Since the financial crisis of 2008, the number of people in the Middle East seeking the security of a professional qualification has risen dramatically. More people are taking MBAs and finance-related MScs, but there's also been a proliferation of financial professionals undertaking the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification.
In 2008, there were around 645 CFA charterholders in the Middle East. This year, that figure has risen to over 950, which – considering the relatively demanding study requirements – is no mean feat. There are also now more than 5,200 candidates studying the qualification in the region, up from just over 3,100 in 2007.
"After 2008, more employers started demanding the CFA qualification, with the ethics module being particularly valuable in boosting businesses' confidence in potential employees," says Yacoub Husein Nuseibeh, president of CFA Emirates. "What's more, investors have since become much more vocal in demanding more technical know-how from their financial analysts and portfolio managers."
But what sort of role are you likely to land in the Middle East financial sector with a CFA under your belt?
The largest proportion of CFA members (15%) are working as portfolio managers. This is followed by chief executives (14%, and presumably a good number of years post-qualified), then investment banking analyst (12%), research analyst (9%), corporate financial analyst (7%), financial advisor (6%), risk manager (6%) and relationship manager (5%). A small proportion (2%) are unemployed.
In the current job market, however, it's questionable whether the CFA alone will help you secure a new position. It is, though, increasingly a differentiator.
"If a junior candidate has taken it upon themselves to start studying the CFA, it certainly gives them an edge over their peers," says Samia Hafidi, managing consultant at recruiters Hudson in Dubai. "Rarely, however, is it a requirement on a job spec. Most employers still view it as desirable, rather than essential."
There is one factor, however, that could accelerate the number of CFA charterholders in the Middle East – the push by sovereign wealth funds in the region to train their new recruits.
"The influence of the sovereign wealth funds in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait has helped push up the number of people studying the CFA in the Middle East," says Nuseibeh. "They are keen to put all their new national recruits through the programme, which helps enhance its reputation in the region."
There's also the fact that an increasing number of people from places like Egypt and Jordan are studying the CFA with a view to gain employment in the GCC countries, says Nuseibeh.