Pat Brown is a Financial Services Recruiter with Engage People. Prior to joining the team, he spent several years working in investment management in New York and Dublin, where he built his expertise in alternative funds and investment operations. We spoke to an experienced CFA on his experience in recent years and what impact the qualification has had on his career.
The array of career paths out there can be dizzying, particularly in financial services and investments. By virtue of Ireland’s important role in the sector as a hub for fund administration, treasury services, and investment operations, many paths begin in back and middle office roles.
Many ambitious professionals in this space have their sights set on paths toward the more coveted front office positions: investment analysis, transaction lead, client relationship management, and business development to name a few.
As specialist recruiters we at Engage People have the benefit of speaking every day with inspiring business leaders and potential job-seekers at every career stage, many enjoying momentum in rewarding careers on the back, middle, and front office paths alike: fund accounting, portfolio pricing and valuations, financial reporting, operations, settlements, transfer agency, compliance, and risk management.
Many of the ambitious professionals we work with have chosen to pursue a rigorous designation that has come to represent an elite seal of excellence within the investment profession, the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) credential. I had the pleasure of interviewing a CFA charterholder, formerly Head of Asset Valuation at an international investment manager, who has shown in his own career the sort of paths available to those who take on the challenge of discipline and intense study required for achieving the designation.
Q: Completion of the CFA curriculum is recognized as one of the most rigorous, but rewarding accomplishments for a professional in the investments sector. Reflecting on your own experience and career, could you say that pursuing the designation has “paid off” and how?
A: It has certainly provided me with a challenging and diverse set of opportunities. My own experience has seen me take on roles throughout front, middle and back offices, and the ease of transition was directly influenced by the knowledge I gained from the CFA. I believe this is a key function of the breadth and depth of the investment knowledge within the curriculum. It provided me with a strong theoretical basis and confidence on which to develop and enhance my core responsibilities, and take on new challenges which may have not have been directly accessible without it.
Q: There are so many roles to play in the investments and financial services sector, with a relative few focused on investment analysis and having a direct vote on investment decisions. Looking at career tracks with Middle and Back Office, what value could the CFA curriculum add for an ambitious professional in fund administration, investment operations, or compliance?
A: The curriculum is very broad based, and the knowledge covers many functions which need to be performed within an Investment fund, not just direct fund management. In my opinion, this actually provides greater opportunity than investment analysis and fund management alone for ambitious candidates.
As an example, Investment Decisions by Fund Managers have ramifications across the firm and need robust support by multiple firm-wide functions to ensure they are appropriate, successfully implemented, managed and monitored, in order that they provide the appropriate value to customers within the regulatory framework in which firms operate. All these functions substantially benefit from employees with a strong understanding of the background to such processes, and in turn allow a greater ease of movement for those employees who are able to leverage their CFA knowledge in taking on new opportunities.
Q: On education and training generally, what hot topics or trends do you see happening in the industry that companies and ambitious professionals should stay focused on?
A: A key focus is the ongoing finance evolution through the Fintech world, which will have substantial impacts on historic operating models and in turn change the nature of the business and the people who work in it. Alongside the obvious and more welcome impacts of increased automation around more administrative processes, the Investment Process itself will need to take wider account of new and unstructured data, AI led decision making and visualisation techniques to achieve additional value. These will necessarily require a greater understanding of such processes to ensure employees experience remains relevant and valuable, and lead to a greater focus in my view on more computer based technical skills to manage this wider set of data and decisions, in order to ensure that the investment firm still meets the needs of the client, whilst maintaining adherence to the relevant regulatory standards.
Whilst such evolution is inevitable, being a CFA Charter holder will in my view provide employees with a strong edge in ensuring they take ownership of their careers and can apply their skills to the investment markets of tomorrow!
While this article does not aim directly to endorse the benefits of the CFA Designation, it hopefully highlights that the pursuit and discipline around education and training can open doors over the course of one’s career. Whether studying toward designations in the investment profession, compliance degrees with the ACOI, or an accounting qualification, the tools and networking opportunities gained from the process are bound to create opportunities over the long run. In a sector that is hardly immune to volatile geopolitical events or disruptive technologies, knowledge is power!
Pat Brown in conversation with a recently qualified holder of the CFA. Pat is committed to pairing innovative businesses with career-focused professionals as they navigate the wide range of career paths in the sector. If you would like to discuss your own career path and potential opportunities, please feel free to get in touch, confidentially, on +353 1 699 4533, or email [email protected].