MBA v CFA

  • 28 Nov 2011 at 6:50 PM

Things I Did Not Know About The CFA Exam

Attentive readers may recall that a while back I signed up to take the CFA Level I exam, in order to (1) pursue my passion for standardized testing,(2) expose the secret behind-the-scenes workings of America’s trillion-dollar financial-analysis-certification business, and (3) have a major institution to stand behind my guarantees of consistent above-market investment returns. I wrote a post about it, and then mostly forgot all about it.

Thinking that the exam might be sometime in December, I looked into it a bit more this weekend. Here are some things that I learned that I didn’t previously know, though you might have:

1. The exam is given using pencil and paper at the Javits Center. I had vague visions of the anonymous computer lab where you take the Series 7 on computers from the mid-1980s. Now I have to go buy pencils.

2. All of its contents. Actually I’d read maybe 100 pages of the ethics reading but then I got bored and stopped.

3. It’s this Saturday. Oops! Read more »

  • 03 Nov 2011 at 2:09 PM

If He Could Turn Back Time…If He Could Find A Way

In 2003, things were going pretty well for Todd J. Remis. Great, even. The equity research analyst had left Warburg Pincus Asset Management to found Hygrove Partners LLC, he was living the good life in New York City and he’d recently married Latvia native Milena Grzibovska. The wedding was an intimate affair that included less than 40 guests and took place at Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown. A proud husband, Remis sent a photo of the happy couple to his alma mater for inclusion in its newsletter, for all his former Bowdoin College classmates to see.

Fast forward six years, and things were going less swimmingly for Todd. For starters, the Chicago Booth grad’s marriage had hit the skids, with a separation in 2008 and an official divorce by 2010. Additionally, he was unemployed, having been laid off or fired from his job at Legg Mason’s ClearBridge Advisors. And with that kind of loss and time on his hands, Todd wanted nothing more than to sit around looking at photos of memories past, specifically of the day he married Milena. Only Todd couldn’t do that, could he? At least not in the way he wanted to, which was by going through the photos chronologically, very beginning to very end, from Milena getting dressed to the bouquet toss to the last dance, laughing, crying, wiping his tears with each shot, laying down naked on a pile of them scattered on the bathroom floor and remembering how he felt that day. The reason he couldn’t do that? Because someone FUCKED Todd, good and hard. And the more Todd thought about it, the more he decided that he had to make that person pay. Read more »

That’s how two Wharton professors, Daniel Gottlieb and Kent Smetters, model their students in a recent paper that tries to explain why so many business schools have policies – typically adopted by student vote – that prevent students from disclosing their grades to employers. Seems reasonable!

We construct a model with students, schools, and employers. Students prefer larger postschool wages but dislike studying. Schools are heterogenous in their selectivity (reputation). Under disclosure, employers can observe both a student’s grades and the school’s selectivity; under non-disclosure, an employer can only observe the partial signal of the school’s selectivity.

That model leads to a bunch of equations (no charts, sorry) with conclusions that again seem pretty reasonable. The driving force for preferring a non-disclosure policy turns out to be that mean post-graduation pay has to be higher than median pay – and the authors think that this is likely at a selective school where the top students can be very valuable, but less likely for a less-selective school where everyone is clustered closer to average ability. If the average value of a Wharton student is higher than value of the average Wharton student, then making it hard for employers to figure out who is actually valuable will let everyone get paid for the optionality:
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If you’re one of Moynihan’s mini-mistmakers and a slowdown in staffing, dwindling office supplies and your MD’s refusal to make eye contact have left you convinced that you’re among the 10,000/40,000/30,000 people whose brief yet brilliant tenure at Old BAC will soon be toasted over rounds at Phil’s Tavern, you may already be thinking about your next move. And it may have occurred to you that dropping a few hundred grand for two years of team building exercises, team learning projects, team drinking challenges, and individual scamming on undergraduates might be preferable to finding another job in banking / moving back in with your parents. Well, good news: no one else has thought of that yet.
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As we mentioned a while back, part of my training as a new Dealbreaker editor involves getting a CFA charter so that I can use past returns to guarantee future results. To that end, I’ve signed up for the December Level I exam. Thanks for all of your helpful advice on studying, by the way – I didn’t get to read all of them, but I’ll just go ahead and assume that the overall gist was “read every hundredth page of the books, guess C when in doubt, and drink heavily before, during and after the exam.”

Nonetheless I did get the books last week, so I opened them up to see what I’m getting myself into. Study Session 1 is ethics. Coming from a job on Wall Street, this was all new to me. I was particularly interested to see the CFA’s a refreshingly straightforward fiduciary standard in its code of ethics:
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If yes, did you get the plain boring old one or the one with the tassels? Read more »

In a few short weeks, many financial services employees will begin the soul-crushing, life-sucking process of studying for Level I CFA exam given in December. So you that you don’t look back and realize you wasted 4+ months of your time on earth, most of you are probably hoping to pass. And sure, that’s a good goal. Cute, even. But if you want to really make a name for yourself and not be had by a would-be lawyer, you’re going to have to do better than that. Like going into labor during the exam better. Read more »