Advice please: hopefully a CFA designation candidate, 2 yr experience of IT in BB, breaking into buy-side (HF or AM)

MrMonkey's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 20

Hi fellow monkeys,

I have been browsing WSO for the past couple of weeks, and I've seen many questions being asked about CFA, but none quite fits the situation that I am in. So I want to start this thread to post my plans and try to collect ideas from you guys, hopefully it will be of some help to people who are also looking to jump out of technology/operations and into business side.

Some background:
I am a CFA level 3 candidate, I seated for CFA level 3 exam on June 2nd, the result comes out on August 7th and I'm expecting to pass it. I work as a front office developer (or analytical developer/quant developer or whatever) in a BB bank, supporting our derivatives trading. This is my 26th month in this job and it is my first job. My education is MS degree of Computer Science from an Ivy League school, and a BS degree in Electronics Engineering from one of the top 4 schools in China (yes, I am a Chinese and I speak Chinese).

I've been trading in my personal account since I started working and have managed to strike about break even (no judging plz...). I know I like implementing my ideas and watching how it works out, and I like an environment that my compensation is largely if not directly related to my performance.

My goal is to become a portfolio manager before my mid 30s (in about 10 years), so my next step is finding a job that can lead me there, which, I guess, should be something like junior analyst on the buy-side, or in equity research.

So my questions are:
What kind of jobs should I look for, as in being realistic and fitting my long-term goal?

What type of firms are better fits? HF or AM? What investment styles? Can people switch between HF and AM? Should I also look in equity research space?
I need to balance between job security and earning potential, and I want my tenure to be more respected when I get senior (not like in the IT world, where young people tend to outperform their elders because they have updated knowledge and are quicker learners). I also prefer firms that gives me portable skills. By portable I mean I can use them in emerging markets like China.

What is the best way, that you think, for me to realize my career switch and to meet my long-term goal?
I know many good fellows will say "get a MBA pal!". Thanks in advance! MBA is a great idea, but I don't think it is the most cost-effective choice for me. I have friends who are in top MBA programs and can't land a paid internship, I also have friends who don't have a MBA and broke into trading. I think persistence, doing your homework, and networking are the keys to succeed in this world, not what degree you can put on your resume.

I plan to land my next job within next several months before I totally forget whatever I learned in CFA curriculum.
I think passing all 3 levels of CFA exam is somewhat helpful, and my engineering background should meet most of the educational requirements. My 26 months experience of IT in finance space should be discounted when I look for a job in business side, I'd discount it to 30% so it will be equal to about 8 months of relevant experience.

On the flip side, I will need some serious improvements on my English communications, and I don't think I will ever be able to completely close the cultural gap between my oriental background and the western society here in NYC.

Please, feel free to add your comments, opinions, suggestions, insights, secret stock picking tips, silly jokes, or anything else into the thread. They will all be much appreciated.

Thanks guys!

Region: 
China
United States - Northeast

Comments (10)

Jun 21, 2012

Get your CFA, brush up on any modeling/valuation skills or, if you don't have any, buy Training the Street or consider WallStreetPrep. There's probably an add below this comment lol. Investment Banking Institute could also be helpful to pick up those skills. The reason I suggest doing this is because it gives you (along with the CFA designation) quantitative, portfolio management-relative skills.

If you can get in the door to a HF or some AM group/firm, show that you have a CFA and know a thing or two about how they work on a quant level....you'll be a very competitive candidate.

Jun 21, 2012

Odds wise, MBA is your best shot. Yes there are people that with MBAs that dont land jobs and people who can network their way into a job without an MBA, but your odds are much better with an MBA.

Jun 21, 2012

@DoYouLikePhilCollins: Thank you for your suggestions. I'm looking at the programs you recommended right now, probably I'll pick one.

Jun 21, 2012

@mbaer2012: You are absolutely right that MBAs stand much better chance than non MBAs. But I have a roadblock here that I just don't have the money, and my parents have better uses of their money than sponsoring my MBA.

Also, just in my opinion, MBAs and non MBAs are not compared on the same footing here. Think of it this way: we have MrMoney, a non MBA, 26 years old, with a job and $200,000 in the bank, VS MrMBA, MBA, 28 years old, needs a job, and $5000 credit card debt. I am sure that MrMBA will crush MrMonkey in a competition for a HF job, but is this advantage worth the opportunity and monetary costs?

Jun 22, 2012

Judging just from what you've written, I'd say if the objective is to break into HF or AM, focus on your CFA, but equally (if not more) importantly on networking and interviewing. Compared to the amount of time one spends on the CFA, networking is relatively easy and polished skills in this area will get you many interviews. You can already be a member of your local CFA Society - get active in that society and you'll be rubbing shoulders with heads of funds in no time.

Jun 22, 2012

@300 Hours: You brought up a great point. Embarrassingly I overlooked the resources in my local CFA society, and I live in manhattan...I have all my time for networking now, becasue if my expectation is right the Jun 2 exam was the last CFA exam for me.

Jun 22, 2012

i think it's probably unlikely for you to land any hf positions right now, maybe some research associate at an AM firm is doable. Usually hfs require two years of sellside exp from banking or ER

have you considered lateraling into ER in your current bank? Or IB, but you will need to make sure you can take the hours there.

CFA honestly is not that important. It shows that you understand stuff in theory but the actual investing is on another level.

Jun 22, 2012

I have seen people with direct working experience in portfolio management and equity research not getting jobs in Asset Management. Passed L3 as well. They are getting interviews though, but no offers.

It's a horrible job market right now

Jun 25, 2012

@Ricqles: Thank you for the honest comment. As you suggested, research associate or simliar positions are my targets. Right now I'm searching within entry-level or very junor experienced jobs, where I think I stand a good chance. I'm glad to work my way up as long as I can get my foot in the door.

Jun 25, 2012
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