Professional Learning Overview: Adapting to a World without Live Programming

By Gary Sarkissian posted 03-17-2020 15:44


The unfortunate outbreak of the coronavirus has upended the usual ways of doing business.  Simply put, in a matter of a few weeks the global economy practically came to a screeching halt as companies reigned back travel, associations canceled gatherings, employers closed their offices and required their employees to telecommute, and public officials enacted extreme policy measures to protect their citizens from the spread of the COVID-19 disease. 

As many of you are aware, live events and conferences have been a major pillar for programming at the CFA Society Boston, yet we recently decided to suspend all our events through the end of April.  Just this week, CFA Institute also announced that is cancelling its 73rd Annual Conference, which was scheduled to take place on May 17-20.

How fast have things changed! 

Winston Churchill is believed to have uttered the apocryphal phrase, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we members have no choice but to “keep going,” particularly in turbulent times when our clients need us the most.  CFA Society Boston staff is also pressing ahead by working to leverage conferencing technology across our existing lineup of events so that members can continue to receive quality educational content.

But the lack of live programming shouldn’t spell the end of a charterholder’s education journey.  In fact, members can also explore the rich online content available in various formats from CFA Institute, global CFA societies, and countless other sources.  The CFA Institute’s research database alone currently houses around 6,300 pieces of content, almost half of which qualifies for continuing education credit.  But the content options go well beyond that.  With this last point in mind, a refresher on the CFA Institute’s existing guidelines for continuing professional development would be helpful, particularly in a world today where live events have all but ceased. 

CFA Institute recommends member CFA charterholders complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education activities each year.  (Starting in 2020, the CE calendar will be aligned with the membership renewal period, i.e. from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, a shift from the prior calendar year interval.)  Within that requirement, a minimum of two hours must relate to standards, ethics, and regulation (SER) topic category.  Each year, during the membership renewal process, members submit an attestation on whether they have completed the minimum number of continuing education hours. 

Outside of the SER requirements, members have considerable latitude with crafting their own continuing education curriculum.  Is fixed income your cup of tea?  Not a problem.  Only interested in career-oriented, or soft-skills based, content?  That’s entirely up to you.  The downside of having this flexibility, however, is the lack of direction in terms of assembling a professional learning curriculum that helps you along your career journey, something which the upcoming Competency Framework plans to address.

CFA Institute also outlines what are known as “principles-based criteria” for determining whether an activity is eligible for classification under continuing education, to wit:

  • The activity should be educational, and it should be “geared toward increasing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of an investment professional.
  • That piece of content should relate to any of the topics that constitute CFA Institute’s Global Body of Investment Knowledge (GBIK).

Note that CFA Institute does not require you to track your completed continuing education activity.  In other words, the tracking platform that CFA Institute manages is provided for members’ convenience. 

As a rule of thumb, one hour of eligible activity qualifies as one hour of CE credit.  The minimum increment is 0.25 hour, and generally the cap on the total credit hours that one can earn from a course or program is 20 hours.  Certain activities, such as reading a book, white paper, or article, can be subjective.  CFA Institute recommends that generalist readings earn about 2 minutes per page, whereas more technical readings would earn 4 minutes per page.

Fortunately, applicable credit is already calculated for much of the content that CFA Institute hosts and members can seamlessly record their hours in the online CE tracker directly from the content’s page.  In addition, articles that appear in the Financial Analyst Journal also include the recommend credit hours for each article. 

For the rest of the content consumed outside CFA Institute’s ecosystem, members will generally have to record their credits manually.  Society events tend to be the exception, as your local society typically records your credit hours on your behalf. 

In any case, should you have any questions or need assistance with recording your credit, the continuing education team at CFA Institute is available to help.  You can e-mail them at

One last thing: If you are an overachiever and have more than the minimum required credit hours in a given year, CFA Institute allows you to carry forward your extra hours to the following year.  To take advantage of this feature, contact the CE team with the e-mail address provided above.

One can easily get lost in the world of investment-related content, but as a starting point members can rely on a handful of quality resources directly from CFA Institute.  The CFA Institute’s Research and Analysis page is a portal to the various research products that the organization offers.  Those offerings include the following:

Other sources of content from CFA Institute include:

  • CFA Institute Blogs – Blog posts fall under two topic banners: Enterprising Investor and Market Integrity Insights. The former’s content caters to investment professionals with its practical analysis, while the latter’s focuses on market integrity.
  • Refresher Readings – Looking to dust off your memory of the various topics in the CFA exam curriculum? Then Refresher Readings is for you.  Members have access to the latest CFA exam curriculum, not only to help refresh their knowledge but to also keep pace with the evolution of the exam itself.
  • Take 15 Podcast – Charterholders who are on the go and would prefer more portable content can subscribe to CFA Institute’s Take 15 Series, which can be accessed via Apple Podcasts.

CFA charterholders face many challenges in their careers, and the current coronavirus epidemic’s impact on both day-to-day life as well as financial markets is certainly one that will be documented in history books.  The unfortunate fallout of live programs being suspended has certainly crimped the ability for our members to both network and obtain quality educational programming.  We can only hope that this storm will soon pass.

In the meantime, the learning should continue.  By being familiar with CFA Institute’s requirements and resources available for continuing education, as well as staying in touch with their local CFA society, members should have ample options available to augment their knowledge outside of live programs. 

Also, for those looking to continue networking with their fellow members, CFA Society Boston provides the online Connect platform, where members can communicate with one another by posting questions or comments.

To learn more about continuing education requirements for charterholders, check out CFA Institute’s Continuing Professional Development Guidebook.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay