CFA Advice


I’m new to the forum and joined for several reasons one of which is career advice. My background: I have an undergraduate degree in Finance and worked in Investment Operations for a well known Institutional manager for the first 11 years of my career. I stepped away from Financial Services 10 years ago to work on the revenue side of the Aviation industry (Account Management, Sales, Sales Management). I would like to transition back to Financial Services with a long-term career goal of Portfolio Management.

I have talked to several people in Financial Services over the past six months and most have told me that it will be very difficult to get back in. I was initially planning to go back to school for a MSF, but was told that a graduate degree will not increase my chances of being hired as most financial services professionals have a Masters, MBA or some sort of a graduate degree. I was further told that passing the CFA will most likely be my best shot at getting back in.

My question for you all is…do you agree with this advice? I know some HR professional are active members of the forum and I would love to hear from you too. I’m very serious about this “sort-of” career change and I have no problem sitting for the CFA; I just don’t want to kill myself studying for the next 3-5 years only to be passed over for job opportunities because I’ve been out of the business for awhile.

Thanks and I look forward to your responses.


Financial advisor or insurance agent is the easiest job to get. What you do from there is on you. If you want to be a portfolio manager, you should start managing portfolio’s. A lot of firms allow advisors to build their own portfolio’s for clients (within limits). Even the big firms. Join an RIA as an adviser and tell them your long term goal. Be careful of large corporate shops because they just want you to sell, sell, sell. You know… They’re not going to encourage studying for the CFA.

If I came across an elderly (lol) CFA with sales experience, I would immediately ask if they can pass the 65 and then write financial plans. Your time out of finance industry is irrelevant. The path to portfolio management with my firm is really through my vendors. I outsource 90% of my portfolio management to asset managers. This is the norm. I was told by my state’s regulators that only about 5% of state regulated RIA’s in the state (my state) actually take custody and discretion of assets. If I were looking for work, I have an inside track with my vendors. Also, I could always set up with LPL or someone and start managing hands on. Open a shop with Charles Schwab.

Those asset management firms are all RIA’s with job openings. If you don’t mind being a Jr. analysts with some 20 year olds then go for it! There are thousands of companies with job openings for CFA’s. Maybe a CFA that specialized in aviation, aerospace, and engineering industry is what they are looking for. If you’re an entrepreneur, open your own firm. Also, try publishing some studies or opinions in journals. If you have good ideas, you might turn some heads. Owner’s care about making money. They could care less about your 10 year hiatus. As long as you don’t have a shady background, you’re good. But you’ll never really know unless you try. Get your CFA and plan 2 paths. A direct route to portfolio manager and an indirect route as a financial adviser. Then execute and see what happens. Either way, you get to work in finance. Which is awesome…

OP, you wrote that your LT career goal is Portfolio Mgmt. Not all Portfolio Managers are equal. I think with your experience, you can go into financial advisor route. After a few years, these guys work for an RIA as an Investment Advisor Rep, which they can call themselves anything from Client Portfolio Manager, Wealth Manager, Financial Advisor, Portfolio Manager. And in some cases, you do have full discretion.

My advisor is with US Trust…I think his official title is Private Client Advisor but also calls himself Client Portfolio Manager because after all he does manager several hundred million dollars some with discretion and some without.

We have several advisors here on AF who can probably help you…

One consideration for you is that your selection of jobs will be pretty narrow, since I assume you don’t want to work in some b*tch role like people do in their early 20s. The jobs that make the most sense, if any, will be those that utilize some of your background, maybe in sales. Any employer in financial services will want you to demonstrate some existing skill, as you are not, by most measures, an early career hire.

MBA or other degree will definitely help, but are probably not worth the cost (time, money and opportunity cost) at this stage in your life. CFA is worthwhile, since it causes little disruption to your life, even if the absolute effect is not large. It’s not supposed to be a major endeavor like people seem to make it out to be. It is an easy, part time program that you are meant to complete while working full time. Consider this, and perhaps a part time MBA if you believe the benefits will be significant.