I don't think the CFA is the program for everybody. It's about investments and investing. Yet the world that touches up against investing is becoming much bigger. It used to be we were just largely a group of portfolio managers and analysts; now you see that group broadening out as markets become far more interrelated.
But are you happy with a pass rate of 42-43 per cent?
You'd like to see more people successful at it, but without any dilution to the charter. The testing and grading methodology are extraordinarily rigorous, which means the board can't say, 'We don't really like 43 per cent for business reasons, so let's be more flexible.' That's not a conversation that occurs, even though [the failure rate]does cause us some concern.
In two years you've seen a 10-per-cent increase in level-one CFA candidates in Canada. What's going on?
Canada has a disproportionately high number of CFAs and Toronto has the second-largest [CFA]society in the world behind New York. It's so competitive here. King and Bay [the financial core in Toronto]is not a big geography, but everyone is there working in the industry and you all write it.
But we also see tremendous growth from Asia reflecting quickly growing capital markets. That's where the CFA can have big impact. As markets are just developing, they are in their formative years for regulation, conduct, enforcement, and having the right kind of professionals. The CFAs are really welcomed in that process in emerging markets.
How does it feel being a Canadian in your role at the CFA?
It is a great time for a Canadian to be in that chair. Canadians really understand the concept that, look, we don't always get our way. We all have to get along. If I'm not assured of an outcome, what do I care enormously about? I care about the processes and conversations that got us to that outcome. If I feel it is fair, transparent and supportable, I can probably live with that decision. It's classically Canadian. I think that's why I'm in the position I'm in.
Post-meltdown, is there a Canadian advantage in the financial world?
Canada, by the nature of its size and with our oligopolistic banking system, can look like we thought the whole thing out, that we were really smart. But we got to here more by default than by design.
But there is much to be learned in that outcome. As Canadians, we are appropriately aware of how we got here, and we can seize the moment. We have everything the world wants - water, resources and funny people - but we're not so loud that we offend too much. We look for ways to bridge and be respectful of the process. And that's a real CFA approach,
But how do you get the numbers up for women, who constitute only about 20 per cent of Canadian CFAs?
The numbers haven't grown the way they have in engineering or medicine. I'm always surprised by that percentage, because I have had a wonderful career and a wonderful family life. I've got a son, 16, and a daughter, 12. I'm not in as great a shape as I want to be or probably not as well read, but I've been able to do both [career and family]very successfully. So this can be a good business for women.
How do you get women into it?
A lot of it is just letting people know about the business. And you have to encourage women. You have to give words of encouragement now and then, but I don't think they need to be treated especially different.
Isn't the problem that women have to take these arduous CFA programs at the moment they are starting a family?
Look, I wrote my first exam when my son was three months old, so I hear you. But the 20s shouldn't be about balance in your life - it should be about getting as much as possible done before the onslaught of big family responsibilities, combined with bigger roles in your profession. The 20s are about acquiring as much knowledge as you possibly can, and doing the work you need to do. And in our business, that means getting your CFA.
How will markets act the rest of the year?
I wouldn't make any predictions for such a short period. But I think it is going to be very volatile, very choppy, and psychologically very difficult.
You can't have a period of such great leverage as we did in building up to 2007-08, and expect it to be done in 18 months - this period of deleveraging, of reformulation and reorganization, is going to take longer.