My CFA journey began in the year 2014 and I’d like to share what prompted me to embark on it.
After completing my B.Tech in Information Technology from VJTI, Mumbai in 2013, I joined Oracle Financial Services Software (OFSS). During my last year of engineering as well as while working at OFSS, I became more curious and interested towards the management side of the business and within management, Finance was the one domain which always intrigued me.
As a next step to satisfy my inquisitiveness, I decided to write CAT. During my preparations for CAT, I interacted with some of my friends/seniors, who introduced me to the CFA Certification. Given my interest in the Finance domain and my inclination towards a career in the investment profile, I felt that the CFA program was perfect for me.
Coming from a technology background, the CFA program would help familiarize me with the basics of the investment world and provide a broader knowledge of the global financial markets. Keeping all this in mind, I registered for the CFA program and was to appear for the CFA Level 1 exam in December 2014. This decision meant that, while continuing my work at OFSS, I had to simultaneously prepare for CAT and CFA Level 1. This was a challenging proposition but then, life becomes boring without challenges.
Keeping all this in mind, I registered for the CFA program and was to appear for the CFA Level 1 exam in December 2014. This decision meant that, while continuing my work at OFSS, I had to simultaneously prepare for CAT and CFA Level 1. This was a challenging proposition but then, life becomes boring without challenges.
Coming back to my CFA preparation, I started early in the month of August. I divided my time: giving 4-5 days per week to CFA preparation and the remaining days to CAT. CFA Level 1 syllabus focuses on basic knowledge of Finance and simple analysis using investment tools. All the topics required to be studied were new for an engineer like me.
However, I took an instant liking to them and in particular enjoyed studying FRA, Corporate Finance, Equity Investments, and Derivatives. Also coming from an engineering background, I found quantitative methods relatively easy. Talking more about my study plan, I made it a point to cover and be thorough in topics having higher weightage. The weightage across the topics are available on the CFA website and they have stayed relatively similar over the years. Thus I was thorough with FRA, Ethics, and Quantitative Methods.
Given the time constraint due to the preparation for CAT and the ongoing job, I was barely able to complete CFA syllabus and had no time to attempt any mock exam. However, it is strictly advised to all the CFA aspirants to try giving some mocks before giving the actual paper, as it really helps build your confidence.
Anyway, I wrote the exam and the experience was very good and insightful. On 29th January, 7.30 pm, I got a mail from the CFA Institute which stated that I had cleared the Level 1 Exam. It was a great moment for me and to say that I was delighted is an understatement.
But I did not want to stop at this. So, after talking to some of my friends who had given the CFA Level 2 exams and regarding preparations for the same, I decided that I would be giving the Level 2 Exam in coming June (2015). The primary reason being that the CFA Level 2 and Level 3 are held only once a year in the month of June and I didn’t want to wait another 18 months for the same. Also, I felt if I would be able to clear the exam, it would be an added plus to my profile prior to joining a management school.
I started my preparation for Level 2 fairly late in the month of April as I was occupied with the GD-PI processes of the various B-Schools prior to that. This time also, I had planned my studies almost similar to Level 1 preparation, being thorough in higher weighted topics. For Level 2, I concentrated more on Equity, Fixed Income and FRA which formed close to 50% weightage according to the CFA website. In Level 2, the syllabus is much more comprehensive in comparison to Level 1.
However, I found it very interesting since I like the core valuation concepts. Level 2 essentially emphasizes the application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets. This time, my preparation was much better in comparison to my Level 1 preparation and I even got some time to try a few mocks before giving the actual exam. I wrote the exam and was comparatively more confident this time.
Meanwhile, during my preparations for CFA level 2, I was elated when I received admission confirmation from one of my dream colleges SJMSOM, IIT Bombay. The college started in the month of July and the result for the CFA Level 2 exam came a few weeks after I joined SJMSOM, IIT Bombay. It was during one of the sessions that I got the email of clearing the Level 2 exam and I was filled with ecstasy. However, to some extent, I had expected this result based on how I felt after the exam.
So the second level of the hurdle passed and I decided to write the Level 3 exam in next June (2016). Coming to Level 3, this time, the study strategy had to be altered primarily because the level 3 exam has a theory section where one is expected to write theory answers unlike during the Level 1 or 2 which only contains multiple choice questions. Given the hectic syllabus of the MBA program, I was able to start preparing only 3 months prior to the exam. I did not let external things hamper my preparation and was focused on my target of clearing the exam in the first attempt itself.
The preparation material was similar to Level 1 and 2. But this time, I relied more on my hand made notes during the revision phase. Also for this level, it is an absolute must to give as many mock exams (Constructed Response Type) as possible since time management plays a very big role for Level 3. As far as the afternoon section is concerned which contains the multiple choice questions, it should not be that big of an issue.
I wrote the exam this time with confidence and on 9th August, at around 7 in the evening I got an email from the CFA Institute stating “Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you that you passed June 2016 Level 3 CFA Exam”. Frankly, I was thrilled, to say the least. I did not feel any emotion for some time and it took some time for the news to sink in.
Completing Level 3 is a huge achievement for me but it is also true that compared to the end result, it was the journey which was more beautiful. It taught me a lot of life lessons, the most important being;
‘Don’t ever give up, nothing is impossible in life,
If someone else can, You can as well’
Finally, parting with some words which inspired me during the journey,
“Don’t have dreams; Instead, have goals”
About the Author:
Mr. Nikhil Taori is a student of Class of 2017 at Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay.