Should I sit the CFA level I to start my new career in Melbourne ?

Hi everyone,

I hold a masters in actuarial and financial science and I recently successfuly completed my thesis defense, which gave me the official “French actuary” title. I have 2 years of experience (1 year of intership included) at BNP Paribas in Paris inside the ALM team (Assets and Liabilities Management). I was in charge of buidling financial models and running ALM studies for several subsidiaries in Europe.

So, here is my point… I will leave France in few months to get together with my partner in Melbourne. And I would to take this opportunity to move away from the insurance industry and try to get experience in Asset Management. My masters is not recognized in Australia so I am wondering if it would be possible to get in the Australian market.

My first thought was to sit the CFA Level I, I believe it could really help me to get in. I also read on that forum that CFA Level I “means nothing” and is not considered by companies.

What do you think about my case? How can I increase my chance to get a job in Asset Management in Melbourne ?

Your question is will it increase your chances, and that answer is yes. Just like how Buying a second lottery ticket will increase your chances as well But if you get anything it’ll be because of your prior experience, passing L1 won’t be the reason you make it.

Australians are generally pretty poor at recognising international experience or qualifications - even Australians returning home from stints in London can find it difficult to get decent jobs.

By all means do Level 1, it can only help, but don’t be surprised if you find it very hard to switch countries and careers in the same move.

lol in short, CFA is worthless… Like buying another lottery ticket which is almost 0% improvement on your chances of winning the lottery.

Hey Deeprod,

I live and work in Sydney but am also looking to relocate to Melbourne for family reasons (we have kids and no family in Sydney). I currently work in Asset Management and am hoping to find something along the same lines in Melbourne. Here are a few of my thoughts based on looking for the last 3 months:

  1. The market at the minute is really really bad, but especially in finance. I’ve had to really expand out my search (i.e. consider jobs I would never have thought of before) because there just doesn’t seem to be any jobs available. From speaking to headhunters, they are saying that first of all there aren’t many jobs on offer, but also there are a LOT of other people looking at the minute, and people who have jobs aren’t looking to leave because the market sentiment is so bad, so new jobs aren’t becoming available. Also, there is the expat factor, Australians who have been working in London/HK/etc. and who have been laid off abroad are coming home and looking for jobs. It’s a tough market.

  2. Have you considered the Sydney market at all? The Sydney market is much better (though still tough at the minute), it’s really the financial/capital market hub of Australia. Kinda like comparing London to Paris if you know what I mean. There’s jobs but it’s a smaller and less diverse market from I what I’ve seen.

  3. I wouldn’t worry about the master’s being recognized or not. You have a college degree of some sort right? I don’t think anybody is going to flick your CV in the bin on a technicality like this.

  4. I’ve seen a lot (well by a lot I mean a few) of Corporate Finance jobs advertised in Melbourne that require modelling skills, so maybe that suites your skill-set…

  5. Look on the main job sites to see what the market is doing. The main site is, but you can also check out efinancialcareers and

  6. If a career in finance is what you want, I would pursue CFA L1 no matter what. A lot of job ads say that one of the things they look for is someone with CFA or “CFA in progress”. The most difficult thing I’m finding at the minute is actually getting my CV beyond the headhunter. Headhunters are pretty clueless and mostly work on key buzzwords in my opinion, so it might help get you past the headhunter if anything. But yeah, don’t count on it getting you a job.

  7. Be prepared to accept that in the current climate, you may need to consider a career change/deviation if you want to be employed here. The market is depressing and I’ve actually been considering leaving finance alltogether just to make the move possible.

  8. I moved over to Australia 6 years ago from London and have never regretted it. It’s the best place on earth for work/life balance. So despite the depressed market, just get over here no matter what.

Good luck with your move. Feel free to get in touch with me directly if you have other questions. I’m happy to help out.

Thank you very much for your answers.

There is something I don’t fully understand: I have 2 years of experience with 1 year of internship included, that means I have got graduated one year ago. Why would “CFA level I” be so meaningless knowing that it is the highest level possible according to my experience ? I would have understood for someone who has 10 years of experience.

Thank you clerverku for taking the time to give me that much information about the Australian market. It is good to have news from inside because the few headhunters that I have contacted all told me that everything is fine over there, jobs are wainting for me.

I am going to look for opportunities in Melbourne first because it is the more convenient for me, my partner lives here and it would be easier and also way cheaper if I can get in here. However, I will turn to the Sydney Market if nothing good happens to me in Melbourne.

“The most difficult thing I’m finding at the minute is actually getting my CV beyond the headhunter”.

My partner is working at PwC and she has already passed my resume along to the appropriate departement. So far, I have just had phone calls and I understood that they will not give any interest in my case until I arrive in Australia. But anyway, I hope these contacts can help me to go through the headhunters for several companies.

I will not hesitate to get in touch with you directly if get other specific questions about the Aussie market, thanks!

Regarding your question on value of CFA. I think what people are trying to say is that even though it’s the highest level you can achieve for your experience/etc., it just doesn’t hold that much value for it to make much difference. But it won’t hurt, and if you want to pursue a career in finance, you might as well start on it early, so just do it.

btw - I would also recommend looking for Graduate intake opportunities. These won’t usually be advertised on job sites but you will find information on them directly on employer’s websites. This is how I got started back in the post 9/11 days when there were also no jobs available.

Also, have you got a proper visa or are you coming in on some fruit-picking type visa?

Starting the CFA is definitely worth doing. The CFA is maybe not as well-known in Australia as elsewhere, but there are plenty of buyside and sellside analysts with it, some boutique fund managers have only CFA’s on their staff.

However, there are many many many unemployed analysts/portfolio managers/dealers/traders/shitkickers looking for jobs in the finance industry in Australia. It’s a small market and UBS, Macquarie, HSBC, Merrill Lynch…just about everybody you can name is shrinking their headcount. M&A is dead, equities trading volumes are low and fund managers are being squeezed from both falling FUM and fee competition.

You best bet will be to get even an entry-level job so that you have some Australian experience. Australian companies generally don’t much of a fig about overseas experience, if anything it puts you at a disadvantage to a well-connected local candidate.

Starting LI at least shows you are serious about a career in AM.

stay in act sci, you will make more money

When I look to hire people, L1 doesn’t mean much, tons of people people have it. TONS.

Passing L2 tells me: ok you’re serious.

I am coming under a Working holiday visa, which is what you call a fruit picking visa, even if I heard that is a common visa to step in Australia. If this visa causes me trouble I can switch to a “serious” visa by being sponsored by my partner who is Australian. However, the process is quite long and also expensive (but that is an option).

I will definitely focus on entry-level job. I left school one year ago so I don’t take it as a step back.

hi, doesn’t the working holiday visa only let you work for an employer for 6 months?

if this is the one you are on, I think this will seriously reduce/eliminate your chances of getting a reasonable job. Why would anyone hire you if they know in 6 months you’re going to leave/need your visa sponsored/etc? Also I think those visas only let you work a maximum of 6months in a 12 month period. They’re designed for backpackers, not professionals.

What I’m trying to say is – you need to get a proper visa, even if it’s expensive and difficult. In a normal market you could maybe chance it and see if you could find an employer to sponsor a 457 visa for you, but that’s going to be really difficult at the moment when there are truckloads of Australians looking for jobs in finance.

‘Actuary’ is on the skilled migration list, you should look into getting a visa this way. I think you need to get here first, using the qualifications you have, then try to work out the career change.


Unless you’re happy coming to Australia and just getting a job working in a coffee shop or something, that visa of yours is going to be a real problem. I highly doubt any jobs in finance will be accommodating to someone who can only work here for only 6 months, especially in this environment.

If you want to come to Australia and be serious about your career, you’re going to need to sort out a proper visa either via the skilled migration route or via the spousal route. Personally, I came in via a spousal visa (my wife, who was my girlfriend back then is Australian).

What I would do if I were you is get in touch with a migration agency. For a fee (ours was 1250 pound sterling I think), they will hold your hand through the complicated and daunting process of submitting an application (for either skilled migration or spousal visa). For us, it was money very well spent, and definitely sped up the whole process.

A word of warning, I’m pretty sure that most visas of these types can only be applied for while you are living outside Australia, so be sure to plan carefully how you want to approach your move to Australia (i.e. don’t just quit your job, fly over on a work holiday visa and then think you can apply from within the country).

I think these are the guys we used. We did quite a bit of research on different agencies and liked these the best.

The spousal route is probably the easiest and quickest but you need to have supporting documentation that shows you have been in a serious relationship for 12+ months. This is what took my wife and I the longest time to put together, so start now. We got joint bank account, joint rental agreements, held on to flight boarding passes, anything official that showed our relationship wasn’t a fake one. Once we submitted the paperwork, it took maybe 2 months I think to get the approval.

Good luck.


I was in your shoes a little less then a year ago. Got a fiance visa to head out to Melbourne where the better half was situated. I have 5 years investment operations experience and 2 years trading experience and to say the market was utter garbage is an understatement. I met with many head traders in Sydney from the biggest banks and they all told me the same thing…it’s going to be tough and it could take you 3 months or 3 years to get a job in this field given the market environment.

I met with a quite a few headhunters and they all said the same thing - market is crap, etc, etc. One other thing they said was given my visa situation, I would likely be looked over until I was a permanent resident (which was 2.5 years away) - why would they chance giving you a job when there could be visa issues when they can just go to the next candidate who is an Aussie. Makes good business sense to do this, especially given the market condition.

One of the few trading jobs I found flat ouf said, do no apply if you are not a permanent resident or citizien.

One thing you DO have going for you is that you have ALM experience, as I found most of the available jobs were in this area. I guess it depends on what you want to do in asset managment too - trading, research, ops, fixed income/equity/real estate, etc. Some are much more readily available then others.

Like others have said, get your visa stuff squared away first, even if it does cost more money, and be honest with your work/career expectations. If you are 100% sure what you want to do (asset managment), really think long and hard about how you will feel if you can’t achieve that in the near future in Australia. Will you be ok doing something not related to asset management in order to make ends meet? Are you ok with potentially beeing to far removed from the field to get back into it?

Not trying to be a debbie downer here, but these are questions I wish I had asked myself before I left to go there. I gave up my dream job which I just got promoted for 2 months before I left and now I have no idea where my career is going, what to make of it, or if I’ll ever get back to where I was…ugh

if you have any work or visa questions, just let me know - I’m pretty well versed in both

I agree with almost all of the above comments. Visa issue is one that needs to be sorted out before you can land a proper job. Hiring environment isn’t outstanding. To give more examples, a large AM had 100+ applicants within days and they found the replacements before the job ad hits the market. Similar situation apply to a large super fund. A smaller fund like ours received 300+ applications within a week for an entry level job.

Now there are a couple of more things that you should know before you come to Australia. I think the hiring situation is much better for the actuaries, especially if you’re qualified. This is particularly true for unconventional actuary fields i.e. NOT insurance. The second thing is the reform in the LAFHA (living away from home allowance).

This is akin to 10~15% paycut for foreigners. What this is likely to do is to trigger another wave of job changers and exacerbates the situation.

Ok, now let’s be on the brighter side and I truly believe in this. If you’re willing to take a “standard package” in the big 4 accounting firm, I think there will be a wave of opportunity. Particularly firms that promotes overseas staff mobility.

I personally think Melbourne has a greater chance than Sydney. The government is working to turn Melbourne into an investment hub. (Because they can’t compete with us on anything else!!! jk). The big superannuation funds (asset owners) are down there…etc.

Good luck and always happy to help.

Thank you very much for all your answers. Luckily I am an optimist! Otherwise I would have started considering to stay in Paris. But I take all of your comments really seriously and it helps me to understand how thing works over there. I said “Asset Management” because it is the job I would like to do even if it is not what I would call “my dream job” and also because I thought it would be “easy” to step in… Apparently I have been misled by some recruiters and other people who actually did not know well the market. “If you’re willing to take a “standard package” in the big 4 accounting firm, I think there will be a wave of opportunity. Particularly firms that promotes overseas staff mobility.” It would be perfect I guess. As I may have said, My partner works at PwC and It might help me to get considered by the recruiters. And using contacts of contacts, I might also get numbers of people within the big 4. “Now there are a couple of more things that you should know before you come to Australia. I think the hiring situation is much better for the actuaries, especially if you’re qualified” I guess this is the first good news of this topic! Even if my first choice would be to work in Asset Management, I would also be pleased to keep working in my field (ALM) and if you say the market is more open, I will definitely take my chance. “I gave up my dream job which I just got promoted for 2 months before I left and now I have no idea where my career is going, what to make of it, or if I’ll ever get back to where I was…ugh” That is the question I ask to myself every single day. The difference is that I currently don’t have my dream job, so even if I don’t get what I am looking for in Australia, I can still come back in France. Besides, in the French market, I am sure that an experience in Melbourne will give me a slight advantage for the future. “Like others have said, get your visa stuff squared away first” To be more precise, I have already tried to get a proper visa (partner visa). But my migration agent raised a problem, even if our relationship started more than 2 years ago, we don’t have enough formal proofs that our relationship is genuine and continuing. So this working holiday visa will give us the opportunity to gather documents together in order to complete the application (by opening common bank account for example). And I am curious, what is a “standard package” in a big 4? publishes salary reports, have a look.