CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam is considered as one of the most sought-after exams for a finance graduate. It is a series of three exams covering a broad range of topics relating to investment management, financial analysis, stocks, bonds, and derivatives, and provides a holistic knowledge of other areas of finance. Clearing an exam which requires a person to work hard day in and day out in the midst of hectic life of a B-school is an onerous task. Below are the excerpts from an interview with Naveen Kumar, a PGP08 student, who cleared CFA level 1 while also being a member of the Placement Committee of IIM Rohtak.
Q1. When did you decide to go for the certification?
After working at Amazon, I realized that I wanted to go in for finance. MBA was the first step towards this. CFA level 1 requires 300 hours of intensive studying of the curriculum. Completing this gives out a signal about your seriousness for finance. As well as on a personal level, when you are required to invest 300 hours of your time into studying the concepts, you automatically become well versed and ready to learn finance to the core. After a thorough consultation with my seniors and self-consideration of everything, I decided to go for CFA and started preparing in the first year of MBA itself.
Q2. What difference has the certification made for giving you an edge over others and what learnings apart from studies you gained during the process?
When you join an MBA and decide to go in for finance, you are competing with a diverse set of people. There are engineers, people from commerce background and even Chartered Accountants. A large percentage of people are those who have been studying finance for the past three years of their lives. It is not possible to be on par with them unless you are ready to double your efforts. CFA gives you a platform to work that hard. The certification sets you apart and gives you recognition for your knowledge and your determination to go through the rigour of clearing CFA.
Q3. How does being from a mathematics-intensive background help in CFA? What challenges does it pertain?
The transition from engineering to finance is bound to be very challenging for anyone. But, engineering background trained me to understand concepts, apply them and also, mug up the facts when required. Thus, applying these skills to study for CFA made the task a little easier for me.
Q4. How did you balance your studies, college activities, and preparation for CFA?
I followed the advice of one of my seniors. She advised me to study and understand the class curriculum in the class itself. Secondly, she asked me to never compromise on the clubs and committees’ work that I had. This was not easy for me to do this, being in the Placement Committee of the college. And that is why, there was only one thing I could compromise on, i.e. sleep. I slept only 4 hours every day and studied for CFA every night to stay in touch. My roommate was a big help during this time. He always motivated me to keep working hard and woke me up with any means required whenever I fell asleep.
Q5. What advice would you like to give to other finance enthusiasts for CFA?
Most of the people try to complete all of the curriculum at one go. They tire out in 3-4 months and take a break, thinking they will study when the exam comes near. The most important thing is to be consistent. Next, I strategized the study material according to my requirements. I divided the syllabus into more scoring and lesser scoring ones and focussed more on the scoring subjects. I followed study notes instead of reading the whole curriculum and made my own notes out of them. Although this is a very tiring task, I never allowed laziness to enter me in this regard.
Joining international study groups helped me a lot in this. There are platforms to have healthy discussions with like-minded people who inspire you and push you to work harder. They are the ones who are not satisfied with small achievements, they strive and work smarter to reach to the top.
Q6. Lastly, what is the one thing that motivated you to always stay at the top of the game?
If you keep reminding yourself about the stakes at the end, you would always refrain from compromising and running behind short-term gratification.