CFA Institute (Chartered Financial Analyst)

The Corporate Finance Institute is a professional standard and education organisation that provides training to US financial services professionals and heads a global network of member organisations that administer equivalent training and qualifications in other countries around the world. 

CFA offer two flagship programmes; 

  • Chartered Financial Analyst programme (CFA)
  • Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement Programme (CIPM)
About the Corporate Finance Institute (CFA)

What career opportunities are available to members of the CFA?

The CFA is aimed at investment bankers, financial analysts, technical financial journalists & researchers

The CIPM is aimed at investment managers, such as those working in fund management, investment consulting, pension advisory & insurance portfolio management. It’s also relevant for UK stockbrokers.

Both are internationally recognised by employers and other professional bodies in over 100 countries. 

The qualification is rarely a pre-requisite for an entry-level graduate position for these roles, but it may be attached to the role in an exam training contract. 

Can UK professionals become a member of the CFA?

The CFA organisation is a US firm. UK professionals and students can join CFA UK, a member of the global network of CFA societies.

The UK division of the CFA has equal prestige and qualifications awarded by the body will carry equal weighting alongside other international members.

What is the objective of the CFA?

CFA UK’s stated mission is “to build a better investment profession by serving the public interest by educating investment professionals, by promoting and enforcing ethical and professional standards and by explaining what is happening in the profession to regulators, policy-makers and the media.” 

CFA UK, as one of many worldwide member societies, also works to encourage interconnectivity between itself and other societies, for the benefit of the career opportunities available to its members. 

These objectives hold true of other similar professional membership bodies. By publishing a leading qualification, CFA provides the framework and content of the standards that establish a minimum standard of knowledge across their member group, provide annual CPD requirements which promote continuing professional development, and acts as an advocate for the interests of its members to external parties.

How many members does the CFA have?

The official CFA website reports 170,000 global members, while CFA UK claims to have over 11,000 professional members based in the UK.

When was the CFA founded?

The US CFA can trace its heritage back to a gathering of the financial analyst societies of four US industrial cities; New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago.

However, it wasn’t until much later that the group agreed upon a single code of conduct and the CFA designation was born – 1962. Within the first year of the qualification being created, a cohort of 268 successful candidates obtained the CFA charter.

CFA UK was founded in 1957 and was known as the Society of Investment Analysts at the time. This organisation was formed with a domestic focus. Its first code of conduct was published in 1980. Its name changes again to Institute for Investment Management and Research in 1992. 

It merged with the London Society of Investment Professionals in 2000 and was renamed to the CFA Society of the UK (CFA UK), the moniker it carries until this day. 

How does CFA UK communicate with its members?

The CFA’s primary method of disseminating information to members was a quarterly professional magazine – the most tangible element of a professional subscription. As ‘The Investment Analyst’, it was circulated from 1961 to 1989, at which point a rebranding saw it publish under the ‘Professional Investor’ masthead.

The CFA UK’s quarterly membership magazine was launched in 1961 and was first called The Investment Analyst, this ran from 1961 – 1989 with the magazine being renamed in 1989 to Professional Investor.

How many qualifications does the CFA offer?

This is a complete list of the qualifications that are currently offered by CFA UK directly or through partners: 

  • CFA Program
  • Certificate in Investment Management (Level 4)
  • Certificate in Climate and Investing (Level 4)
  • Certificate in ESG Investing

96% of the CFA’s members have chartered designation. This single statistic says a lot about the structure of the organisation.

The Chartered Financial Analyst Programme

The CFA is arguably the most widely recognised and respected qualification for financial analysts around the world. 

The CFA’s roots in New York, combined with the London reach of its UK society means that a large share of the professionals in these two financial capitals looks to the CFA as the default qualification in a variety of investment roles. 

Successful graduates of the programme are able to use the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, which is the only post-graduate qualification studied by many financial professionals.

How to become a Chartered Financial Analyst

CPA charterholder status can be applied for after the following steps have been completed:

  • Pass three exams which represent three layers of curriculum
  • Gain relevant work experience in a relevant role
  • Obtain professional references from three individuals you have worked with

The entry requirements to progress through the CFA qualification are:

  • You must have a bachelors degree
  • You must have 4,000 hours of work experience
  • You must hold an international passport

CPA exams

Selective exam exemptions can be gained by students who have studied other qualifications (such as a bachelors degree) by partner organisations that meet the CFA’s requirements.

These include: Durham University, Lancaster University, London Business School, Oxford University, University of Edinburgh, University of Exter, University of Leicester, University of Manchester, University of Stirling & University of Warwick

Additional classroom support is available through private tutoring & education providers such as BPP and Kaplan in the UK. These providers offer different levels of tutoring at different price points. Assistance starts with written materials (content, practice questions), and with increases in price will include live tutor support and classroom sessions. 

All this tutoring will be necessary because the pass rate of CFA exams is among the lowest of similar professional qualifications. The pass rates for the tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 exams is 42%, 45% and 52% respectively. This means that half of the students that attempt each exam sitting will require a resit.

How much does it cost to become a CFA charterholder?

Students will pay a one-off enrolment fee of $450 to begin the process of sitting the tier 1 exam, followed by exam fees of roughly $1,000 for each of the three exam tiers. 

This is only the minimum cost of sitting CFA exams, however. 

As stated above, students will likely need study materials and additional tutoring to improve their likelihood of success. 

Best-in-class support would come in the shape of BPP’s full-day classroom sessions available at their Liverpool Street campus, which cost £2,280 for tier 1, increasing to £2,707 for tier 2.  Better value options for cost-conscious students include online courses for £720. 

Kaplan offers a similar range of options ranging in price from £75 – £2,405 for tier 1.