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Vijay Parmar is president, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel.

As you grow in your career, what would you most like to have learned when you were first starting out?

Did you know what you wanted to do or what you wanted to become?

Did you know how to get there?

The job market is more competitive and complex than ever.

While education is abundant and ambition is undeniable, the learning experience that some of our co-workers lack – by no fault of their own – is something only we can give them: real-world mentorship.

In 2016, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel pioneered its CFA Scholarship and Career Mentorship Program beyond its own staff by offering it to RBC employees in Canada as a way of addressing that limitation. As part of the program, we sponsor accreditation through the three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program for six people across RBC. In addition, each of these professionals would be matched with investment counsellors as mentors to guide them one-on-one.

The CFA credential is often considered the "gold standard" of investment management designations. This is in part due to the rigour of the examinations–the most recent Level I test had only a 43-per-cent pass rate – and also due to the depth and breadth of the challenging course content.

We established a mentoring component within our scholarship program to provide members, each with varying degrees of experience, an opportunity to spend time with a qualified professional – which is invaluable in more ways than the obvious.

While mentees gain valuable networking skills, professional development and insight to help them charter their future career path, they also learn what it takes to successfully pass the CFA program and how the CFA designation opens doors to career opportunities in the investment management profession.

And that exchange of information goes both ways.

Our mentors discovered that not only do their fellow colleagues have great, fresh ideas to share, but also ideas that they can learn from. The ability to remain agile, adaptive and open to opportunities helps further our firm's spirit to remain innovative and forward-thinking. It is also another cornerstone of the CFA designation, which has built-in measures for diversity and inclusion.

With the ever-evolving global marketplace and our clients' changing needs, our client base is becoming more diverse than ever before. The number of female investors has grown markedly over the past few decades, and in the coming years we expect the number of younger investors to grow, too, as they begin to inherit wealth.

It's therefore incredibly important to us that our employee base continues to represent our client base as it changes. It is imperative that our employees understand the needs and desires of the clients they represent. The next CFA examination takes place in June, and with it will come an opportunity for hundreds of Canadians in the finance industry to progress in their careers.

With that in mind, it's important for financial organizations to support CFA applicants as it solidly sets them up for the foundation of a career, which benefits our entire industry.

More than that, added mentorship opportunities help ensure they are successful in those careers.

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