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Career Advice - To Complete CAIA or Not To Complete CAIA, That Is The Question

Hi all! I need some career advice and was hoping to get your thoughts :D

First, some quick background: I’m currently 26 years old working as a Results Analyst (think performance measurement/attribution) for a large investment group. They are very well known in equities, and my goal is to navigate myself within the firm into equity research with the long term goal of one day becoming a portfolio manager. In other words, equity investing is my passion and I want to make that my profession.

Dilemma: I am currently a level II CFA and CAIA candidate. I originally embarked upon the CAIA program as a way to beef up my resume, which helped me get hired on in my current role. So the question is, now that it basically played its part, should I complete the CAIA designation or focus on developing my equity research skills?

Pros of Completing the CAIA
- I’m only one level away and I hate to leave things unfinished
- It would help beef up my resume which could help in my applications to business schools (an MBA would aid my cause of moving into an equity analyst role)
- It would help prepare me for the Alts section of the CFA (hopefully level III)

Cons of Completing the CAIA
- 3 months of CAIA devotion that could be used to improve equity research skills i.e.:
o Learn spreadsheet modeling/valuation (which would also help prepare me for the CFA equity section)
o Read value investing texts
o Preparing my own company research reports
o Networking with equity analysts at my firm (and possibly showing them said research reports)
- The CAIA is essentially unnecessary within the equity research field

Any thoughts are welcomed and appreciated!


  • LagartaLagarta Raleigh, NCPosts: 62 Jr Portfolio Manager
    edited May 2013
    If you are half-way done, and remain so for a long time... As a hiring manager, I would see that as a red flag. That may be seen as a sign that either you COULDN'T finish it, OR you're the kind of person that uses positions/designations to get something out of them, then dump them once you get what you want. No team wants to be your 'step-up' to the next position, where you are diligent for your first year, and once your job you REALLY want comes along, you leave. It's a difficult balance. Modeling in Excel is important, however, having a basic knowledge is enough. Grab a VBA/Macros book, or one of the modeling books from Wall Street Oasis, and you'll have a leg-up. Your team will help train you in the way THEY want models built (especially at a larger firm). Networking should be happening all the time, just takes some moving things around. Networking is about 60% of your moving into those types of positions after you get past the resume stage. Best of luck! I think completing it saves some of those awkward conversations during an interview, as opposed to stating " I'm constantly trying to better myself and develop a holistic skill set to better evaluate investment opportunities and provide my knowledge as a resource to my team." Bam.
  • LagartaLagarta Raleigh, NCPosts: 62 Jr Portfolio Manager
    I think completing it saves some of those awkward conversations during an interview, as opposed to stating " I'm constantly trying to better myself and develop a holistic skill set to better evaluate investment opportunities and provide my knowledge as a resource to my team." Bam.
  • @MattUnderwood Great advice, Matt. I knew someone at 300hrs would be able to offer insightful and informative thoughts that I wouldn't have seen any other way.

    One more question to pick your brain...Since no team wants to be someone's "step up," how would you recommend going about positioning yourself to transfer to a new role? Obviously, right now my focus is on helping this team and I'm going to do my absolute best. However, I do have one eye on that equity research position and if the opportunity presents itself down the road I'd like to go for it, but wondered what your thoughts might be on making that as professional and clean as possible.
  • If you're that close, finish what you started. It won't hurt to have the credential. And @MattUnderwood is right: after a certain point incomplete studies (degrees or certifications) will present a "red flag". Ask me how I know. :(
  • edited May 2013
    You've piqued my curiousity; how do you know, @clwcain ?

    Matt's advice rings all too clearly and I have resolved to finish the CAIA. But to your point, I also believe in finishing what you start!
  • @DollarsToDonuts

    I've left three graduate programs unfinished. All of those were >10 years ago and I cycled through them in the space of 3 years.

    I've been able to parlay a liberal arts undergrad into a very solid career in FP&A and, from there, a technical position in healthcare IT. In every interview, even within the last few years, I still have to deal with questions that, had I been more focused and less lazy in my 20s, wouldn't come up at all.

    I created weaknesses that, barring an expensive tour of duty through an MBA program and/or a serious credential like the CFA, are both unnecessary and difficult to overcome.
  • I appreciate the candor, @clwcain . Kudos to you and your resolve to not let that hold you back
  • LagartaLagarta Raleigh, NCPosts: 62 Jr Portfolio Manager
    @DollarsToDonuts, the real balancing act you need to have regarding playing your current role and looking to the next is...

    First, do well in your "interim" job. Nobody's going to move up the guy who "bit off more than he can chew," from that point, the networking aspect comes in. Who is your mentor? If you don't have one, you NEED one. Someone on-site who hopefully has his/her fingers in several strategic areas of the business. Someone who knows how to navigate, and people LISTEN when they speak. This may take a while.

    You can either:
    1. Do well in your job for 2 years, and let your supervisor know that you'd like to expand your skill set to include SOMETHING related to equity research (special projects?) that provides some benefit to the team. It could help with the time you actually post at some point in the future.

    the other way is
    2. Use your mentor to help you position yourself, meet people in the equity research group. Make a name for yourself BEFORE you're being considered. This increases the likelihood of YOUR name being on a list of "if any of these individuals posts for the job, move them to the final interview." That list EXISTS and you want to be on it. Try to "be around" whenever possible. Find out where they go after hours.

    The major thing is that you look to expand upward while either (1) making your supervisor look like he/she's breeding rockstars in their team by adding value to other parts of the organization, or (2) get "pulled up" by someone who can PULL RANK on your supervisor.

    Obviously, one may have a smoother transition that the other. And it all depends on the culture at your firm.
    Many people ride on skill, but the road is slow. There are MANY skilled analysts all over the place. The political side is the artform that pays you dividends in this industry (good or bad). Stand on the shoulders of giants (in knowledge AND political hierarchy).

    I hope this helps.
  • LagartaLagarta Raleigh, NCPosts: 62 Jr Portfolio Manager
    spoken like a true MBA I suppose lol
  • Thank you so much for the thoughtful post, @Lagarta ! This is great advice that I will definitely take to heart.
  • LagartaLagarta Raleigh, NCPosts: 62 Jr Portfolio Manager
    edited May 2013
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