Professional Learning for CFA Charterholders: Where We Are Now, and Where We Are Going

By Gary Sarkissian posted 12-19-2019 14:56

Image by Martin Winkler from Pixabay
Image by Martin Winkler from Pixabay

“[Members and candidates] must maintain and improve their professional competencies and strive to maintain and improve the competence of other investment professionals.” - CFA Institute Code of Ethics

Competency and continuous learning are among the core qualities embodied within the community of CFA charterholders. Each year, member charterholders attest to following the CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (“Code and Standards”), which includes the requirement to “maintain and improve their professional competencies.” One cannot stay at pace—let alone excel—in a dynamic field such as finance without constantly learning, and the same goes for other fields such as medicine and law.

Unfortunately, this responsibility, as stipulated by the Code, is also open-ended and leaves unanswered questions for members. As a starting point, members are left without a useful framework to help them decide what content is relevant and important to follow during their career journey. Furthermore, practitioner knowledge is eclectic, with investment professionals digesting an endless array of periodicals, research reports, podcasts, webinars, live presentations, books, and other mediums of content. Yet despite this abundance of information, there can be confusion as to what sources of content members can rely on to build, and track the growth of, their knowledge base.

Given these challenges, the platform that fosters professional learning must elevate to a new level of thinking. After all, CFA charterholders lead busy and demanding careers. The endless flow of content and the ever-changing landscape of the investment profession require a more modernized structure of learning to ensure that charterholders invest their time in areas that matter most to their professional development.

The Competency Framework: The New Road Map for Ongoing Professional Learning
In response to this area of need, in early Spring of 2019, the CFA Institute issued a communication that explored offering a more “structured approach” for continuing professional development (CPD) in hopes of “enhance[ing] the credibility of charterholders.”  Then, last month, as a follow up to its initial outreach to members and based on feedback from various leading CFA societies around the globe, the CFA Institute rolled out its 2020 Professional Learning Plan that incorporates a new competency framework geared towards enabling members to manage their career development. 

The aim of the competency framework is to assist members on their career journey by curating content based on a member’s desired career path.  For instance, what skills will the credit analyst need to transition to a career in equity research?   How can an equity analyst better prepare for an advancement into portfolio management?  With the new framework members will be able to identify their skills gap and source the appropriate content that would develop the areas of need.  (Content, by the way, will be sourced from CFA Institute, local CFA Societies, CFA Institute endorsed 3rd parties, and members themselves.)

This objective also underscores the bespoke approach to professional learning going forward.  Using AI and user feedback, CFA Institute’s new learning platform will be customized according to each member’s learning interests.  The platform will also include a personalized learning dashboard that will display a member’s learning progress as well as recommended content.    

Another important highlight is that societies will play a central role in the development of content for the competency framework. CFA Institute has engaged with over 200 practitioners from 20 societies around the world to obtain feedback on their activities and desired skills. This feedback has helped develop the taxonomy of the competency framework, which in turn will then help societies craft content for their members.

Of course, skeptics will remain, but CFA Institute acknowledges that the current structure for professional learning is inadequate going forward.  In a presentation titled “A Fresh Learning Experience” delivered at the 2019 CFA Institute Society Leadership Conference in Austin, TX, Keith Waitt, CFA Institute’s Senior Head of CPD Products, noted how the new learning experience for members will be more self-directed (as opposed prescriptive), more personalized (versus generic), and—emphatically—more “delightful” to use.  Above all—and this should quell conspiracies of any pecuniary motivation on the part of CFA Institute—this new platform will be free to members.

Member Feedback Remains Critical in Driving Improvements
CFA charterholders are highly committed learners, and 70% already attest to completing the recommended 20 hours of continuing education every year. Member charterholders have worked hard at making the CFA charter the distinct and respected designation that it is today, and the CFA Institute wants to remain the leading professional body for the investment management industry in the future.

The competency framework is the starting point to foster a more engaging learning experience for charterholders. How it is received once it goes live remains to be seen, but member feedback will remain critical. We here at the society need to hear from you on what your expectations and thoughts are about this new learning structure.

Of course, nothing is perfect right out of the gate, and we expect professional learning to continue evolving. Despite the trial and errors, however, all of us should agree in principle that a commitment to continuous professional learning is a benefit not only to member charterholders, but, more importantly, to our clients as well.