You want to work in M&A. You are up against the eternal question for all who would work in financial services: should you do a CFA, or should you do an MBA? Or should you do both? Or should you do neither?
We've scoured the eFinancialCareers resume database to help you decide. Our conclusions are laid out below.
68% of people globally who claim to work in M&A (and have uploaded their CV to our database in the past year) have neither a CFA nor an MBA. Don't assume that you have to either.
If you want to work in Europe, the Middle, East and Africa (EMEA) or Asia Pacific (APAC), a CFA qualification might be a better idea than an MBA.
Why? Well, 16% of M&A bankers in EMEA have a CFA qualification of some kind (not necessarily the full CFA Charter). And only 14% have an MBA. In APAC, 14% have a CFA and only 9% have an MBA.
In the Americas, the MBA/CFA scale is reversed: 7.5% of US-based M&A bankers have an MBA. 6.5% have a CFA.
The resumes in our database suggest that fewer than 1% of M&A bankers in the world have the full CFA Charter. You really don't need to pass all three levels of the CFA if you want to work in M&A. If you do, you will be over-qualified in CFA terms compared to almost all of your peers.
You probably don't need to bother with this either. Fewer than 3% of M&A bankers globally are in possession of both a CFA pass and an MBA.
Why bother spending tens of thousands on an MBA, when a CFA will do just as well? Nick Silver, co-founder of Linear Partners, a European investment banking search firm, says an increasing number of M&A bankers in London have a CFA qualification of some kind. "At a junior level, you're almost the odd one out if you don't have a CFA I, II or III pass," he told us. "Boutique M&A firms which don't really have the infrastructure to hire anomalies or train people up will sometimes ask for a CFA as a prerequisite."
In the U.S., by comparison, CFA qualifications are still seen as the domain of investment managers and equity research professionals. "An MBA is a better advisory credential," says David Schwartz, a veteran M&A headhunter and former head of recruitment for Goldman Sachs. "I've never seen a CFA as a precondition for any M&A role I've filled," Schwartz adds.