An individual with a professional certification brings credibility and expertise to the organization. But when you look closer, you’ll see that a certified individual brings a package of multiple competencies to the table. These competencies are important both in terms of ability to the job as well as long term benefit to the organization. Many times, a professional certification brings both expressed and implied competencies to your organization. If you are looking to bring in more people with a special designation or if you are considering sending your brightest through the program, be sure to examine the expressed competencies and determine what competencies you can imply. The CFA designation will provide your organization with a long list of expressed and implied competencies. Let’s discuss those in detail so that you can determine if the CFA designation competencies match those of your organization.

First, let’s look at expressed competencies in terms of the CFA designation. Expressed competencies are those that we know are covered in the certification curriculum and process. These are easy to determine but it’s still a good idea to pick them out, both technical and soft skill competencies. Obviously the CFA program has a list of technical competencies, including knowledge and application of various markets and financial instruments. But what other competencies are expressed in the program and how can those fit in with your organization?

One of the more obvious “soft” competency groups in the CFA program is related to ethics and ethical behavior. Given the current financial situation, high ethics are certainly going to be beneficial to your organization and its future. In the CFA program, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to place integrity over their own interests. This competency obviously has a huge impact in today’s environment, in which many financial professionals have fallen because of self-interest over integrity. Among the other ethical competencies in the CFA program are the improvement and maintenance of the candidate or charterholder’s professional standing, through education, networking, and appropriate decision making.

In relation to professional competency, the CFA program expresses that duty is also a key attribute, next in importance to ethics. The program stresses that each charterholder has a duty to his or her client as well as a duty to his or her employers. This duty extends into making the correct choices, maintaining professionalism, and keeping every action above the board in terms of ethics. Between ethics and duty, the expressed soft competencies of the CFA program are quite strong.

Once an individual as passed the three levels and becomes a CFA charterholder, he or she can apply for membership in the CFA Institute. The requirements for membership are almost as strong as the requirements for entrance to the program, and bring another level of professional competency into play. To begin with, each local society may have different requirements. But on top of this, a person entering membership after obtaining the CFA designation must have two sponsors, one who is already a member and another who is a supervisor. Obviously the requirement for sponsors will provide another view of the CFA charterholders professional and ethical competency. In addition, the prospective member must be involved on a daily basis in the evaluation and application of financial data, specifically related to securities and investments. The potential member must also supervise this type of activity effectively and may also have taught this activity. Plus, at least 50% of the prospective member’s time must be devoted to investment decision-making and the creation of added value through those decisions. These are not only technical competencies but are also leadership and management competencies.

Let’s take a look at the competencies we can imply from the CFA program. First and foremost, the program is self-paced, with only the exam schedule as a final deadline for the candidate. As training and development professionals know, a self-paced program of any kind takes a specific type of adult learner, someone who has the drive and ambition to see the project through to the end. Plus, the person will probably have weighed the pros and cons of entering the program pretty heavily by the time he or she makes the decision to enter the program. This in itself shows a high level of analysis and decision making skill. A self-paced learner must also possess a high level of self-reliance and focus in order to complete a course of study. In the case of the CFA program, there are study groups and assistance available; it’s just a matter of determining when the time has come to go those resources. In other words, the self-paced learner must utilize self reliance but also be self-aware enough to realize when it’s time to reach out. Isn’t that a great combination in the field?

Revisiting the CFA curriculum, we see that technical and financial acumen are tested routinely, and in multiple levels of learning taxonomy. This will require that a candidate have the ability to move knowledge through those levels. For example, a less-disciplined adult learner may learn enough to “get by”, but not enough to synthesize the knowledge he or she has obtained in the course of study. This probably wouldn’t work in terms of the CFA program. The currency of the CFA curriculum combined with the analysis and synthesis of knowledge will also require a candidate to possess leadership and technical decision making skill. On top of all of this, these competencies will prepare a potential CFA charterholder to make the decisions that drive your organization forward.

Clearly the CFA designation tests the competencies of potential charterholders. And because the CFA will come to you with those competencies, the benefits to the organization will be impressive.

In our final discussion, we will look at the CFA designation and the overall benefits at the organizational level.