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CFA changes: Not exactly popular

Changes have been introduced to the CFA charter – and the backlash is coming in already.

The CFA® Program has been under scrutiny for years, with some banks (Berenberg) making the exams optional due to a perception that their own graduate scheme is more than sufficient when it comes to training junior staff.

The CFA Program's pass rates, which have been declining for some time, have also made banks hesitant about compelling juniors to throw 300 hours at the qualification.

The six changes themselves are straightforward:

1) There are new practical skills modules - financial modelling (for Level I CFA® candidates), analyst skills and “Python, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence” (for Level II candidates), as well as Python programming fundamentals (for Levels I or II). Practical skills modules for Level III will be introduced in 2025.

2) Specialised pathways – Level III candidates will be able to specialise in one of three role-focused “pathways”, which constitute portfolio management (vanilla Level III), private wealth, and private markets.

3) Digital badging – a formal acknowledgement of having passed Level I & II, basically. This is for all those people who've passed the I and II exams and who want to brag about it on their profiles. 🏆🏆🏆🏆

4) Less work – CFA Institute has apparently realized through research that candidates are spending “significantly more” than the advertised 300 hours to pass each level of the exams, so tests will remove all the “introductory content” that most candidates would be expected to know.

5) More practice material – A $300 practice pack for the Level I exams that includes 1,000 new practice questions and 6 new mock exams. More money for CFA Institute too. 

6) Extended eligibility – You can now start the whole CFA charter process two years before graduating – meaning that, in the UK, you can start your CFA exams in your first year of university.

The changes don't exactly seem....popular 

You might've thought that juniors taking the CFA exams would love the changes. Actually, no. 


“I used to think the whole ‘CFAI just wants your money’ argument was kind of bs, not so anymore,” said one on Reddit. “Oh, I see, the Institute needs the money,” another added.

Criticisms were more targeted, too. “Regarding the additional practice pack for charge. This is literally shameful and yet again the program is on the right track to turn from meritocracy to a ‘pay to win’ game.” Another said the Level III specialization system sounded “stupid,” and that it “goes against the entire purpose of the CFA.”

“Greedy and out of touch,” one Reddit poster said. “I guess an MBA is the only option going forward.” Someone on Wall Street Oasis agreed, calling the exams a “money-grab sellout now,” and that “the dilution of this brand over the years has been insane.”

It's not clear what existing CFA charterholders think of the changes but last time the exams were tweaked there were howls of complaint that the exams were being downgraded from a Porsche 911 to a Boxter, so presumably the enthusiasm isn't great.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon
  • CF
    16 June 2023

    I work in AM since 14 years so far. CFA lost its value in the industry years ago, now appears to still hold some ground in frontier/emerging markets only. When new hires are selected (fund management for example) noone cares if you got a CFA or not. A worrying and widespread industry opinion is CFA institute is only after your money, nothing else. Their post-graduation output has dropped in quality (significantly), the curriculum is written in alien by a reason so you fail and thats also why they give you 6 months and typically 3.5-4k pages - for someone working its a push beyond reason.

    Besides, its a job that will be dominated by AI in about 10 years time so question is - is it worth spending all those hours for such short horizon.

  • Ke
    20 March 2023

    I'm guessing these people want the difficulty to increase, the pass rate to increase and they want the cost to decrease. Right? How much does an MBA cost these days, its at lease multiple times more for a lame one, right?

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