Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

CFA Exam to Add Big Data, Artificial Intelligence as Topics

Updated on
  • Updated exam will cover trio of forces automating the industry
  • Curriculum advisers decided not to require an ability to code

The CFA Institute plans to add questions on artificial intelligence, robo-advisory and methods for analyzing big data as it updates its exams -- a move that happens to ensure professionals seeking an edge in their careers are familiar with forces driving automation.

The new material will appear on Chartered Financial Analyst tests in 2019, according to Steve Horan, the institute’s managing director of credentialing. It should help draw a broader audience, potentially luring applicants from the financial-technology industry, he said.

The three-level exam is designed to include anything a typical investment manager with about four years of work experience needs to know, Horan said. The institute’s curriculum advisers, a group that includes investment professionals, met this week and opted to add the trio of topics after considering industry changes. 

So-called robo-advisers, for example, are usually algorithms that help retail investors build and manage portfolios with little human interaction. That business has seen dramatic growth since 2012. Still, the group counseling the CFA stopped short of telling the institute that candidates need to know how to code.

“On the one hand, it’s difficult to differentiate what technologies are durable, which ones will stand the test of time,” Horan said Tuesday in a phone interview. “But that’s not really what we’re trying to guess anyway. It’s what tools and methods people are using today.”

Candidates will sit for all three levels of the exam on June 3. Financiers seek the CFA designation in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of the markets, as well as landing better jobs and higher salaries. Successful charter recipients typically spend an average of 300 hours preparing for each exam and take four years to complete all three tests, according to the CFA Institute.

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