The CFA® Exam

Why I Pursued the CFA® Charter

man holding newspaper as he shares why he pursued the CFA
by John Derrick, CFA

I began working in the investment industry during college as a customer service representative in a call center. It didn’t take long before my passion for investing developed into a desire to aspire for greater things. After graduating from college with a finance degree, I immediately shifted into a sales role at the same organization to get the qualifying work experience. Then I enrolled for the exam to pursue the CFA charter with the hopes of becoming an institutional analyst or a portfolio manager. Allow me to share why I became a CFA charterholder and what that decision has meant for my life and career.

How Did You Study to Pass the CFA Exam?

We all know that it will take many hours of study to prepare for and pass the exam. Everyone has their own approach to studying when pursuing the CFA credential. As for me, I developed a routine of studying for the exam largely on the weekends; I found my retention either studying before or after work was not as effective. The biggest piece of advice I have for test-takers would be a focused work ethic toward the exam. By that, I mean maximizing your studying efforts by studying when you are really in the “zone”. I had a specific location at the local university library where I would go to study. This helped me block out all the distractors.

On many occasions, I would go to my place in the library, unpack materials and begin studying. But if I found myself distracted or noticed my mind wandering, I would just pack up and leave. I would then take care of other things I needed to do that day and would usually come back a few hours later. With my mind clear of distractions, I would be able to cover and comprehend information much quicker and more efficiently. Two hours of focused study is probably 4-5 hours of distracted study.

How Did the CFA Help You Get Into Investment Management? 

The CFA charter was instrumental in getting my foot in the investment management door. The department in which I was working while taking the exam emphasized the CFP designation. However, I was one of just a few people in my office studying for the CFA exam instead. Fortunately, I was able to pass all three levels consecutively and earned my charter rather expeditiously. Nevertheless, I ran into an issue at the firm where I was working; because I was already pigeonholed, I was kind of stuck in my position and level.

The department where I worked didn’t exactly embrace my pursuit of the CFA charter since I didn’t need it for my job at the time. So, naturally, by pursuing this designation, I was implying that I would be moving on once I attained it, which hindered advancement. Also, my success didn’t interest the investment management group at this organization because I didn’t fit their prototype profile—didn’t go to the “right school,” etc. That forced me to look elsewhere and, fortunately, I found a firm that took a chance on me, mainly because of the CFA designation.

Why Do You Choose to Write Content Now? Why Is Teaching Students Your Passion?

Due to my own experience, I know how powerful the CFA charter can be in propelling a career forward. Since acquiring my charter, I have been an active participant in my local CFA society, volunteering my time and experience to help that organization. The CFA designation and the CFA Institute have a special place in my heart. I was able to follow my dreams largely as a result of acquiring the CFA credential. Now I want to help others do the same.

When I took the exam, it was largely an exercise in sloughing through textbooks and figuring things out for yourself. Over time, my passion has evolved into wanting to help the next generation of students pursue the CFA charter using a better, more efficient way to navigate this difficult exam. I believe UWorld offers the best platform to make this happen.


About John Derrick

John Derrick, CFA is currently a CFA Content Specialist for UWorld, a company based in Dallas, Texas. John has 25 years of experience in the investment management industry and more than 17 years of experience as an institutional portfolio manager. He has had an unusually varied experience, having managed numerous asset classes over his career. ohn is a CFA charterholder and has been active in his local society, having served as a board member and past president of the CFA Society of San Antonio from 2009-2015. He received a BBA in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington.


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