taking each of the three required levels of the CFA exam—which only a minority of test-takers usually can pass each year (in 2011, 43% of June [all levels] and 38% of December [level I] candidates passed).

However, while just earning your CFA charter is a major undertaking, it’s what happens after the exam that you should consider. At a previous NYSSA panel, an attendee asked whether CFA Institute should require charterholders to pursue continuing education (CE). This discussion reflects a perennial debate among CFA Institute members regarding the importance of CE standards for ensuring high professional conduct.

Many professional associations, especially those that provide a financial or health service to the public, require CE for their members. Accountants, realtors, nurses, and even massage therapists must continue their education after being certified. Even the CFA Institute Certificate in Investment Performance Management (CIPM) requires 45 hours of CE credits every three years to maintain the designation.

But what about after one becomes a CFA charterholder? CFA Institute currently recommends a voluntarycontinuing education program for professional development—20 hours of continuing education per year, including 2 hours in the areas of Standards, Ethics, and Regulations (SER). CFA Institute formally recognizes those who have completed the self-directed education program with a certificate.

When this continuing education policy came up for review several years ago, charterholders voted to keep the program optional. As one commenter notes, the notion of continuing education was “a waste of time.” It was a vote that has been likened to asking turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving. Current CFA Institute members still appear to favor current CE policies. When asked how well CFA Institute met continuing education needs in a 2012 survey, only 16% of members responded, “not well.”


Continued education or not, the CFA charter is undoubtedly the gold standard for investment professionals. It has to be—becoming a charterholder means you are able to make sound and professional investment decisions with other people’s money. As it’s noted on the CFA Institute website, “Employers recognize the CFA charter as the definitive standard by which to measure the competence, integrity, and dedication of serious investment professionals.”

Since the financial crisis hit in 2008, however, the competence and integrity of many in the financial sector has been questioned. If earning a CFA charter means one is qualified to make investment decisions for other people about the financial markets, how do we ensure our professionals’ continued high standards after they have earned the charter without mandatory CE? What’s the best way to guarantee we “sharpen the saw” and stay on top of ever-changing markets, regulations, and standards?

–Harry and Jennifer Swartz-Turfle

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Most CFAs that I know are intensely involved in their professions and consequently, continuing education. As a result, CFAI-mandated continuing education requirements with its documentation requirements and/or expensive courses has little appeal. People who are willing to study intensively for 3 years are also highly likely to keep up with their profession.

I feel charterholders should be re-tested on ethics. It is frustrating to work for a charterholder who violates the ethics all the time, and to be told "this is how business is done" or "you ask too many questions".

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