Career Advice Expert Advice

Sharper mind means sharper edge

Amid the financial turbulence, making sense of challenges and opportunities through various education channels is one way finance professionals can improve their competitive edge.

Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting for Asia Pacific, recommends that employees who have lost their job or are looking to boost their career options should strive to gain soft-skills and academic knowledge. “Those who take the time to qualify as an accountant or chartered financial analyst will give themselves a competitive advantage over those without similar recognised qualifications,” says Ng.

According to the Hong Kong Society of Financial Analysts (HKSFA), the fallout from the global financial crisis and the sovereign debt woes in Europe present new challenges for its members. At the same time, China’s continuing internationalisation of its renminbi and Hong Kong’s status as a hub for yuan trading have also created new opportunities.

“In light of the current job environment, we are helping our members gain the knowledge and insights they need to utilise their skills sets in different areas of the industry,” says Ashley Khoo (CFA), who chairs the HKSFA’s career development committee.

To serve its members, the not-for-profit HKSFA offers continuing education programmes and seminars that qualify for continuous professional development (CPT) hours. As a member society of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, the HKSFA also assists in the former’s mission to help investment professionals meet the challenges of global investing.

Khoo says the HKSFA also arranges workshops and seminars focusing on issues that shape the investment industry, such as salary trends and working for multinationals on the mainland.

“Events where speakers share their personal career path experiences are extremely popular,” says Khoo. “You often wonder how someone reaches a certain level or has managed his career through different stages – to hear this first-hand is very helpful.”

Ashvin Vibhakar, CFA Institute managing director for Asia Pacific, says that “the CFA charter is certainly a key factor that can strengthen an executive’s competitive advantage.”

Since 2001, CFA charterholders in Hong Kong have grown almost five-fold – from 1,023 to 5,063.

Vibhakar says the CFA charter gives finance professionals credibility, which is crucial to investors after the financial crisis.

Looking for an academic qualification that would help him with his career, former JPMorgan trader Olly Arthey says he began considering an MBA once he was settled into his job.

“I thought this would be the ideal qualification to help me move into management and also give me an all-round improvement in skills,” says Arthey, who studied for his MBA part-time at the University of Hong Kong.

He believes an MBA is particularly useful in investment banking for those involved in M&As. Equally essential are the MBA modules that cover management, accounting, decision risk analysis and management consulting, which can be applied to improve banking processes.