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“A CFA pass is an indication that you’re a replaceable drone, happy to earn $100k a year”

Sausage machine?

Sausage machine?

Anton Kreil, the ex-Goldman Sachs trader turned trader-teacher, is not averse to making controversial comments. Earlier this week, Kreil said investment banking has become an industry full of middle class mediocrities.  Today, he also advises avoiding all exams running by the CFA Institute – unless you want to advertise your lack of ambition and dispensability.

“A lot of people ask me how useful passing the CFA level 1, 2 and 3 exams is. In my opinion they all have limited value,” says Kreil.

118,000 people sat the CFA exams in June 2013, up from 111,000 in 2010 and 63,000 in 2006. The CFA has been a runaway success.

However, Kreil argues that racy candidate numbers simply show how commoditised the CFA exams have become. “The CFA is a mass market exam. It won’t make you any money – it will just show that you’re capable of earning £50-100k ($80k-160k),” says Kreil. “A CFA pass means you’re ticking all the boxes. Employers will see you as a foot soldier whom they can pay a moderate amount and easily replace with someone else who has the same exam passes.”

The CFA Institute doesn’t measure how much people earn upon passing its exams, and was unable to give us any data on this.

Favourably, figures do show that CFA Charter holders are unlikely to be out of work. Equally favourably, in 2012 a CFA compensation survey from the CFA Society of Pittsburgh found the mean salary of society members was $155k and the median was $125k. Less promisingly, our own research earlier this year suggested the average job requiring any kind of CFA qualification pays £66k ($105k). So maybe Kreil was right after all?

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(Related articles:

How to move out of investment banking into a high paid stable career

Want a job in a hedge fund? A CFA won’t help you much

More back office employees are taking the CFA, just to keep up with peers)








Comments (12)

  1. Since I’m sitting the CFA exam, my opinion is biased. I don’t have a background in commercial finance so I see it as essentially a course to round out my skills and increase my employability. £66k is solid money, not spectacular, but enough to live comfortably on a modest lifestyle. Closer to £100k, I consider that good money and not to be sniffed at, that’s easily enough to live a good life, depending on your tastes.

    If you want more, the CFA or even MBA won’t get you to the £500k mark, only experience and/or a track record of success will. But let’s all listen to the wunderkind who sells trading seminars; if you need to engage in this type of self promotion, you ain’t “made it”.

  2. Actually I have the CFA but I agree with him. Of course you learn some out of it but the way the exam is designed prevent you from remembering it…. Too bad.

  3. Sounds like Mr. Kreil did not pass the levels necessary to show the “CFA” in his business cards and gave up.

    As an employer I trully feel the CFA designation gives me a certain level of quality and integrity measured in an universal way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    People that don’t have the CFA are the “replaceable drones” from my point of view.

  4. I have CFA. It’s useless. Wasted half a year in total studying for the three exams.

    Do ACA or CPA, it’s more useful.

  5. It is not a difficult exam for smart ones which is not a big deal but good to expand the knowledge.

  6. Thats the case with all qualifications. I’ve met actuaries who land up getting fired because they’re not good at their job, and thise exams are much harder. Just passing exams isn’t enough to be good, you also have to use your brain which I think is lacking in most financial institutions today and I blame finance education which merely teaches jargon and formulae rather than problem solving.

  7. I can name a lot of CFAs who have lost billions of investor’s money between them (MBA, PhDs too). Being outstanding in the markets is all about being a contrarian – Yet it reassures investors if they are giving their money to a CFA/MBA/PhD.

    CFA is mass producing people into the same way of thinking. As a trader/analyst etc I always refused to study these, *refused* on the grounds that it might make me think like everyone else thinks.

    Passing an exam (especially one so memory-driven) shows you have a great ability to follow

    So yes, Kreil’s correct.

  8. Don’t know about you, if I go to a doctor I choose the qualified one over the unqualfied

  9. Empty talk from some clown trader who couldn’t do better than a B.A. from Manchester, in my view…

    I know all the Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton grads who also have CFAs (I’m one of them) are quaking in their boots…

  10. I am a CFA Charterholder myself. Essentially, the CFA program is good in itself teaching you the concepts and laying the foyndation to research. But, being true to yourself, if one assesses from a practical/vocational point of view it is not objective. Rather it is academic in its works. A lot of us struggle to get into banking or hedhe funds or other research roles. You have to look at it from an outside US and UK poibt of view too.

    If we were to be given a role to manage money immediately after the ciurse, truly noy many could that. The PTM from ITPM focusses purely on those areas that need a money manager’s hat on moving from being a trader to a portfolio manager and the reverse based on situations in the market.

    I am if the opinion that building wealth is the objective of most people doing the CFA. So why not assess both honestly.

  11. I completely agree the CFA program is good for teaching you the concepts and laying the foundation to research. I also agree it is academic in that, if you are not a good test taker or good at memorization, you will likely fail. The CFA is good for entry level professionals but I think it is useless for someone who has multiple years in the investment world.

  12. Too many people are doing the CFA. How many CFA’s does the finance industry need? Not much. The industry is becoming over saturated.

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