Importance of Ethics in CFA

CFA Experts

Ethics is important in every aspect of life. Only the ethical ones are looked up to and idolized by everyone. CFA curriculum has a dedicated a subject of its curriculum highlighting the importance of Ethics to weave the ethical behavior in the very core of every CFA. Working in the capital markets require high ethical standards as one needs to analyze all aspects in an unbiased manner to derive the appropriate results.

Be it CFA level 1, CFA level 2 or CFA level 3, Ethics is the most dreaded topic for all the candidates. Reason being that the nature of questions asked are opinion based and hence are not quantifiable. Only the ones with deep understanding of the Ethics concepts can analyse and attempt the questions correctly. CFA coaching institutes intending to depart complete knowledge of the subject also spend more time than other subjects on this topic.

An other deterrent is the sheer amount of readings to go through. What makes it further difficult is the need to interweave all of them to come up with a solution. Only after passing it through every lens can you derive the correct answer for an Ethics question.

Ethics holds about 15%-20% weightage in CFA level1. At this level the subject only focuses on introducing the candidates with the various ethical standards. Candidates are required to learn the application of the standards and their recommended procedures. The curriculum designed by the CFA institute gives a holistic ad detailed explanation of all the standards. Candidates finding it tough to process and absorb so many concepts opt for CFA coaching institutes.

When we proceed to CFA level 2,weightage of this topic reduces to 10-15%. Along with it the major change that the candidates have to face is the shift from MCQ’s to vignette questions. Careful reading of case studies followed by the analysis of the same, increases the complexity of this topic. Identifying the concept in question, differentiating in what is recommended and required and then finally coming up with an answer, is the reason why candidates dread the subject.

In CFA level 3 the weightage is the same as CFA level 2. But here the focus is purely on application. The knowledge which the candidate gains in the previous two levels is tested in CFA level 3,on the basis of the candidate’s ability to apply the knowledge in the given scenarios. More importantly CFA level 3 Ethics adds on a new section on Asset manager code of professional conduct with an increased focus on GIPS.

So we can easily conclude that the knowledge gained in Ethics is transferrable in all three levels. If mastered in CFA level 1, the benefits can be seen in the levels ahead. This makes focusing on Ethics worth it. Because mastered once, a candidate can reap its benefits through all the 3 levels.

Another hidden benefit of Ethics is CFA is the “Ethics adjustment”. Very few know about this advantage of faring well in Ethics. If you are a borderline fail, a good performance in Ethics can push you above the MPS. And if you are a borderline pass, poor performance in Ethics can push you below the MPS. This pattern was developed by the CFA institute to increase emphasis on Ethics as a subject.

But this doesn’t mean you cannot clear CFA without Ethics. If you score well in other subjects, you can clear CFA, despite of performing badly or even failing Ethics. But the Ethics adjustment factor makes it really foolish for the candidates to not study Ethics thoroughly. The benefits of knowing Ethics well are far more than not.

The importance attached to Ethics makes it a point of focus for CFA coaching institutes also. They recommend preparing Ethics in the end so that the students are secured in the other subjects and hence can spend focused time on the enormous Ethics curriculum. Lots and lots of practice is the only sure shot way to fare well in Ethics. Different questions, different scenarios all polish your ability to apply the code of Ethics and answer the questions correctly.

With a deep understanding and a lot of practice one can assure good marks in this subject and can grow by imbibing the values learnt in the day to day practices, to become an expert CFA.

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