More People Than Ever Want to Be in Asset Management, CFA Data Shows

Just 45 percent of test takers passed the notoriously difficult exams in June.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

Nearly 200,000 people braved the Charted Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute’s exams last June — a record high, according to data released Tuesday.

There were 4,149 more test takers for the first level than in June 2018, but just 38 additional passes. The level-one failure rate for hit a six-year high at 59 percent, data show.

The CFA designation remains the asset management industry’s best-known accreditation. Attaining one involves passing three levels of all-day exams, and holders must pay annual dues.

This year’s increase in test takers suggests strong global appetite for jobs in the field.

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Australia recorded the highest increase in candidate growth among large markets, rising 23 percent year-on-year, according to the institute.

The number of women sitting the tests has more than doubled over the past five years to 39 percent, and hit or passed parity for level-one candidates in Australia and the U.K. These “pockets of gender balance” are a positive sign for the health of the industry, institute managing director Stephen Horan said in a statement. “Research shows that divergent perspectives improve investment outcomes.”

June’s results show record-high attempts for all three levels of the exam, which is administered worldwide twice per year. In total, 45 percent of the 196,768 test takers passed — 41 percent for level one, 44 percent for level two (including II’s Sage Um), and 56 percent for the final stage.

Next year’s test costs between $700 and $1,450 each in registration fees, the CFA Institute’s website shows.

“This is an exciting time to be building a career in the investment profession,” organization CEO Paul Smith said in a statement. “The complexities of delivering returns, particularly within the context of global sustainability, will require more expert analysis and a willingness to bring those skills to bear within and beyond traditional markets.”