It’s more popular than even to sit the CFA exams in Singapore and Hong Kong, but if you want to stand out from the crowd you need to get through the whole qualification.
Recruiters say job seekers are far too fond of highlighting a CFA Level I or II pass (or even mere enrolment) on their CVs when in fact employers only care if you’re among an elite group of fully-fledged Asian CFA ‘charterholders’ (people who’ve passed Level III and have four years of relevant work experience).
Asia Pacific now provides more than 40% of the ‘candidates’ sitting CFA exam at all levels – more than any other region.
While the most dramatic rise has been in China (from 14,471 candidates in 2013 to 50,509 this year), the amount of candidates has also increased over the past four years in both Hong Kong and Singapore, as the tables below show.
These numbers look set to continue rising because the CFA is proving increasingly popular with new candidates. The pool of people taking the test for first time at Level I has increased from 2,975 to 3,507 in Hong Kong since 2013, and from 2,405 to 2,702 in Singapore, according to CFA Institute data.
Despite Asia’s emerging dominance in terms of candidates, the total number of charterholders is comparatively low in the region. While their ranks are slowly increasing, there are only 3,665 charterholders in Singapore (less than 2% of the 201,400 people who work in finance in Republic) and 6,903 in Hong Kong (about 3% of the city’s 220,436 finance professionals). China musters a mere 3,544 charterholders. Globally there are more than 120,000 with the CFA charter.
If you’re a charterholder, consider yourself a rare commodity in Singapore and Hong Kong. High failure rates and the fact that the CFA exam has only recently ballooned in popularity in Asia mean the surge in CFA candidates hasn’t trickled down into more people holding the qualification.
Recruiters say because the pool is so small, charterholder job-seekers are in high demand in Singapore and Hong Kong, particularly for investment-focused roles. People who have passed all three levels at first sitting are particularly attractive to employers, says Jasmine Tan, an associate director a recruiters Kerry Consulting in Singapore.
By contrast if you’re ‘just’ a CFA candidate, you’re already among a large and growing group of people in Asia – and you don’t stand out in the job market. “The pass rate for the CFA programme is low due to the rigorous nature of the course, so it’s only relevant to us if you’ve passed all three stages,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, a manager at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley in Singapore.
“We place little importance on CFA Levels I or II unless it’s specifically for financial-analysis type positions,” agrees Hans Li, a senior consultant at recruiters Ambition in Singapore.
Image credit: Yongyuan Dai, iStock, Thinkstock