Despite last year's financial turmoil, more candidates than ever are enrolling in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme.
"We expected candidate numbers to fall through a lack of support from employers or as people lost their jobs, but they didn't," says Dr Ashvin Vibhakar, the CFA Institute's managing director, Asia-Pacific.
"The number of candidates joining the programme has actually been growing for the past 10 years."
With more than 10,000 candidates registered to take their exams in June, Hong Kong has the third largest participant numbers in Asia-Pacific.
The mainland has the largest number of participants in the region with more than more 22,000 exam registrations. Worldwide, the CFA Institute has almost 100,000 members, including 4,200 fully qualified CFA charter holders in Hong Kong.
Vibhakar says the CFA charter, recognised as the gold standard in the investment industry, provides a strong foundation for a wide range of career paths.
The qualification is considered ideal for analysts or asset managers, but is also in high demand by employers in the securities markets and in banking, corporate finance, fund management, insurance and investment advice.
"Firms that hire charter holders know the designation signifies not only subject area competence, but also a dedication to knowledge, professional expertise and high ethical standards," Vibhakar says.
Each year, CFA charter holders sign a pledge to adhere to a strict code of ethics and standards governing their professional conduct. "Charter holders should always put the needs of investors first, when this happens it is less likely there will be problems," he says. "Promoting high standards of ethics, integrity, and professional excellence is at the core of our mission at CFA Institute. We do that with our codes, best practice guidelines and standards that guide the investment industry and place clients' interests first."
To join the programme candidates should be in the final year of their bachelor's degree programme or have four years professional work experience. Alternatively, candidates are eligible if they have a combination of work and necessary academic experience that totals at least four years. Divided into three levels of exams, each candidate must study at least 250 hours per level of the self-study curriculum. There is no limit to the number of times participants can take each exam, or a set time limit to complete the programme. Students are provided with study materials, instruction and online tools.
To provide university students with real-world experience in equity research and company analysis, each year the CFA Institute organises a Global Investment Research Challenge. This year, more than 425 universities and more than 2,000 students participated.
The University of the Philippines won the global final, which was held in Hong Kong last month.