I have three letters after my name that I am quite proud of, even if most of my clients don’t understand what they mean. Either the CFA Institute or I haven’t done a good enough job explaining those marks, maybe both. Let me take a few minutes to try today. What does CFA stand for? More importantly, what does it mean?
CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst. I earned this designation by passing a series of three six-hour exams that at the time were only offered once per year. Thankfully I did my studying long before I had kids. It would be hard for me to find 10-15 hours per week to study from January-June three years in a row today.
Okay, I passed some hard tests. What did I learn? I learned how to properly analyze financial data, dove deep into statistics, and constructed investment policy statements for clients, among other things. In plain English, I learned what matters and what doesn’t when I’m evaluating an investment for someone.
While the average person doesn’t know what CFA means, the average fund company representative does. It means they can’t come to me with their newest shiny opportunity and expect me to jump at it. I’m going to grill them on the details of how it was constructed. I’m going to think long and hard about who it’s a good fit for. I’m going to evaluate whether it makes a meaningful difference in my client portfolios.
Then I’m going to compare notes with Keith, another CFA charterholder here at Cherry Tree. Together we take our time thinking about what risks there are with any new investment strategy, what opportunities there are, and what we still don’t know. If both of us think it’s a good idea, we’ll bring the strategy to the rest of our advisors.
You see, there are dozens of new investment pitches that come from fund companies every month. Most of them are just glitzy marketing efforts to convince you to make a change. Most of them don’t matter. You can rest assured that when I come to you with an investment idea, it has been properly vetted and I honestly believe it adds value. That’s what the CFA designation means to me.
– John O’Connor, CFA
About the Author: John O’Connor
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