B-school students add CFA edge for finance base, postings abroad

Posted on    04 August 2008

Sub Heading : Management degree no longer enough for getting desired portfolio

Author : Priyanka Golikeri/DNA

Content : Amid pressing project deadlines and a continuous flow of assignments, Amit Sharma somehow manages to squeeze out a couple of hours daily. He's been doing this for the last three months.
But it's not work-life balance or hobbies that are occupying these couple of hours. He's actually preparing for his chartered financial analyst (CFA) exams, level I.
Offered by the US-based CFA Institute, this one is an international designation offered to those who complete a series of three exams, or levels. But this isn't all Sharma is doing. He is a second-year MBA student at New Delhi's Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) and did his summer internship at Edelweiss Capital.
After working for two years with Infosys post his graduation, Sharma opted for an MBA to secure a bright future. But somewhere along the way, the BTech in information technology (IT) from Dehradun decided to strengthen his base in finance through the CFA course.
The level I of the course cost him $1,100 and the exams were held in June. Sharma is sure he will pass the exams and in the process, hike his stake in the job market with the 'level I CFA' tag.
He's not the only one to think this way. Many others too are looking at this course because a management degree is no longer the only ticket to a bright career. Even though an MBA degree can secure jobs with a six-figure monthly salary, it may not be enough to get a graduate the kind of profile he or she wants or even a posting abroad. This is where a CFA tag comes in.
Rajiv Krishnan, the managing director of HR firm Development Dimensions International (DDI), says that CFA helps people strengthen their foothold in finance and get international job offers.
This, despite the fact that it is not too different from an MBA course, says Saurabh Kapoor, an Indian Institute of Management Lucknow (IIML) student, who has also taken the level I CFA exams. "It's more or less a recap of what we study in the first year of MBA but it affirms a candidate's interest in finance," he says.
CFA scores over an MBA from an Indian institute in that it gives a global exposure to the area of finance, says Sharma. Its recognition value abroad too is better than an MBA from an Indian institute and this makes it attractive to those seeking foreign postings.
However, the CFA level I doesn't necessarily upsize the pay packets offered to students during campus placements even though it is considered a bonus by employers, says Madhavi Lall, the India head of HR at Standard Chartered Bank.
"A CFA qualification provides an edge in terms of the candidate's knowledge base. But career movements and international postings are determined more by his or her performance on the job," she adds. Standard Chartered recruits about 200 MBA grads annually from 40 institutes.
As a CFA makes the candidate's CV stand out, more and more students are opting for it, show numbers. IIML and IIFT have over 20 students doing a CFA and Mumbai's Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS) has eight. The IIMs at Calcutta and Bangalore have seven-eight students each.
The qualification, however, hasn't impressed the faculty of B-schools. According to IIMC professor Anindya Sen, doing a CFA simultaneously can take away much value from the MBA degree as students may end up distracted and unable to perform to the best of their abilities.
"A CFA during the course of a MBA can throw doubts on the veracity of the management degree. We create CEOs and managers. We don't want students to get pigeonholed into just finance," she says.


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