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5 Tips For CFA Careers Success

Considering a career in investment? Gary Baker, managing director for EMEA at the CFA Institute and CFA careers expert, tells you what to do to get ahead

The investment industry is in a state of upheaval: machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are advancing, the need for personalization in investment is increasing, and the growing demand for sustainability is fundamentally changing professional requirements in the financial sector. 

We recently surveyed over 3,800 CFA Institute members and CFA Program candidates as well as over 130 executives from the international investment industry about changes in job profiles, competencies and organizational structures in the financial sector. 

This resulted in these five recommendations for CFA careers success, which inform the conclusions of our new report, Investment Professional of the Future. 


1. Be a team player

The days of star portfolio managers are over. Companies today strive for agility, competitiveness, customer orientation and innovation. In addition, they face fiercer competition for workers, which leads to more frequent personnel changes, and increasingly look to teams and mixed working groups from different disciplines. 

Cognitive diversity is also gaining in importance, because teams with different experiences and perspectives are less susceptible to wrong decisions and groupthink. 49% of the managers we surveyed cite the trend towards more teamwork as a major factor of change in the industry.

For investment professionals, this has its advantages. The move away from a star culture means professionals have greater career path flexibility to make lateral moves without disrupting their record. Career breaks, sabbaticals, and work-life balance can be looked at anew. It’s the ability to work in a team that counts.


2. Demonstrate adaptability

89% of industry leaders surveyed by CFA Institute believe that the roles and responsibilities of financial professionals will change several times over the course of a career. At the same time, 77% of them expect the world of work in the investment industry to change more in the next ten years than in the past ten years. 

In this dynamic environment, companies must be able to react flexibly. This is why there is an increasing demand for workers who can demonstrate a high degree of adaptability and interdisciplinary thinking.


3. Be both a specialist and a generalist 

49% of the investment executives surveyed say ‘T-shaped skills’ are the most valued type of skill overall. They rank well ahead of management skills (21%), soft skills (16%) and technical know-how (14%).  

‘T-shaped skills’ refer to the ability to combine professional depth and specialization with a broader understanding of relationship management. In concrete terms, this includes a high level of situational adaptability, interdisciplinary thinking, a strong personal network, and a good understanding of the systems in the company as well as the wider business context.


4. Prove your creativity

In the competition for the most attractive role, specialists who are particularly creative and innovative will be the most attractive to employers. Managers state that creativity/innovation (32%), interdisciplinary thinking (29%) and solution or customer-oriented working methods (29%) are particularly difficult to find in the job market. 

Even specialist knowledge in IT and computer science, often mentioned as an acute need by employers, ranks far behind soft skills such as empathy, modesty and a talent for communication. 

Of course, this does not mean that technical and financial expertise is not important. On the contrary, these skills are taken for granted in the labor market. If you want to set yourself apart from the competition, you need to have interpersonal sensitivity and a wealth of ideas in addition to professional competence.


5. Make the most of technology

The investment professionals of the future will increasingly be able to differentiate themselves by skillfully using technology to enhance their work quality and investment performance. In contrast to the popular but all too simple image of machines that replace people, the future of the investment sector will lie in the complementarity of AI + HI (Artificial Intelligence + Human Intelligence). 

People will be tasked to "train" the technology, to advise customers well, to recognize their needs and requirements and to develop innovative, individually tailored offers. Machines, on the other hand, are particularly suitable for strengthening successful approaches, analyzing large amounts of data for hidden patterns and performing monotonous, repetitive tasks. 

But basic ethical principles, transparency, communication, empathy, implicit understanding and confidence building are fundamental human elements that cannot be achieved by machines in asset management and investment, even in the longer term. 


Many have already taken the first steps: just under half (46%) of those surveyed are already continuing their training in soft skills. And there is great interest in learning in general: 50% stated that it is their profession that motivates them most to learn new things—significantly more than good compensation (41%). 

This is exactly the right approach: the most important aspect investment professionals should keep in mind at every stage of their career is the willingness to continue their education and to learn throughout their lives. In this way, they can also accept changes that we cannot anticipate at the moment.


This article was written by Gary Baker, managing director for EMEA at CFA Institute. Check out our articles on how to choose between an MBA and CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst exams) and the business schools where you can study both.

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