• 30 Nov 2011 at 12:33 PM

And Now Some Mockery

I am now going to take a mock CFA exam. In order to replicate actual testing conditions as closely as possible without leaving my apartment, I will do the following:

1. Spend 2 hours* on the first session (120 questions)
2. Lunch, beer
3. Spend 2 hours on the second session (120 questions). Another beer.
4. Check answers, post results
5. Mockery. Another beer.

The CFA’s commitment to “past performance does not reflect future results” extends to its own products, sayingPerformance on a mock exam should not be used in any way to predict performance on the actual exam.” But you and I know better. So tell me:
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  • 29 Nov 2011 at 6:35 PM

The OCC And I Work Hard To Guarantee Investment Returns

This is shaping up to be CFA week for me, and with my impending triumph/humiliation I’ve pretty much stopped thinking about much else. I’ve also stopped reading about much else, putting aside Trotsky temporarily to focus on those six stupid books. Yesterday was corporate finance – I can now unlever and relever betas like a champ – and portfolio management, which I got about halfway through before falling asleep. Today is equity and fixed income. The end is in sight!

But there’s still occasionally time to think about blast-from-the-past favorite topics, like the slow-motion disaster that is the US regulatory effort to end official reliance on ratings agencies. The latest is the OCC, which released a proposed rule today that will change the definition of “investment grade” securities, which banks can invest in, from “rated in one of the four highest rating categories by two or more NRSROs” to this: Read more »

  • 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 »

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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Having said that, the chance to soak up the market moving insight of a one Professor $Honey will not last. Read more »

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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