Non-Saudi CFA in Saudi Arabia

I need some advise from people holding a CFA charter in Saudi. I am a non-Saudi, currently pusuing my ACCA exams and I wish to appear in the Dec '14 session for CFA Level 1. When I asked my mentor “Should I pursue CFA”, he just pawned me off to a very experienced person in Saudi Corporate Finance. To put that person into more perspective:

  • He has been working in Saudi for 12-years and is 41 years old.
  • He is the Financial Controller of one of Saudi’s top-3 PLCs.
  • He has been GM Finance for Majid al-Futtaim and the Director Finance for Emaar, King Abdullah Economic City Project (A $86 billion project).
  • His current job description includes:

Hedging Price & Margin Risk With Financial Instruments:

  1. a) Protect [Company] Sugar & Oil from price & margin fluctuations while investing into financial instruments & derivatives through stock exchanges
  2. b) Adopting options & future structures to maximize value, hedge volatility while avoiding risks.
  3. c) Monitor markets and mitigate resulting risk exposure on Strategic Business Planning.
  • He is also one of the many people who were unable to finish their CFA (Level II pass).
    Now, he told me three reasons I shouldn’t pursue CFA and stick with ACCA and later get my ACA from ICAEW: 1)Saudi Investment markets (both capital and money) aren’t matured enough (implying simple financial instruments) to truly need a CFA’s knowledge for analysis. 2)The particular jobs for a CFA, the ones that really utilise the knowledge gained with CFA, are restricted for Saudis. 3)The simplicity of the Saudi Market renders a simple 3-month investment-related course (that he did in the UK) enough, knowledge-wise, for dealing with Saudi investments. Now since over here, in AF, we have CFAs and hopefully some from Saudi Arabia, I wish you. hands-on experienced people, can give me some contrary advice. Or should I listen to the man who achieved so much at such a young age…

I worked in corporate finance advisory, not asset management. But here are my two cents:

  • Yes his views are correct. But then why you think you will be limited to studying only Saudi market?

  • You are a non Saudi which makes it highly doubtful that you will stay in Saudi for forever. So don’t limit your views and education plans just till Saudi.

  • CFA Charter is highly valued in finance industry in Saudi Arabia as the number of CFA charterholders is very limited. Despite the fact that less than half of knowledge is actually used.

  • if you see yourself working in asset management in international company, then go for CFA. If you see yourself working for big four then ACA should be a better plan.

  • never compromise a good job experience for education.

Good Luck! Stay in touch!

The CFA Charter is highly respected in Saudi Arabia especially within the Banking and to some extent the Family Office environment. In Riyadh I have met dozens of CFA Charterholders which are mosty expats yet locals start picking up the knowledge as well and try their luck going for the charter. There are probably about 150-200 CFA Charterholders that reside in Saudi while there are likely less than 20 Saudi Nationals holding the charter so far.

I took a CFA exam in Riyadh and the test location is the Holiday Inn as there are not that many people writing the exams. On the test days you will see tons of South Asian expats from Pakistan/India and a few Saudis.

If Asset Management is for you I would definately recommend you to purse the charter. While you are living in Saudi Arabia you wont have much else to do anyway. Don’t listen to people that tell you education is not really necessary. The guy you mentioned probably came to Saudi when it was even less competetive. If you check job offerings now in the middle east you see more and more education and designation requirements.

Good luck!

P.S. From what I have seen since I moved to Saudi CFA charterholders are way better compensated than people with most accounting credentials. Most accountants I have seen are rather hard working yet lowly paid Indians.

I need any one candidates on saudi arabia to connect me if doesnt any one have mind i need where test place in riyad and to be in touch to exchange information about cfa i cfa level one candidates > thanks a lot

e-mail :

what do you think are job prospects for an MBA (from a normal school) plus CFA level 3 passed without any experience? are there any chances of getting a relevant job?

Its not just about if the Saudi market is mature or no, the value you personally add to your education and experince is way more important and it would give you an edge if not in the short tem then the long.

All these other local universities are known within your country but having CFA be know internationaly and your credibilty increases.

I know saudi’s taking review courses in Dubai and they speak about how its expanding in your country.

Good Luck

It seems that your question was to inquire about the value of CFA (in terms of career, money, repute) in Saudi Arabia but the answer that ‘Corporate Finance Executive’ gave was to address the applicability of CFA in jobs in Saudi Arabia.

The markets are not mature like west (for e.g derivatives) but still the basic investment activities are there and growing rapidly. Definitely CFA surely helps you when evaluating PE deals or picking stocks or forming global portfolio etc. The fact that highly advanced knowledge/strategies are not applicable does not mean CFA is not helpful at all, its very helpful on the job.

I strongly disagree with this statement and couldn’t find any stronger superlative to endorse that. Saudi Arabia is one of those countries (if not the only one) where nationals-to-foreigners at work ratio is extremely low and expats are everywhere from coffee shops to PE Shops. I don’t think there would be more than 20 or perhaps 30 Saudi CFAs. Nearly every other CFA is an expat. Plus the reputation of CFA (because of so few of them) is very high and CFA is preferred everywhere in finance/back office/ front office. I can’t even imagine CFA as a requirement for Saudi nationals anywhere in private or government. No offense but this shows how little your reference knows about CFA in Saudi.

Again, you wouldn’t be pursuing CFA just to become adept at Saudi investments and fulfill a job role. People do it to earn higher salaries and posts here.

I had good overall market exposure as I first worked in finance role and then I moved to front office in investments so I can tell you from my experience how ACA and CFA both differs and how they are seen. For big 4 or pure audit roles definitely ACA is preferred but still CFA can offer you great job in other advisory or transaction roles in Big 4. CFA is given huge respect overall in finance and investments. It’s a near to sure shot to land a job if you pass CFA because the competition is low and it is difficult to find quality people. Just for comparison of CA vs CFA, I have not seen any CFA pursuing ACA but have seen many ACAs or ACCAs going for CFA here because of the compensation and respect it brings you. Family offices and investment companies are always on the look for CFA charterholders or CFA L2/L3 candidates. And if you have experience in investments with a CFA, you are better than any other qualification. You earn huge tax free salary with doing almost 1/3 of the work you would do for similar compensation in the west. So if you want to do audit or boring cost accounting roles only, CA/ACCA/CIMA will be helpful, and if you dream of beautiful and interesting jobs in finance and investments CFA is the ultimate.

Also, perhaps it falls under professional jealousy, but you would find many people with simple graduate degrees enjoying higher posts and salaries here, majority of them (usually 15+ experience) snub CFA and other professional qualifications perhaps because of the insecurity complex and have similar views to those your referal gave. Ask other CFA members in Saudi to tell you clearer picture than non-CFAs. Anyone can inbox me questions related to Saudi if I dont reply it here on the forum. Thanks.

CFA alone in Saudi is not that helpful as you need to already have the experience needed to help you break in VC/BO/ER/HF/CF. One you have the right experience and CFA Charter then you can definitely get in an investment boutique firm (mostly family businesses) or brokerage firm (which would also ask you to complete the CME-1 as minimum).

One thing to mention was that when coming to Saudi Arabia, you must have 2 -3 experience in your CV and only then you would get entry position. I have seen many who just had finance/accounts experience, came to Saudi Arabia on finance/accounts job but later were hired by investment banks and investment companies.

Not really. Many companies would be more than happy to have a CFA charterholder with zero experience. The “three letters” counts for many companies.

For director or senior posts - Yes, but for entry level or mid-level - No. Because OP seems to be in entry level, its a Yes, CFA is very helpful.