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CAIA stackable credential pilot program

I can appreciate that…there was a comment in the thread about UMASS being some random university and such which is not the case given it is the birthplace of the entire program. I would also challenge you on the comparison to CIPM…do you really believe that CAIA’s curriculum compares when lined up side by side? I don’t have either, but a quick look at CIPM compared to CAIA’s curriculum seems to have some glaring differences….i.e., quant review, asset allocation, portfolio management, and the overall application of alts vs manager selection and performance measurement/attribution. The comparison doesn’t seem apples to apples. 

I’m curious as a CAIA member, what are your thoughts around brand recognition? It seems CAIA has struggled to gain recognition, even within the alts community, and so partnering with CFA may assist in building the reputation given their reach and history within this industry. Further to that, and I apologize if I missed this previously in the thread, as someone who has gone through all of these (CAIA, CFA, FRM) do you feel that the Level 1 CAIA is necessary for an individual who has already gone through the entire CFA program? Thanks for the insights and thoughts on this…it’s helping to flesh out some of the questions around all of this! 

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I will throw in my opinion on the ” do you feel that the Level 1 CAIA is necessary for an individual who has already gone through the entire CFA program?” part.. Yes, there isn’t much overlaps as one might assume.. CFA exams are difficult and cover a wide range of topics.. but CAIA Level 1 offers a more in-depth, and focused approach on alternative investments.. As a CFA charterholder, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on the alternative space studying for CAIA Level 1, and that’s what I was hoping for..If those two designations are so similar, why would any CFA charterholder who already went through a lengthy CFA journey would pick up the books again and hoping to add CAIA behind their names..

I will let some of the CFAs also chime in with me. CIPM and CAIA are not substitutes - I meant that CIPM is a pure certification and seen as such, while until this week CAIA was viewed as a developing charter that was young but had a lot of potential.  To be honest this recent development was a pivot to virtual certification in terms of time, amount you need to read, and level of preparedness that CFAs now need to take the exam.

The learning materials in CAIA have been a work in progress, they are getting more challenging every year but Level 1 takes only a couple weeks of test prep (just speaking personally) if you have done the CFA exams recently.  Not that the material needed to be that way, or that it is a waste of time - I enjoyed studying for Level 1.  But in Level 1 CAIA just seems to be trying to still find its way about what to cover and the direction of the content it seeks to teach there. It ended up, in my case, being akin to “do you know what contango is? backwardation?  ok great - so remember all the relevant stuff that goes with them, and here are about 300 vocabulary words on top of that, plus most but not all of the ethics covered by CFA level 1.”  Yes you may be able to skip part of level 1 if you took CFA - not all but definitely part. But instead of accepting this and cutting it all out of the curriculum, CAIA could have taken another approach to add new material in there. For instance, does anyone with the CAIA charter know how to book the alts on their balance sheet - not unless you know it from your work or personal knowledge because accounting is not in CAIA.  There were many exciting possibilities and there still are.  The whole cryptocurrency/blockchain thing could be a new and very relevant/important section in Level 1, but instead they are farming that out into a sister “charter” called CADA for some reason (fees again).  I get it that CAIA can grow faster now, and having CFAs is good not bad, but I am not sure how the CFA additions who did not put much time into getting the charter and stepped right into level 2 will view other CAIA members in the association without CFAs.  I can see a caste system developing where people with only CAIA not CFA will be like poor relatives in the family.  New CFAs flooding the association after taking a single exam that did not take 6 months of their lives like CFA exams typically do, may perhaps not be emotionally invested in the CAIA program and it is just a couple extra letters they pay for like many do for CIPM now.  So I am concerned about a split seniority system developing within CAIA associations and assemblies, I wish they had taken the move to add more material and enrich the CAIA rather than agree to strip half the material out of it for - let’s face it - a bunch of new members who see a low hanging fruit they can pick and add more letters behind their CFA. I had hoped the startup spirit within the CAIA board would lead to a long term stand alone brand value strategic vision for the charter, superseding the allure of short term profit boosting.  I really never would have expected this, it is like I came into a local steakhouse that was new but had good reviews, the waiter comes and takes my drink order… then returns in a Burger King outfit and replaces my menu with a Burger King one, saying “Sorry we made a recent decision to change our business model, we feel it is in the best interest of the restaurant as I am sure you can understand, now which kind of fries would you like with your burger sir?”  It sort of feels a little like this, sorry I am a bit sad so I am writing like this.

Greybeard The Elder wrote:

I will let some of the CFAs also chime in with me. CIPM and CAIA are not substitutes - I meant that CIPM is a pure certification and seen as such, while until this week CAIA was viewed as a developing charter that was young but had a lot of potential.  To be honest this recent development was a pivot to virtual certification in terms of time, amount you need to read, and level of preparedness that CFAs now need to take the exam.

The learning materials in CAIA have been a work in progress, they are getting more challenging every year but level one takes only a couple weeks of test prep if you have the CFA recently.  Not that the material needed to be that way, CAIA just seemed to be trying to still find its way with Level 1 and what it wanted to teach there. It ended up being “do you know what contango is? backwardation?  ok great - so remember the stuff that goes with them, and here are about 300 vocabulary words on top of that, plus most but not all of the ethics covered by CFA level 1.”  Yes you can basically skip most of level 1 if you took CFA. But instead of accepting this and cutting it out of the curriculum, CAIA could have taken another approach to add new material in there. For instance, does anyone with the CAIA charter know how to book the alts on their balance sheet - not unless you know it from your work or personal knowledge because accounting is not in CAIA.  There were many exciting possibilities and there still are.  The whole cryptocurrency/blockchain thing could be a new section in Level 1, but instead they are farming that out into a sister “charter” called CADA for some reason (fees again).  I get it that CAIA can grow faster now, and having CFAs is good not bad, but I am not sure how the CFA additions who did not put much time into getting the charter and stepped right into level 2 will view other CAIA members in the association without CFAs.  I can see a caste system developing where people with only CAIA not CFA will be like poor relatives in the family.  New CFAs flooding the association after taking a single exam that did not take 6 months of their lives like CFA exams typically do, may perhaps not be emotionally invested in the CAIA program and it is just  couple extra letters they pay for like many do for CIPM now.  So I am concerned about a split seniority system developing within CAIA associations and assemblies, I wish they had taken the move to add more material and enrich the CAIA rather than agree to strip half the material out of it for - let’s face it - a bunch of new members who see a low hanging fruit they can pick and add more letters behind their CFA. I had hoped the startup spirit within the CAIA board would lead to a long term stand alone brand value strategic vision for the charter, superseding the allure of short term profit boosting.  I really never would have expected this, it is like I came into a local steakhouse that was new but had good reviews, the waiter comes and takes my drink order… then returns in a Burger King outfit and replaces my menu with a Burger King one, saying “Sorry we made a recent decision to change our business model, we feel it is in the best interest of the restaurant as I am sure you can understand, now which kind of fries would you like with your burger sir?”  It sort of feels a little like this, sorry I am a bit sad so I am writing like this.

I could not Agree more….

Do you personally feel as though this caste system will really take effect? In other words, you feel as though an individual who doesn’t have CFA and CAIA is less than someone who just has their CAIA or that they should be respected less in this community? Also, has there been a sacrifice in the content being delivered? I’m not sure if I will pursue this now, but am curious to get your thoughts. 

I was recently at an event with CAIA and a few other groups and the focus was on professional development within the financial services industry. The overarching message I took away, was that you should pursue advanced designation programs in order to be competitive in the industry or go back and get a master’s degree…which I would prefer not to do. So my question in the end is, what does it matter at the end of the day?

Does anyone know if CAIA is still providing the same content they did before or did the quality of content also change? As for the other topics or asset classes to consider, I believe I heard on an “Orientation Session” that they use the supplement material in their level 2 to test out new ideas for future versions of the curriculum…is anyone else aware of this? Finally, can’t you bypass other securities registrations, designations, and some degree programs if you already have the CFA? If so, why should this be different? 

As an aside, I really appreciate the thoughts and insight as this is a career changing move I’m about to embark on and want to ensure I’m fully educated in making my decisions. So, Thank You! 

I think Greybeard made some really good points…and BK  was a good example ..   This I believe is a ploy to get more CFA charterholders to get this designation, so, when two CFA charterholders meet, one that has CAIA designation and other that does not…one will likely rub along on the other..so, the other will not wanting to be left behind will… and so it goes .. if even 5% of the CFA charterholders catch up to this designation there will be a lot more membership for CAIA.

I do not think there was a comparison made to compare the CIPM course content to the CAIA… the comparison was made to state the fact that CIPM offers a similar pass over to Level 2 for CFA charterholders. and now CAIA is following the same suite.

Yes, CAIA curriculum Level I has vastly different additional content compared to that covered in the three levels of CFA. wonder if the CAIA Level 2 is going to be modified to move the new content into Level 2 and push the content that is mostly similar to CFA onto CAIA Level 1, and, make CAIA Level 2 tougher…

 I value the content I learnt at both levels and picked up a lot  of  additional information between the two level 2 (Level 2 results still pending)….  and wish they had done more to up the ante and find the right mix of material and made CAIA designation cherishable and parallel to CFA (understand to a lesser degree) for Alternatives and wish they had not followed this path…. 

What I wrote is what I feel honestly and forthrightly based on full review of the situation. This is a forum of analysts, we review and analyze businesses and strategic decisions of management for a living. Sometimes we find ourselves in spots where we must summarize how a firm’s decisions can backfire based on short term thinking overcoming long term value. I love CAIA and I wish the association nothing but the best but at this moment their outlook is downgraded for me from “get regardless at any time” to “add after the CFA charter” until either they get enough new CFAs to shut the door on this pilot program, or they rethink the learning deliverables they have constructed so as to make this “one and done” charter access option a thing of the past. I do feel there is a culture risk and that the CAIA just painted itself with the certification brush. The alts space is massive and growing larger and larger - why cannot the accreditation learning deliverables grow also? I still support CAIA and would not recommend anyone dropping out of the program so please nobody construe my remarks as such…. yet to be clear I am hereby personally giving the CAIA charter a reputation/image downgrade in the accreditation market to a lower level than it previously commanded in my view, until something concrete changes to affect my analysis. I am disappointed and wonder how I would have approached the charter today if I was just starting to consider it and not having taken the exams. It looks different now compared to other charters. I have followed this forum for years for different exam assistance and motivation, and only this development has gotten me to actually post on the boards. I am saddened and hope something can be fixed either with time or clear headed listening by CAIA. They are reading these posts, and I suspect I am writing to their eyes right now. CAIA please rethink this, please listen to the market and your stakeholders who are your ambassadors also. With respect.

For those wondering if the level 2 exam for CAIA will become tougher now that they’re going with this stackable program, I can’t imagine that will happen.  If anything, they’d likely increase the pass rate to show how CFA charterholders are doing so well, passing the CAIA program right away as a way to entice other CFA charterholders to sign up, all in the spirit of making more money.  That’s all CAIAA cares about, right?  So why would they make the test harder?

I wonder how much money CFA Institute is making off of this stackable program.  They would definitely want something, right, to be associated with CAIA?  Does this make the CFA charter less elite now? 

I supposed I’m confused a bit as to why the downgrade? Is it purely because CAIA is streamlining the process for a select group of individuals who have, presumably, demonstrated their proficiency via CFA for information in this industry OR because you feel as though the content and rigor demanded to understand alternatives has changed? As I understand it, the curriculum has not been changed at all. For that matter, and I am no expert at this, but have come to understand that their curriculum has become more challenging since inception. If that is the case, has there been any indication that the actual curriculum will become easier? It would seem as though with the further inclusion of alternatives in the market, the more CAIA will be required to incorporate these topics as part of their curriculum going forward. 

The reputation downgrade you mention is something that is of concern to me as a candidate and would love for you to dive a little deeper as to why the reputation would be degraded by working with a presumably highly reputable organization such as CFA. If CFA is the ‘Gold Standard’ the industry touts it to be, why would it be a bad move for a correlated (dad joke) designation program to partner with them and streamline the process? I have several colleagues who are CFAs who have been reluctant to take on the CAIA as they’ve felt they shouldn’t be required to revisit information they’ve already been exposed to in the CFA. To your point about CAIA’s reputation in this industry, I continue to run into alts managers who have never heard of CAIA but are extremely familiar with CFA…this seems like a problem that currently exists for the organization and this pilot may be a way for them to enhance their reputation? No? 

You mention that this is a place for analysts and such, and having an MBA, I can certainly appreciate the position CAIA has taken in order to build further awareness and recognition of their program. I can’t believe this is profit driven as they are a non-profit to begin with, and while these types of business structures may not command the same level of profit as other’s (and perhaps I’ve drank too much CAIA KoolAid), I believe their intention is to fundamentally fill a gap in education that currently exists in this industry rather than make money…this is why I was drawn to their program. 

At the end of the day, we all will have a different point of view or opinion on stuff like this, but am curious to your thoughts on what they could be doing to build brand awareness and further attention to their program that they are not currently exploring…i.e., what ideas does the group have that could have been fruitful for the organization to consider outside of this pilot? 

Ill keep this short and sweet. Its complete garbage. I have spent since last November studying for level I CAIA and Level III CFA and now its apparently all for not. What a complete waste of time and money. 

Side note: I did manage to pass Level I but still, all the time spend could have used towards Level III

Don’t disagree with too much of what’s been said.  But to balance this out:

  • reading the CAIA commentary, this has been a project long in the making, involving the entire CAIA team and a lot of the CFA people too…  wasn’t just a kneejerk “grab members” initiative
  • CAIA’s at pains to emphasise this is a pilot available to a small sliver of CFA candidates out there; it’s explicitly an experiment.  I’m guessing that the CAIA peeps are watching carefully not only the empirical results of the experiment but also the market buzz/commentary around it
  • CAIA is IMHO the most relevant qualification for institutional asset owners and their advisors (yes, I believe the syllabus is way more relevant today than CFA) but it lacks the brand recognition it needs for its members really to see career benefit.  Strikes me that this initiative might just be a big leap to the brand recognition we all need.  I know that I know what I need to know, and I know I’m good at what I do…  but would be helpful if more of the world understood that my CAIA charter was a shorthand for this.

I think I read that this is a three-year pilot.  Let’s watch and see what happens.  Too early to tell, but there are some positive outcomes I can envisage, as well as the negatives that this thread has focussed on.

if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space

I feel like a broken record, but as CAIA Charterholders/Candidates we need to continue to share this feedback with CAIA.  I would encourage everyone to share their thoughts with CAIA (as I have).

Pay close attention to the people who don't clap when you win.

It could be that CAIAA are aware that membership fees are expensive and the only way to drive it down is to boost membership. So could be a win win. CAIA becomes more recognised, has more members, and members pay lower fees 

I understand that CFA members that are sitting for Level 1 should be mad because they did not need it. However, as a CFA member, I think this makes sense. I have seen the Level1 book and a CFA member should be able to pass this.  Almost all the topics are covered in the three levels of CFA. 

Well I’ve submitted my application to CAIA, let’s see how this goes.

This just came through:

Dear xxxx,

Thank you for your interest in pursuing the CAIA designation through the CAIA Association’s Stackable Credential Pilot Program.

Your application has been received and we are verifying your eligibility for the program.* Please note that the verification process may take up to 3 business days. In that timeframe, we will notify you of your status at this email address. If approved, you will then receive further instruction for completing your registration for the September 2018 exam.

*If you have previously received a waitlist notification, please know that you have now been added to the eligibility queue and may register once your eligibility has been confirmed.

Please feel free to contact us at candidate@caia.org regarding all candidate-related issues and inquiries. In turn, please make sure your contact information in your profile remains updated so that we may reach you regarding program announcements other pertinent information.

Again, thank you for your interest in the Stackable Credential Pilot Program.

over/under on years until CAIA is acquired by CFA Institute

I spent over $1000 on CAIA level 1 and this news is devastating.. 

sent them a message and expressed my concerns

CAIA Charterholder

I understand everybody’s reaction. I would be concerned / pissed as well if I held the CAIA designation as a stand-alone, or was a CFA that had already spent the time / money to pass CAIA Level I.

That said … . I may be a beneficiary of this pilot program. I earned my CFA charter a few years ago. Truthfully, the CAIA curriculum is probably more relevant for me as I work in the alts space. I have long toyed with the idea of sitting for the CAIA, but never pulled the trigger because it seemed a bit superflous after earning the CFA. Plus, I just couldn’t stomach sitting for more exams!

Now, however, I am more tempted given that it is only one more exam for me. Should I go for it? Curious to hear others thoughts.

Call me an idiot, but I think I am still going to register for Level I even though I am a CFA Charterholder. Based off the curriculum page on the CAIA website, there look to be some topics that weren’t covered / covered in areas of the test that I didn’t focus much time and energy on. Hell, I know its a terrible ROI, but I look at this as a learning opportunity… I know, I know I could just order the curriculum book and read on my own, while jumping straight to level II but I also know that I have to have an end goal (exam) to motivate me and actually make myself read the 800+ pages.

I applaud you for doing so…though financially or if you consider the additional time spent it may not seem like a wise decision… you are exactly right, if the curiccullum stays the same, if anyone directly appears for level 2, they will likely miss out on enough learning opportunity the course offers … as it stands these courses try and bring together a lot of material which you otherwise have to go through many sources to come abreast with and if you end you missing on half of that material it might seem somewhat of a folly depending on what you are trying to get out of the course …just a designation which people do not know how much value it holds yet and is still is in the process of building value around it  OR the content which helps you understand the markets better.

Three cheers to you!!

In my opinion, as a CFA charterholder, there is a LOT of stuff on CAIA level 1 that is NOT covered in the CFA curriculum.  The basics, yes - some formulas like Sharpe ratio, the difference between backwardation and contango, etc.  But that’s about it.  I learned a lot of new stuff studying for CAIA level 1.  So frustrating that I didn’t have to take it now though hahaha! But it really was a good learning experience. 

M_Mitchell08 wrote:

Call me an idiot, but I think I am still going to register for Level I even though I am a CFA Charterholder. Based off the curriculum page on the CAIA website, there look to be some topics that weren’t covered / covered in areas of the test that I didn’t focus much time and energy on. Hell, I know its a terrible ROI, but I look at this as a learning opportunity… I know, I know I could just order the curriculum book and read on my own, while jumping straight to level II but I also know that I have to have an end goal (exam) to motivate me and actually make myself read the 800+ pages.

More of this. I applaud you.

Pay close attention to the people who don't clap when you win.

i mirror the above sentiment. i believe CAIA LI had some pretty unique topics that either grazed or potentially not even breached via CFA curriculum. thought it was a worthwhile exercise to read through all topics and feel much more well rounded, as a result.  obviously, we’re all a little salty given the dynamic CAIAA has employed with one’s ability to rack up credentials. however, am i upset that i had to sit for CAIA LI? nah.  like i noted earlier, i feel like it helped build a better foundation to my current knowledge base and improved my skill set even more so than before. 

ya don't know what ya don't know until ya know it.

This is sad.

For people that have completed CAIA, do you need Level 1 concepts to complete Level 2 or can you kind of pick it up?

It’s been four years since I completed the CFA and to be honest much of the material is forgotten or needs refreshed.   It would make more sense to me if CAIA allowed CFA charterholders to skip quant, ethics, etc on an abbreviated level 1 test specifically designed for CFA charterholders. 

If your goal is simply to get the CAIA letters, you can go directly to level 2 without worrying you are at a test taking disadvantage. There is limited crossover in terms of questions. In my opinion at least.

I would recommend in that case to use Schweser and/or Uppermark to study, focus mostly on the question banks, and pass the test… Either before the test or afterwards I very strongly urge you to buy a used version of both the level 1 and level 2 Wiley official course hardcopy books off Amazon to keep as personal references and bodies of knowledge.

Those official course books are great value and act as nice resources in future practice if you need to look something up. Probably not necessary to read them to pass the exam but they are super, super useful to own and I like them more than the CFA paperbacks or CMT books that I have. Two cents from an old guy.

In the email I received from CAIA, CEO Kelly encouraged us to contact him directly with feedback so I did and I encourage as many of you to do the same. His email address is wjkelly@caia.org. The email reads as follows:

Dear ,

Today, the CAIA Association will be issuing a press release about a pilot program that will begin coincident with the opening of our registration for the September 2018 exam cycle. This program tests a multi-channel learning pathway approach that will involve two new stackable routes to the CAIA credential.

Many masters programs in higher education, and even certain credentials like the CFA, are expansive learning instruments that cover a very wide array of complex topics. Other credentials, such as CAIA, are more tailored curricula that cut much more deeply into a very specific area of study, which in our case is alternative investments. Our end consumers are allocators and other investment professionals, and we must occasionally take a strategic step above the fray and anticipate and react to developing trends in the industry.

The traditional MBA programs, for example, are not going away, but visit any university website and you will find a plethora of micro masters’ programs or certificate-based offerings that are much more highly specialized. One very relevant example here is the new Masters in Alternative Investments Program offered by one of our founders, the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Here, the curriculum will be taught directly from the CAIA Level I textbook, with an eye toward bringing more targeted and trained alternative investment professionals into the market.

The CFA program, a gold standard in our industry, must too react to an ever-changing world where not everything will comfortably fit into a very deep and comprehensive curriculum. This is especially true as we look forward to not just the growth of alternative asset classes but to the greater emergence of subjects such as ESG, FinTech, artificial intelligence, big data, and distributed ledger technologies. The pathway to lifelong learning and acquiring deeper expertise “somewhere else” will become commonplace. It will be less about a Member benefit, and more about what it means to be an informed professional on a career path that is likely to see more change in the next five years than has been seen in the last five decades.

CAIA’s Stackable Credential Pilot Program will, therefore, enable three pathways to the CAIA credential: the standard CAIA LI plus CAIA LII exams, the Isenberg Masters’ program plus CAIA LII exam, and finally the CFA LI through LIII exams plus CAIA LII. We have done a deep and diligent review, mapping specific learning objectives, and concluded that these pathways, while unique, will not allow for any slippage in absorbing a full body of knowledge. To be even more certain, this pilot program will be available for a period of three years to a controlled but global sample of qualified candidates. Any decision around a permanent implementation will be thoughtful and include initial and ongoing input that most notably will also include the observations from you, our Members.

For a comprehensive explanation of the Stackable Credential Pilot Program, including the eligibility requirements, application process, and fees, please click here. If you have any initial thoughts regarding the rollout of this pilot program, I strongly encourage you to contact me directly. I will, of course, be providing interim updates in the period ahead as we assess the developments of this program and the continued pace of change in the market that we have the pleasure and obligation to serve.

Kind regards,

William J. Kelly
Chief Executive Officer
CAIA Association

Thought this was interesting.  Today registration begins for the CMT fall exam period.  I am reading the information and lo and behold - CFA Charterholders are now exempt from the level 1 exam.