Until October 2012 I was a CFA charter holder and regular member of the Swiss CFA Society. After reading an article about Indonesia (as booming economy!!!) in a CFA magazine I definitely decided to resign from the society and informed the society accordingly. I won’t use the CFA designation any more.
My reasons can be summarized as follows:
Irresponsible attitude of the CFA institute and its community for social and environmental concerns in global investment practices with a deliberate don’t know – don’t question – don’t care policy.
Here is the short story:
After I had passed all the three CFA examinations (3. level in 2005) and become a CFA charter holder I attended a meeting of the Swiss SFA Society for welcoming new regular members.
During the meeting, there was much a fuss and and emphasis about the ethical values of the society. Ethics means investment ethics for societies like CFA which is mostly about investor rights. Investment ethics was also a part of the exams (about 15%) and you had to memorize dozens of detail variations of insider trading and plagiarism for passing them.
I raised following question at the meeting:
If you think investment ethics and professional standards are so important why isn’t there even a single word about social and environmental concerns within the ethics curriculum?
Then there was a weird silence in the meeting hall; maybe two, maybe three minutes long. I received no answer to my question; not even a formal and halfhearted one for the sake of formality. Some of the fellow members stared at me as if I was coming from an alien galaxy. After the interval of uncomfortable silence the discussions went on with other topics; business as usual.
My suspicions for this sort of response were crowd psychology, adverse selection and a general ignorance about economy and environment.
Maybe the CFA institute and its societies are receiving such critics regularly from different corners and they prefer to remain silent rather than saying something wrong.
I asked myself:
- What does ethics mean at all? Isn’t it a package of rules and values for the good of the society as a whole? What is ethics if you consider only narrow short-term interests of a privileged community?
- Top-down investment analysis begins with economic analysis, and how can you see the whole picture if you ignore nature which is the primary producer? Who produced all the fossil fuels in millions and billions of years? Who produces fish in oceans, and oxygen in atmosphere? Who produces a stable climate, clean water and the soil for agriculture? Shouldn’t it be reported in the balance sheet of a country if its natural resources are depleted and transferred to privileged groups in the name of economic development? As expected, there was not even a single word about the environment in the economy curriculum of CFA.
Years passed and I never attended another CFA meeting. I didn’t want to be a part of this selfish and narrow-minded community. But I didn’t do anything about my CFA membership. After all, I had worked so hard to get the title and it could prove advantageous in certain professional situations. You see, I was myself a humble slave of the economic system with all its charters, titles and certificates.
I didn’t do anything about my CFA membership… until I read an article about the booming (!) economy of Indonesia in a CFA magazine.
Indonesia can be a source of short-term profits for certain investment groups with an unsatisfiable hunger for wealth accumulation through the exploitation of natural resources, but it is not a booming country at all considering its population and environment. In fact, Indonesia is a land of social and environmental catastrophes in the last 20-30 years. It is today one of the biggest carbon-dioxide producers of the world due to irresponsible destruction of its tropical forests.
I wrote an email to the president of the Swiss SCA Society and asked a very simple question after shortly mentioning the article about Indonesia:
There wasn’t a single word about social and environmental concerns in the ethics curriculum of CFA in 2007. Is there any improvement there since then?
She didn’t answer my question directly; just told me that she forwarded my question to CFA institute. I searched for the current ethics curriculum myself and downloaded it from www.cfainstitute.org. No, there wasn’t a single word about social and environmental concerns.
Then I decided definitely to resign from the CFA society with all its titles and charters. I don’t use the CFA title anymore.
A few words to young people who consider working for the financial investment industry:
Question what this industry is for, and learn more about the environmental side of the economic production. You can’t see the whole picture if you ignore the primary producer of our planet. Question the growth and development dogmas spread by the neoclassical and Marxist economic theories that are focused solely on human-made tools, technologies and services.
I recommend you following books for an overview to environmental and economic history of societies. They may help you see other dimensions of our economic system.
- Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
- The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
Tunç Ali Kütükçüoglu
I am a CFA charterholder and I quite agree with you.
CFA Institute is too much a follower in the field of environment conservation, it should be more at the forefront..
I think the example of Indonesia is a good example of what is going wrong in terms of short sightedness and unsustainability.
Jeopardizing the future is bad policy, including from an investment point of view.
Short term priority on growth and employment, future disaster, the bill will be paid by the next generation…
Why I left the Swiss CFA Society?
CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst
Main message of this blog article could be summarized in five words: Pseudo science with pseudo morality (investor rights etc.)
One could write handbook titled “how to earn money at all costs” and this handbook could tell only the truth (i.e. real methods, tactics, strategies), but truth alone without the real moral dimension wouldn’t make it science. Science must serve to whole humanity including next generations; not to a minority at the cost of others.
Similarly, a handbook titled “how to kill a person without getting arrested” could tell you 100% truth, but this alone doesn’t make it a scientific handbook.
Besides, justification of socially and environmentally harmful investments with economic myths like “development, growth, progress, job creation, modernisation” is not science; it is junk science based on neoclassical and neoliberal ideology.
The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute was very adept at promoting “seeing investors’ rights above everything, even above financial advisor’s own interests” as the highest ethical value.
Students with poor ecological, philosophical & historical literacy (a feature that is often fostered by modern pro-corporate industrial education) were easy prey for the CFA Institute; they didn’t see the neoliberal ideology and deep ecological ignorance built in the education program of CFA institute. Some sincerely believed, CFA curriculum was the highest science; an opinion that was naturally supported by the promise of higher salaries.
Another example of ethical reductionism was, promoting “compliance with the laws of the country of investment” as highly ethical and sufficiently conscientious attitude for a financial advisor, as if Big Money and big multinational companies didn’t have the power to manipulate and bend laws of many countries according to their narrow interests. Laws related with GM seeds and pesticides is an obvious example (i.e. investor-friendly industrial agriculture with lots of pesticides and GMOs)