CFA Gives Edge to Finance MBAs

Nimit Doshi, an MBA student at the Katz Graduate School of Business, has obtained the Chartered Financial Analyst designation awarded by CFA Institute, attaining what is globally recognized as the gold standard of investment credentials.

Doshi, a native of Mumbai, India, worked for four years as a derivative strategist on the National Stock Exchange of India before enrolling in the Katz School. He hopes to secure a job on Wall Street and later open his own boutique investment firm.

"In the equity research domain, it is almost a prerequisite to have your CFA charter. The MBA is a common designation, but being a CFA charter holder sets you apart. If you don't have it, it is extremely difficult to break into investment management," Doshi says.

The CFA Program follows a self-study curriculum administered by CFA Institute, a global association of investment professional headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. On average, it takes four years to obtain a CFA charter, as people must pass three separate six-hour exams, and accumulate four years of work experience in the financial sector. Assuming people pass the CFA exams on the first try, it costs under $3,000 to complete the program.

Since October 2008, Pitt Business has had a partnership with CFA Institute, which helps the school provide support to undergraduate and MBA students going through the program. Pitt is one of only 36 schools in the United States, and the only school in Pennsylvania, to be involved in the CFA Program Partners initiative administered by CFA Institute. Other U.S. schools with partnerships include the University of Southern California, Cornell University, New York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The partnership recognizes the fact that the finance-oriented Katz MBA and College of Business Administration programs incorporate at least 70 percent of the CFA Program curriculum and its code of ethics into their curriculums. Through the partnership, Pitt is awarded five scholarships annually to help students offset a portion of CFA exam fees. Pitt Business also benefits from receiving access to CFA Institute textbooks, journals, webcasts, and other educational resources - all of which help students prepare for the CFA exams.

Tim Robison, executive director of Career Management, says his office advises CFA-track students to sit for their first exam before their second year in the MBA program. This gives students an edge when they interview for internships or jobs at high-profile companies.

"For students pursuing careers in investment management, being on the CFA track is practically required by virtually all firms. Likewise, students interested in investment banking will find that firms want them to have both an MBA and progression on the CFA track. And for students pursuing financial consulting or jobs in corporate mergers and acquisitions, the CFA isn't required, but is a key differentiator," Robison says.

CFA Institute has more than 100,000 members in more than 130 countries. There are nearly 210,000 people registered in the CFA program, with the greatest growth in the Asia Pacific region. The top 10 employers of CFA Institute members are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, RBC, UBS, and Wells Fargo.

Manoharlal Sukhwani, a Pitt Business professor specializing in finance, is a CFA charter holder and board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the CFA Institute. He acts as an advisor for any Pitt students interested in obtaining their CFA charter and served as Doshi's second sponsor.

"The marketplace clearly values the CFA qualification. Compensation surveys have repeatedly shown that charter holders earn more than non-charter holders," Sukhwani says.

For Doshi, passing the CFA exams meant enduring a grueling three-and-a-half years of study. He estimates that he devoted 1,100 hours of study, often squeezing the time in after 12 hour days at work. Doshi, who is 25 years old, missed family gatherings, birthdays, weddings, tennis and soccer games, and cancelled dates with his girlfriend to study for the CFA exams.

Doshi, now a member of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the CFA Institute, says the sacrifices were worth it, but jokes that "some are still mad at me for my Batman-like behavior."