CFA Skills: Why They're Important and How to Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Chartered financial analysts (CFAs) collect, organise, analyse and forecast financial data to help financial organisations make informed decisions. Fundamental changes resulting from technological advancement and increased demand for personalisation in investment require professionals to adapt and continuously improve their skills and knowledge. You may wonder which chartered financial analyst skills are vital and how you can improve them to succeed in this career path. In this article, we discuss what CFA skills are and their importance and provide a step-by-step guide to help you improve your skills.

Related: 11 Examples of Analytical Jobs (With Salary Information)

Chartered financial analyst skills (CFA skills)

CFA skills and knowledge equip an individual for many positions in the global finance industry. 'Chartered financial analyst' is the professional title that a financial analyst or manager receives upon completing the CFA Institute program. CFAs possess skills that help them in their roles as they identify suitable investments for clients or organisations. They do this by collecting, analysing and evaluating data on various assets and creating models and forecasts to identify risks and returns.

CFAs also write reports and make presentations to an organisation's clients and management. It's essential to develop and improve your skills and build new ones to handle daily routines and cope with the challenges and changes associated with this role. The following are fundamental CFA skills that can help you succeed in this career path:

  • Computer literacy: As a CFA, it's essential to understand and use various accounting programs. Proficiency in spreadsheet modelling and computer skills can help you work with spreadsheet software, create portfolios, identify trends, make forecasts, learn new computer programs quickly and analyse data.

  • Analysis: Analytical skills help address both straightforward and complicated challenges to make informed decisions with optimal solutions effectively and timely. You can use analytical skills to analyse, organise and synthesise information, detect data patterns, brainstorm ideas and draw tangible, valuable insights for the organisation.

  • Maths: Estimating the value of financial securities requires maths skills. As a CFA, you can perform daily accounting maths and other basic equations efficiently and accurately.

  • Communication: Excellent communication skills enable CFAs to communicate verbally and in writing with clients and management about essential decisions and critical areas in their finances. As a CFA, you can use these skills to reassure clients and communicate regularly with them and other stakeholders, including colleagues, investors and stockbrokers.

  • Decision-making: Decision-making is a core function of CFAs, which involves using sound judgment to arrive at suitable decisions. You can help the organisation grow by making wise decisions based on analyses.

  • Teamwork: Working with a team is vital as a CFA, as organisations seek to build diverse working groups with agile, customer-oriented and innovative individuals to stay competitive. You may work with teams of other professionals or, if you're in a senior position, manage teams and help solve problems.

  • Attention to detail: This skill is vital for CFAs to catch details others may not see and use such information to provide insight and advice, which can help CFAs succeed.

  • Integrity: Integrity and ethics are essential for CFAs, as it's important to build checks and balances to help identify biases and ways of overcoming them. Working as a CFA requires maintaining integrity and providing clients or organisations with clear and thorough analyses.

  • Time management: CFAs use these skills to manage time and people effectively, strategically plan, allocate resources and handle multiple appointments. You can use these skills to schedule meetings and consultations, lead teams, make reports and meet deadlines.

  • Adaptability: The financial and investment sector is dynamic and often faces changes resulting from advancing technology, legislation and customer needs and preferences. Adaptability skills are helpful in coping with such changes.

  • Leadership: Having good leadership skills as a CFA can ensure processes run efficiently and increase productivity in staff by making informed decisions. You can set clear goals and implement effective strategies to achieve them with your team's full support when you possess excellent leadership skills.

Related: Chartered Financial Analyst: How to Advance Your Career

Importance of chartered financial analyst skills

CFA abilities are useful in corporate financing, which involves strategic planning and implementation in making corporate investments and maximising shareholder value. CFAs manage assets and financial instruments for corporations, banks, security firms and insurance companies. They also handle securities, stocks, funds and bonds to ensure profitable returns on investments (ROI). These skills are essential in performing the following tasks:

  • tracking stock performance and collecting valuable data in spreadsheets for stockbrokers and clients to analyse and interpret

  • researching and analysing the organisation's financial position or specific companies and industries

  • evaluating data, historical and current, to help the organisation make informed decisions

  • explaining and recommending investment options for clients and organisations, either individually or collectively

  • analysing business and economic trends

  • determining a company's value by analysing its financial statements

  • arranging for meetings with company officials to understand its prospects and management for effective strategic planning and decision-making

Related: What Does a CFO Do? (With Guide to Become One and Skills)

How to improve CFA skills

Follow these steps to help improve your CFA abilities:

1. Identify areas for improvement

Identify the areas that you feel require improvement by comparing your current skill level to your desired level. There are various ways to identify such areas, including regular self-checks and feedback from colleagues, friends and senior team members. By identifying areas for improvement, you can work on your weaknesses, enhance your skills and become more competent, which can help you get the type of job you desire and grow in your career. For instance, you can check how you communicate with others, engage in activities, manage time or use new accounting technology.

Related: What are Conceptual Skills? Definition and How to Improve

2. Set goals for improvement

You can compile and select improvement options and set goals and time lines to keep you motivated and focused on mastering these skills. Setting improvement goals helps you achieve desired results as you achieve your full potential and grow your skills to meet long-term career goals. For instance, one goal in learning a new technology can include using it to perform specific tasks every week or month.

3. Find useful resources and tools

You may identify resources and tools to help you achieve your improvement goals. Though this may involve new tools, which may seem challenging, you can learn how they work and use them to build your skills as an analyst. For instance, you can read the user guide or watch instructional videos for new accounting software to learn how to use it practically or ask a colleague or expert to help you navigate the program.

4. Receive training

Training and other professional programs can boost your skills and help advance your career with the knowledge and skills they instil using various learning techniques. Besides making better financial decisions, these courses and professional development programs allow you to interact with experts and grow your professional network. You can also use this training to understand concepts, build firm foundations and know how to apply skills to achieve successful outcomes during projects. A technical course can provide skills in using technology, while leadership training equips you with the skills necessary to lead teams or manage an organisation.

5. Practise with mock datasets

Practise helps you sharpen and improve your skills, so you can practise formulas and concepts by testing your skills and repeating the process until you master them. There are many free resources and datasets online you can import to work with as you explore possibilities and practise. This practise improves your skills and prepares you for real datasets so you can work confidently and competently.

Benefits of becoming a CFA

The following are benefits of becoming a CFA:

  • Career advancement opportunities: By completing a CFA program, you become a CFA Institute member and join a global network of investment professionals worldwide, enhancing your personal and professional network. You may receive a promotion or a new job working as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, risk manager, stockbroker or research analyst.

  • Global recognition and transfers: With the global recognition accompanying a CFA certification, you can work with international organisations. Also, you can easily transfer positions or organisations, which may result in more income and promotion opportunities.

  • Job opportunities: Having a CFA certification on your resume raises your financial credentials because it demonstrates to potential employers that you have advanced financial knowledge, work ethic and analytical abilities, which can help you obtain an interview. Also, if finance is your passion, it may help you acquire your dream job.

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