Rustam Nazirbaev is a senior financial analyst at Cushman & Wakefield in the East Rutherford, N.J. office. Four years ago, he decided to embark on the long, tedious journey of earning a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Thousands of hours of studying later, he recently passed his final exam and earned the prestigious designation. We went behind the scenes to see first-hand what it took.
Q: What inspired you to earn this designation? Was it difficult?
A: Because the investment industry is constantly changing, professionals in this field must be resilient and find ways to be successful when new challenges arise. Knowledge is power in this industry and I felt earning this designation would properly prepare me for future challenges. The CFA designation is a key certification for investment professionals. The logistics of the program are incredibly challenging and require years to complete. Competition among CFA candidates comes from across the globe and it is intense. On average, more than half of the candidates fail the exam. However, I knew that this designation would be worth the years of dedication. I feel prepared to tackle future challenges in the investment industry head-on.
Q: How will having a CFA designation help you with clients and differentiate you from your competitors?
A: Most individuals who work in the finance industry – clients included – understand the level of hard work and dedication it takes to earn a CFA designation. It is not a simple nor quick program to go through. To earn this designation, professionals must commit a significant amount of time to strengthen skills and expand knowledge, which, in turn, better prepares them to service clients.
When clients work with somebody with a CFA designation, they are able to make certain assumptions about the CFA charterholders’s ability to perform a job well. Over the nearly four years I committed to the CFA program, I was able to better understand and see client needs and issues from different perspectives. It certainly helps me to perform deeper dives, due diligence and analysis for companies we meet with, which ultimately gives my team an edge in securing new business and helps us serve existing clients, as well.
CFA Institute takes ethics seriously. As a CFA charterholder, I agreed to maintain a higher level of integrity and must follow CFA Codes and Standards for professional conduct. This higher level of integrity is known by clients and adds an extra level of comfort for them.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a CFA charterholder?
A: I am the kind of person who never wants to stop learning. I hope to always continue growing and enhancing my knowledge in this field. After earning my Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Investments from Baruch College, I did extensive research into the cost-benefit analysis for MBA and CFA programs and concluded that the CFA program would offer the most opportunities. A CFA designation is the gold standard in the field of investment professionals, so I think it was a natural next step for me.
Q: How is the CFA designation different from others? Does it require unique skills?
A: The key difference between the CFA and other programs, such as MBA, is the depth of knowledge and skills obtained. The CFA program specifically focuses on enhancing investment-related skills, which directly translates to my career.
You need certain skills in order to complete the CFA program, such as perseverance, discipline and time management. I had to temporarily walk away from my hobbies and turn down social events for four to five months to prepare for each level’s exam. I even turned off my phone on the weekends to allow myself to completely absorb the material. Overall, I studied for more than 3,000 hours total for the three levels of the CFA program.
Q: Do you have any other designations? Are you looking to earn others in the future?
A: I don’t currently have any other designations considering it took four years to complete the CFA program. However, this is not the final stop for me. Learning is a continuous process, especially in the investment industry, which is an ever-evolving field. Keeping in mind new technologies and artificial intelligence, learning will be an essential life-long skill for individuals in this industry. I’m thankful that Cushman & Wakefield provides free access to Lynda.com so I can continue expanding my soft and hard skills on a daily basis.
About Rustam Nazirbaev
Rustam Nazirbaev, CFA, is a senior financial analyst at Cushman & Wakefield where he develops financial models for a broad range of real estate transactions, evaluates real estate investment opportunities and related financial analyses and analyzes data to prepare market reports. Rustam works out of the East Rutherford, N.J. office.