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How to Leverage Your CFA® Designation to Grow Your AUM

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With pressure from low cost TAMPS and roboadvisors, the investment management industry is under pressure. Is the field of investment management going to get squeezed down into an algorithm and a three person customer service team? Most likely, not however for many participants margins are going to be looking a lot slimmer, consolidations will abound, and life is not going to look as rosy at 15 basis points when you used to get 100. CFA® charterholders have a unique connection and this ability to connect human to human should be leveraged to create a competitive advantage in this rapidly advancing digital age.

The Special Connection that CFA® Charterholders Have

I did my undergrad at Harvard and my MBA at NYU Stern. But neither one compared to the community of CFA® charterholders that I am so lucky to have become a part of early on in my career.  Some of the people I met through the CFA exams, local societies, and conferences have become my friends for life. Unlike the people I met elsewhere in the industry, with rare exception I found the CFA people to be honest, clear thinking people who made it based on merit rather than being a legacy, politically savvy and well positioned, or exceptionally charismatic. There was just something very deep about the connection.

Perhaps because of the rigor we had to have to get here, there’s a special connection, a sense of empathy, some kind of common ground that we CFA® charterholders share.

Related: The Disconnect Between What Rich Clients Want vs. What Financial Advisors Say

Related: How to Escape the Small RIA Firm Poverty Trap

Using the Designation to Raise Assets

I wish that the designation itself was enough to make the millions ACAT over in an instant to the custodian who holds your assets under management; but unfortunately the business world isn’t a meritocracy.

There is a question of whether or not the designation really makes a difference in the day to day. True, having the designation does create some pretty big bragging rights, but if you really want to realize all its value you’ve got to make it come alive.

This is what the roboadvisors can’t do.

Earning the right to manage assets means connecting on a person to person basis, and it’s something that is not going to be an option if you want to survive in the digital age. You have companies who can manage an entire 5MM account for $500 per year. And you’re going to charge them $45,000 more? How can you earn back that kind of value? You’ve got to get past the numbers and into the human realm to survive in this industry now because things are going to get a lot harder the further technology progresses.

Leverage the designation by connecting with the people it leads you to.

There’s no free passes here but there are many things you can do to earn the respect of your community. Here is a summary of the powerful ways that you can use your membership in the CFA community to get attention for your brand and advance your career.

  • If you’re an investment advisor looking for new clients, don’t forget that many charterholders are DIYers when it comes to their investments, but are totally neglecting the planning aspect of their finances. Or, they have no backup to manage their money or their family’s if something were to happen to them.
  • Don’t assume that everyone who gets the designation works in investment management and hence wouldn’t hire you. There are many people who work in compliance, marketing, or operations and are no more interested in their investments account than they are in a root canal.
  • The CFA Institute does a remarkable job of providing technological resources, online and through the member societies to connect both candidates and charterholders. I mean, look at the numbers. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in CFA LinkedIn groups. There over 46,000 people in the CFA Institute Members group on LinkedIn – and you mean to say that not one of them would potentially be a client? It’s impossible. It’s safe to say that you have some level of access to almost anybody – past, present, or future exam candidate or CFA® charterholder – if you really wanted it. Don’t overlook this. It’s a tremendous gift and if you leverage it correctly you could build an entire business just off of these connections alone.
  • As I mentioned earlier, I do believe that there is a tacit bond between CFA® charterholders. It’s as if we’ve all served on the front line together because we somehow managed to get through the financial statement analysis section of Level Two. Don’t expect this to be true 100% of the time, but do recognize that it is likely that if you present yourself correctly, a CFA® charterholder is more likely to want to do business with you over someone else equally qualified who does not have the designation. Look for opportunities to connect with CFA® charterholders who are decision makers in your target audience using LinkedIn or other resources provided by the Institute.

Sara’s Upshot

What I’ve written above is just the tip of the iceberg; I’ve commented extensively on this in my podcast and other articles. In the future I intend to write on this way more because CFA® charterholders really appreciate and need this advice. There are many powerful ways to leverage the designation and I encourage you to pull that lever if you are looking to build your personal brand and raise your AUM in an age where doing so is becoming increasingly difficult.

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