Is Claritas Investment Certificate a good intro to finance / CFA paths?
May 28, 2014 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Mefites who do finance: is the Claritas Investment Certificate a useful certificate if I want to learn the basics of finance?

I work in IT and I am thinking of a career change because of the relatively low pay that I get in the sector that I am in - meaning I am struggling to save and could not afford a house on the path I'm on.

I'm interested in qualifications that are globally recognized. My exposure to finance so far is via the Economist and the FT but I struggle to understand the technical articles. I think I'm not at a stage where I can do informational interviews yet because I am not confident on the basics of the industry.

Mefites who do finance: is the Claritas Investment Certificate a useful certificate? Would it give me a sense of what finance is like, and potentially, whether pursuing a CFA at a later stage would be right for me?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I've never heard of the Claritas Investment Certificate and spent years in finance. The CFA designation is very highly regarded and is an uphill climb if you have no previous finance and accounting experience.

EDIT: upon clicking on the link, I see that the Claritas Investment Certificate is a new program instituted by the CFA Institute. On that basis alone, it's probably worth investigation.
posted by dfriedman at 9:03 AM on May 28, 2014

The CFA requires an undergrad and experience. This is good for them, as they don't want to dilute their prestige by inducting people who might lack those skills.

At the same time, there are probably admins/secretaries at smaller personal wealth management type firms who would like to have "lower impact" careers in finance, for whom the CFA is above their opportunity. The Claritas Investment Cert might be good for them, as it is associated with the CFA institute.

One thing to note though is that working in IT--from my observational experience--bestows lots of credibility and opportunity on the right certifications. Whereas working in Finance is massively about prestige. Your school ranking will be very important.

I guess I should stop and note that there are exceptions. There are plenty of personal wealth managers who know fuck-all about finance and investments, but are top at building relationships. Also, have you considered corporate finance? I assumed that you don't want to do that, as the CFA has nothing to do with corp finance. But it's far less prestige-oriented.

But no certificate will get you a well paying job in finance. Our field is still undergoing deleveraging, and as it is now tons of undergrads with finance degrees are not going into investments. If you have worked on IT and programming financial software for a top investments firm, went to an Ivy or top top undergrad/grad program, or know some really really high up people, only then would a CFA help you snag that job you want. But on its own it is insufficient.

You might want to start by working in IT for a finance/investments firm, and getting on good terms with the firm, taking classes/certificates, and seeing if they will give you a chance. This is more likely to work in corporate finance. Investments firms really don't do that anymore, they would rather hire directly from Stanford MBAs or Ivy undergrads.

With that said, the power of true hard work and determination should not be overlooked. If you are willing to struggle and work to make things happen, and be firm in the face of failure, it's possible to overcome the biggest obstacles.

How old are you? What is your undergrad/grad schools prestige? DO you work for a prestigious firm now? Are you great at networking? Give more info so I can give more pointed advice.
posted by jjmoney at 9:19 AM on May 28, 2014

I have never heard of it. There are a proliferation of credentials and I don't think any of them add real career value besides the well-established benchmarks of CFA and (for private wealth management) CFP.

Even the CFA exams are not as valuable as they once were as a tool to break in to the industry, due to the sheer proliferation of test passers, many of whom do not really have the attributes that people want in junior analysts. Still, given the cost, they are hugely valuable from a risk-reward perspective especially if you are up to the December-June parts I and II marathon, AND you have reason to believe you are marketable in finance -- a relatively recent elite undergrad degrees, relationships with people who can introduce you around, a good degree of expertise in an industry which has a lot of investing activity, etc.
posted by MattD at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2014

I would suggest taking a course in corporate finance/investment management at a local university before diving into either the CFA or the Claritas certification. Alternatively, look up a Stalla or other providers for a CFA-review class in your area and sit in one one - they'll let you do this. Or go buy a used CFA Level 1 study guide. If you go "This is really interesting" move forward, if not, don't. The CFA (which I gave up on frankly - I'm never going to price a derivative) is an uphill climb. I don't know about the Claritas certification - which means it opens zero doors for you.

Have you thought about an MBA instead? I would do some work before getting the certification - the risk/reward payoff needs to be there. You'd hate to spend the time and money getting the cert then never use it. I understand there a huge difference between an MBA at $40K and a $700 certification.

And I gave up on the CFA (can't seem to pass Level 2) for a few reasons, primarily the time required studying to pass (way more than I want to invest), the realization that I don't really need the certification as I have enough of a background w/o it, and the fact that someone told me "I'd prefer to hire someone who spent time networking over studying."

Here's what I suggest - go to your linked in account and find everyone you know who works for a financial firm that you'd think about working for and talk to them. And/Or find someone who started out where you are and ended up in finance and see what they did to get from point A to B. Memail me if you'd like further thoughts.
posted by Farce_First at 5:18 PM on May 28, 2014

If you currently work in the financial industry in the IT world, then Claritas certification might be useful. I'm the head of development for a quant shop, I'm also a CFA charter holder. I recommend developers get Claritas or CIPM certifications, entirely for the purpose of understanding the financial domain.

I believe the certifications are only worth their educational value, I certainly wouldn't base any hiring decisions on it. CFA is a completely different animal, it's a substantial investment of time and effort (3-5 years). And the CFA institute does an excellent job of maintaining the prestige of a CFA designation. By that I mean, if you become a CFA charter holder, you do understand financial investment. For quant shops, CFA's are more important that MBA's.
posted by aloysius at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2014

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