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Q&A: Claritas Investment Certificate

The CFA Institute outlines the urgent, but as yet unmet, need for the financial services industry to restore trust and integrity in the investment business via education and ethics.

Q&A: Claritas Investment Certificate
John Rogers of the CFA Institute

What is the Claritas Investment Certificate?
The Claritas Investment Certificate is a comprehensive global programme designed to give everyone working with investment decision-makers a clear understanding of the investment industry and their professional responsibilities within it. It is an online, self-taught course involving approximately one hundred hours of study, and is made up of seven modules focused on the essentials of the investment industry.

Who should use it? What are the benefits of this programme?
The Claritas Investment Certificate is for all professional disciplines in the financial services industry outside of investment roles, such as client services, compliance, human resources, IT and operations, sales, marketing and legal. In fact, it goes beyond those directly involved in or employed by financial institutions themselves to include, for example, journalists reporting on the industry or outsourcing operations who are seeking to offer better services to their clients in the industry. There are no education or experience requirements to study for the Claritas programme; it is open to all.

The Claritas programme provides a clear, measurable way to bring employees up to an essential understanding of industry functions, relationships and their role and professional responsibilities within it, which helps to raise workforce competence, and builds credibility and trust with clients and the general public. Perhaps most importantly, employers who participate in the Claritas programme will signal an institutional commitment to ethics at a time when the integrity of the entire investment industry has been called into question.

How has the integrity of the industry been called into question, and how can your programme help to address the issues?
The Claritas programme is a globally-focused programme that provides comprehensive education on the fundamentals of the investment industry, and includes a significant section on ethics. We have heard feedback from pilot partners who compared the product with other options on the market in various countries; they have told us that “nothing compared to the detail and rigour”. Equally important for many of our partners is the link to CFA Institute. As a globally recognised organisation focused on financial education and ethics, we are proud to say that companies can trust in the value, discipline and quality of any programme we offer. 

In creating the programme, CFA Institute incorporated feedback from industry leaders, regulators, academics and our own members, all of whom agreed there is an urgent, but unmet, need in financial services to restore trust by raising the standards of knowledge, education and ethics throughout the investment industry. The Claritas certificate aims to help address that need and enables employers to demonstrate their commitment to industry expertise and understanding.

How can people benefit from a course like this?
In this challenging economic climate one of the key issues facing the investment industry is a lack of trust and a perception that the financial services sector has lost its core purpose of serving investors and wider society in the long term. This lack of trust amongst investors, government officials and regulators inevitably affects returns that institutions can make and will ultimately slow the rate of global economic recovery.

By investing in the skills and knowledge of employees, institutions can ensure that investment professionals and the teams that work with them uphold rigorous ethical standards and practices and the paramount interests of clients. This action can also help to drive staff retention, and more accountable professional behaviour may also remove the need for intervention by regulators.

Beginning to restore trust and confidence in the sector will reassure investors and help to boost businesses and rebuild the health of the wider economy.

Has there been an uptick in inquiries for your training course recently?
CFA Institute has identified the need for the Claritas programme after extensive consultation with industry experts including institutions, academics and regulators, who have all identified a need to address a knowledge gap. In our survey of CFA Institute members, the Global Market Sentiment Survey 2013, the majority of respondents indicated that a lack of ethical culture within financial firms has been the biggest contributor to the decline in confidence, and an even higher percentage stated that change must come from within organisations.

The development of The Claritas Investment Certificate, in conjunction with our existing educational programmes, seeks to address this need in response to calls from the industry. The success of the Claritas pilot programmes demonstrates the demand, with 70 companies around the world participating and over 3,000 candidates taking the pilot examination.

What sort of demand are you seeing in Asia?
Asia holds an eminent position in the post-crisis global financial order. Regulators have been emphasising the need for investor protection and better education of the practitioners within the financial services industry. We see that more firms are recognising the need to have staff members who are supporting investment professionals but not directly involved in investment decision-making or money management acquiring fundamental knowledge about the industry and ethics. CFA Institute strives to provide professional and relevant education that helps to nurture investment professionals through the CFA Programme.

Riding on the experience and expertise we have accumulated from running the professional credentialing programme for 50 years, we expect the Claritas Investment Certificate to help close the knowledge gap. There have been increasing needs for a global and relevant programme that helps people within the firm to better serve their clients, have common language and mutual understanding, and establish ethical corporate culture, especially in Asia. We see that makes the programme more attractive, which becomes a timely solution for firms to be more efficient and professional, hence investors have more confidence in the firms and industry.

The programme recently opened for global registrations on May 20, 2013, and the first examinations will be sat in July. We are seeing growing interest in the programme and currently have registrations for the exam from across 19 countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Singapore. We expect this to grow in the coming few months as awareness increases.

Is there one curriculum, or multiple ones for different countries?
The Claritas programme is self-study, which means that candidates can schedule their study time and exam accordingly to their pace and preferences. The curriculum and exam experience will be the same across the globe. It is supported through an online curriculum, although a print version is available for candidates, too.

In terms of specific regulations, the Claritas programme teaches about the principles of regulation rather than national laws and their application in a country. Therefore it has the advantage of complementing national regulatory examinations and providing a foundation to understand the investment industry, its role and professional responsibilities that come with this. It also means that the programme can be recognised by employers and regulators across different countries as everyone is tested to the same curriculum and standard worldwide.

How many courses do you offer?
The Claritas course is now the third main qualification offered by CFA Institute alongside the CFA Programme, which awards The Chartered Financial Analyst designation, or CFA charter; and The Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM). All CFA Institute programmes are designed as self-study courses but there are a growing number of preparation course training companies which offer different learning methods and tuition to complement studying for the exams.

Are these courses available to firms around the world?
Initially the Claritas programme will be available in 468 test centres across 106 countries. It is currently only available in English. It a programme that is open to both individuals and firms that want to commit to a staff programme.

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