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CFA program helps nation's financial industry achieve sustainable growth

By ZHOU LANXU | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-07 07:31
File photo. [Photo/IC]

An increasing number of qualified financial professionals in China, supported by the CFA Program, are helping the industry to achieve sustainable development, said Bjorn Forfang, deputy CEO of the CFA Institute, the global association of investment management professionals.

"Getting CFA designation is not just good for your career, but helps build a more sustainable financial business in China," Forfang told China Daily.

The CFA Institute is known for its CFA Program, which grants the CFA charter, a designation globally recognized as the gold standard in investment management. To become CFA charterholders, candidates must satisfy a series of requirements, including passing three levels of exams and obtaining four years of relevant work experience.

China is the fastest-growing market for the CFA Program, with the number of Chinese candidates rising 20-30 percent annually. In June 2018, more than 50,000 candidates in the mainland and Hong Kong took one of the three exams, accounting for around 30 percent of global candidates.

The increasing presence of the CFA Program in China, Forfang said, can provide financial professionals not only with high technical skills, but also a strong commitment to ethical behaviors and professional standards, "the key to long-term sustainable business".

For instance, by placing clients' interests above all others, CFA charterholders could pave the way for the sustainable development of China's fast-growing but controversial fintech sector, he said.

The flourishing fintech sector has spawned innovations that provide a wider range of Chinese customers with financial services. Some of the sector's bright prospects, however, are clouded by the complexities of financial products and violations of customers' interests.

A big problem in the global finance industry, Forfang said, is some financial professionals consider the interests of their companies-instead of clients-their most important objective, and hence cause inappropriate complexities, mis-selling and hidden fees.

"We believe the more CFA charterholders you have, the fewer of these issues (of denting clients' interests) you have," he said, citing that ethics is the core of the CFA curriculum, and CFA charterholders sign off annually that they follow the Standards of Professional Conduct, which requires they put clients' interests first.

As a gold standard recognized worldwide, the CFA Program could facilitate China's financial opening-up, Forfang added. "As China is opening up and becoming more of an international financial marketplace, I think the need for professionals who are connected to the larger world is huge."

Speaking of Chinese candidates' features, Forfang highlighted a better gender balance: about half of them are female, significantly higher than the global average of 30 percent.

The divergence is sure to help China's finance industry to achieve higher diversity to optimize investments and more trust between advisers and clients, the majority of whom are female, he said.

"Obtaining the CFA designation enabled my key career transition of becoming a trader," Zhai Chenxi, CFA, vice-president of Hubei-based TF Securities, said at a forum.

Chinese candidates can grasp the universal knowledge system of finance through the CFA Program, Zhai said, but further work is needed to combine the knowledge with the latest developments in China's financial markets.

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