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Thinking of an MBA in Finance? How About the CFA? Perhaps You Should Try The CFA+MBA Program at the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at Concordia University

Having long harbored the desire to be a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) enroute to becoming a portfolio manager, we’ve been somewhat surprised at the dearth of post-secondary institutions in Canada that integrate the CFA program into their business/finance related graduate offerings. The Charlottesville, Virginia based CFA Institute lists 46 post-secondary institutions as partners in North America, with Canada laying claim to only 2 of these institutions, namely the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at Concordia University and the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. This is especially surprising in light of the fact that 13% of world’s Chartered Financial Analysts come from Canada.

Pining aside, we’ve been considering the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at Concordia University to be our choice when the time comes in 2-3 years and we’re extremely excited to present the following interview with Dr. Ian Rakita, Associate Professor and Director at the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at Concordia and Chris Thompson, a current third year student at the Toronto campus who has completed all three levels of the CFA exams.

Dr. Ian Rakita is an Associate Professor; Director at the Goodman Institute of Investment Management

Biography: Dr. Rakita joined the Department of Finance in 1993 after extensive industry experience. He spent 1997-1998 teaching at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, where he received a commendation for teaching excellence. His research interests are in the microstructure of new and secondary equity offerings as well as the resolution of capital rationing problems under uncertainty. He has published articles in Multinational Finance, Engineering Economist, The Canadian Investment Review and the Journal of the Operational Research Society. He has presented papers at conferences organized by the Financial Management Association, Multinational Finance, the Northern Finance Association of Canada as well as the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada where he also won an award for best paper. He is the only two-time winner of the Gold Prize for outstanding paper awarded in an annual contest sponsored by the Montreal Society of Financial Analysts. He completed the requirements for the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 2001.

Q: Dr. Rakita, why did the Goodman Institute decide to integrate the CFA® syllabus with their MBA program?

A: The Goodman Institute was created with Investment Management Professionals in mind. One of the most recognized professional designations in the financial industry is the CFA charter. For individuals looking to pursue a career in Investment Management, a general MBA is not enough. Today, firms are requiring the CFA designation to be a mandatory accreditation for all employees. Therefore, by earning a finance-focused MBA while studying towards the CFA, two world recognized designations; Goodman Institute graduates are fully prepared to further grow in the finance world.

MBA schools worldwide are recognizing the advantages of offering students a graduate education with the opportunity to earn an MBA degree and CFA designation simultaneously. Established in 2001, the Goodman Institute was named the first university in Canada to become a Program Partner of the CFA Institute.

Q: Given that the Goodman Institute is one of the few Grad schools in Canada that integrates their MBA program with the CFA syllabus: my question is; do students have to set aside extra time from their regular assigned readings and work for projects/assignments and exams to study for the CFA coursework? Or is the CFA material so well integrated that by simply studying and doing well in regular coursework, one can be confident that they will pass the CFA exams?

A: Goodman students are exposed to an enormous breadth of education through the MBA requirements and the material related to the CFA exams that studying becomes integrated within this experience. The advantage for Goodman students is that the MBA courses are relatively finance focused, giving them the opportunity to apply theories learned in class towards their CFA studies. It is important to note that at the Goodman Institute, not only is the CFA material integrated into the course load, we do also offer prep courses before every June CFA exam to make sure our students are fully prepared. This can be demonstrated through the results of the CFA Level I pass rates, in which students at the Goodman Institute of Investment Management typically more than double the worldwide pass rate. In June 2009, students achieved a success rate of 92% compared to the worldwide rate of 46%. The statistics are exceptional, considering that the majority of students work full time, while balancing a school schedule.

Q: Having recently announced the addition of Bloomberg and Excel Modeling to the Program - how do you think this will benefit students and what, if any, initiatives do you have planned for the future?

A: With the integration of Bloomberg and Excel Modeling into the curriculum, students are equipped with the added benefits in their learning above and beyond the core MBA and CFA curriculum. Nowadays, many investment firms are looking for candidates with these exact skills. Most students directly out of university require additional training, which need to be provided by the firm in order to learn these systems. Students at the Goodman Institute are ready to jump right into these systems and begin working with these tools immediately. In regards to more initiatives, we are constantly analyzing the market and seeing what skills and assets our students require in order for them to gain the most from this prestigious program.

Q: Lastly, has the Goodman Institute done any surveys with regards to how a student who graduates from the MBA+CFA program is better off (in not only salary terms but better equipped to deal with problems and situations at the workplace) than students at business schools graduating with just an MBA or just a CFA?

A: When firms are reviewing a profile, education plays a large role. The MBA and CFA are two world-recognized designations, which individually carry a certain value of prestige. Candidates that have earned both are placed higher in the candidate pool. Our students are more prepared for the finance world with the courses being geared specifically towards finance; however, they also gain the general education necessary in order to obtain an MBA degree. Typically, the average salary in Canada for an individual with an MBA is $92,000, a CFA $97,000 and a combination of both CFA and MBA is $118,000. Having both degrees makes the student that much more skilled and prepared for what you will face in the real world of investment management.

Chris Thompson is currently a 3rd year student at the Goodman Institute

Biography: Chris Thompson has separate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Commerce from the University of Toronto and has worked in the Telecommunications, Web Development and Financial Software industries. In 2009, he held a 4-month intern position as an equity research associate with a Canadian bank.

Q: Would you recommend the MBA+CFA® program to prospective students? Do you think the program has adequately equipped you with the knowledge necessary to pass the CFA exams, in addition to the MBA degree? What is the time commitment/per day/week required to adequately study and prep for the MBA+CFA program?

A: After spending 5 years selling financial software into banks and brokerage firms, I realized that I had a passion for researching companies and I wanted to work in the investment industry. Since there is a high level of competition in the finance industry, I knew I needed to build my skill set in order to compete and earn a higher position. I started the process by writing and passing the Level 1 CFA exam in December 2003.

However, I was not satisfied with the specific learning process as I felt the CFA exam was more about compressing the material than actually understanding the material, which I really wanted to grasp. At that point, I decided to find a program that best suited my learning requirements. After researching the various MBA, MBA+CFA, MMF and MF programs, I chose Concordia’s MBA with Complete CFA Integration through Concordia’s Goodman Institute of Investment Management (GIIM).

The Program has equipped me with the knowledge to successfully complete the CFA exams. The MBA finance courses integrate the CFA curriculum to provide the understanding behind the concepts. Once school is done at the end of April and if the student has accomplished the necessary requirements of the semester, the month of May is completely dedicated for review and reinforcement of the CFA Learning Outcome Statements for the June CFA exam. In addition to the non-finance MBA courses, I have also gained a better understanding of the inner workings of companies that have made me stronger at evaluating companies for investment.

Concordia’s MBA with Complete CFA Integration program is a serious commitment of time and should not be taken lightly. The course material is taught on Wednesday nights and all day Saturday; however, you will also need to find time to write assignments, work in groups, study for quizzes, tests and exams. Since the Program is designed to allow the students to work at the same time, a high level of commitment and time management skills are needed in order to successfully accomplish both.

Q: Having completed as much of the course as you have, which jobs (sector or specific) do you feel most inclined and prepped to apply to? Does (if so how many a year/semester) the Goodman Institute organize any networking events or Career Days for prospective employers to interact and make offers to incumbent students? Have you received any offers already and are they what you expected - yes/no & why?

A: The Goodman Institute opens a wide variety of employment options, including Risk Management, Investment Management, Wealth Management and Investment Banking.

The Program also provides Bloomberg training and seminars in financial modeling using Excel, which are essential skills necessary for company and industry analysis. With these skills, I was able to secure a 4-month internship in the Equity Research department of a Canadian bank. Currently, I am applying and interviewing for Equity Research associate positions and am confident that I will secure a position upon graduation.

Since the Program is 3 years in length, there is a lot of interaction between students and tremendous networking opportunities. In the financial industry, networking is a key component of securing a position; GIIM regularly schedules networking events with the alumni, which are essential. Finally, Concordia has an active Career Management Services department that actively searches for employment opportunities for students and graduates in both Montreal and Toronto.

Q: How difficult was it getting accepted into the MBA+CFA program at the Goodman Institute? If you were given the choice of taking the MBA or the CFA, would you rather have chosen one over the other or do you think the MBA is a solid complement to the CFA syllabus?

A: For me, getting accepted in the Program was not too difficult as I had a high undergraduate GPA and good GMAT results. I think the combination of the MBA and CFA was an excellent choice. The CFA curriculum is extensive but it is static and at times only one-way. However, the financial industry has been very dynamic over the past 3 years with the credit crunch, the sub-prime issue, the bailout of the US banks and now the sovereign debt crisis. These were great fodder for discussion in our MBA classes and a better understanding of each topic was achieved through active discussions.

In addition, the non-finance MBA courses have given me a better understanding of the inner workings of companies that will make me more prepared for evaluating companies for investment.

Thank You Mr. Thompson and Dr. Rakita!

Let us know in the comments whether you liked this interview or not? We’re hungry for suggestions on whom to interview and what to ask them. Cheers!

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