The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Considering an MBA? There May Be a Better Alternative

Great article by President of AFP. In retrospect I’d go with the certification directly over a MBA from anything less than a Top 20 school.

Considering an MBA? There May Be a Better Alternative

Next exam up? #FP&A Certification

It’s been a while since I posted and I hope everyone had a great holiday season. Hopefully many of you who have followed the blog since it’s inception or at any point in its history are now CFA Charterholders too.

Being a CFA charterholder has been everything I thought it would be. Since I last posted I moved into a FP&A Manager role.  For those not familiar with what FP&A is, it stands for Financial Planning & Analysis. It’s a broad term that can mean different things at different companies but in summary, it really covers budgeting, forecasting and general business planning activities. It can be very strategic or more tactical with a focus on reporting. Here’s how AFP defines it:

A newly certified FP&A professional provides insights to the financial decision making process in an organization through analysis, financial projections (planning, budgeting and forecasting) and reporting.  They may work as a member of a team of financial analysts but they are also able to work independently.

They understand the entire decision support process and are able to contribute to and be responsible for individual components of the process.  They are able to perform these functions accurately and in an efficiently manner and to identify, assess and adapt their processes to changes in the business environment.  FP&A professionals understand and abide by professional conduct standards.

FP&A professionals communicate with others in a wide range of positions internal and external to the organization to understand and gather qualitative and quantitative information on factors affecting the financial performance of the organization.  They are also able to analyze data and relevant facts, consolidate and convey insight to support decision makers and other stakeholders. 

AFP(Association of Financial Professionals) has developed a certification to cover this growing field in Finance and I have enrolled to be one of the 1st beta testers this Spring. Here’s a website that covers the certification:

http://fpacert.afponline.org/

Why am I going for this? Well I love being first at anything and with this certification being brand new, being one of the first recipients of it would be nice. I also expect this certification to become just like the CTP(Certified Treasury Professional) for the FP&A profession. The growth trajectory of FP&A is projected to be huge and folks who can demonstrate proficiency and real world experience will be in high demand. Go read any survey of CFO’s on the skills they are looking for and what area of Finance they want to grow in. FP&A will be at the top of the list.

Regarding the exam itself, here’s a blurb from the site:

The FP&A exam consists of two parts – Part I and Part II – that require a mastery of the critical skills, knowledge and abilities involved in the corporate financial planning & analysis function. Part I-Financial Acumen is a computer-based exam consisting of a variety of multiple choice and fill in the blank questions. Part II-Financial Analysis is a computer-based exam consisting of a variety of multiple choice and spreadsheet based questions. Both parts contain unscored pre-test questions, which do not affect the score and are used in examinations as an effective and legitimate way to test the validity of future examination questions. Pre-test questions are placed randomly throughout the exam.

I have the study material that comes with the exam fees(if you decide to pay extra) and they also have a online self study system that helps guide you thru the curriculum. I have not begun studying yet or even mapped out a plan. Right now I plan to take Part 1 on 3/8 with Part II right after on 3/14. I thought of taking on same day but schedule didn’t allow for that so this should be fine.

I perused thru the curriculum and this should be MUCH easier than the CFA. Lots of this is common sense if you work in FP&A already and I know Excel pretty good so I don’t expect much difficulty in passing this on 1st shot.

As I did with CFA, I will use the blog to document my studies in the hopes it helps someone else down the line who decides to pursue the certification. If anyone else is currently pursuing it or thinking about it, please reach out, I’d love to hear how you’re approaching the exam. 

Received Official Notification Today

#CFA

Dear Mr. Morales,

 

We are pleased to welcome you as a new holder of the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation. Congratulations on this significant achievement.

 

You may now begin using the CFA designation. We encourage you to use the designation proudly in your correspondence and personal references. The Guide for Use of CFA Institute Marks, which may be viewed at http://www.cfainstitute.org/about/governance/policies/Pages/guide_for_use_of_cfa_institute_marks.aspx, provides you with important guidelines.

 

Very soon you will receive a letter from CFA Institute President and CEO, John D. Rogers, CFA. This will be accompanied by a letter which you may use to notify your employer of your accomplishment. The CFA charter will be mailed to your primary address and will be delivered by the end of December.

 

Again, congratulations and we appreciate your continued participation in CFA Institute.

 

Regards,

 

Raymond J. DeAngelo

Managing Director

Stakeholder Services, Marketing & Communications

Well, I’m a #CFA Charterholder finally

I’m happy to report that today I received notification that my application was approved and I am officially a #CFA charterholder. 

It’s been a long journey since I started this process in August of 2008. Seems like only yesterday I was studying for Level 1and wondering where this might take me. I still don’t know exactly but it feels great to see those letters behind my name after lots of hard work. 

Now that I’m done, I can post the “How to Pass” document I’ve been working on. I will do that this week. 

Feels real good

#CFA After taking some time after receiving the results last Tuesday, I’m still on cloud 9 over here. It’s been a long 4 years since I decided to first go for the charter in 2008 right after getting my MBA and MS in Finance. At the time the goal of passing all 3 exams seemed daunting and very unlikely for someone like me who wasn’t coming from a traditional finance career path. I knew I could do it but worried about the time committment necessary to get here. Well, I’m 3 for 3 and after I apply this week and get everything verified, I should have my charter in hand. 

So how did I do it? Well I will definitely update my guide to passing level 1 to now include all 3 levels as well as some tips on actually applying for the charter, getting work experience verified, etc. The quick summary is

1) Set a goal

2) Work hard at it

3) Don’t give up

It’s really that simple. I set the goal of obtaining charter and going 3 for 3. I worked hard at it, 10-20 hours per week for up to 6 months for each level and more the month before exam. And I didnt give up when work, personal life, or my own fears were getting in the way. There was a point where I even questioned whether the cost in time and money was worth the effort, especially if I didn’t have a Wall St career lined up already. I’m glad I pushed thru all of that. 

The first name of this blog was called My CFA Adventure as many long time readers may recall, and this was quite an adventure. The most important thing I learned wasn’t about fixed income, or how to use a swap to hedge a mortgage portfolio or what behavioral characteristic an investor fits into. I’ve forgotten most of that already anyway. The most imporant thing I learned was about myself. I learned that I could set a goal and achieve it after hard work and dedication. I learned I could prioritize, balance and manage a high workload alongside doing something on the side to better myself. I learned I could become disillusioned with a goal yet  not give up. I learned I could push myself in new directions and away from my comfort zone. All of these lessons will stay with me much further than any financial theory I learned from the curriculum, many of which will change over the course of my working career. The growth I experienced these past 4 years has been immeasurable and I’m a better person for having gone thru this. 

Thanks to everyone for the support over the years. It’s been quite a ride.