In September 2022, participants of CFA UK’s pilot Young Women in Investment Program came together to meet in person for the very first time. After completing a four-week virtual investment ‘bootcamp’ run by Fitch Learning, and a final research challenge on the day, fast friendships had developed amongst the cohort, who were delighted to be together at last.
What the young women, who hail from a diverse range of backgrounds, have achieved is no mean feat. First launched in 2018 in India, The CFA Institute Young Woman in Investment Program is expanding globally, now taking place in India, Brazil, Qatar, Spain, France, and the UK. It is an initiative designed to create awareness about and instil an interest in the route of entry for women into the investment management industry. Because the program is open to all female graduates, regardless of finance background, it attracted a diverse pool of talent. Women learn about all aspects of the industry, from investment management, to financial modelling, to how to develop business skills, at a rapid pace.
“Some of the stories of what some of the young women have had to overcome to study a masters or to get into school gives me goosebumps. The women were phenomenal. Even those that didn’t get through to bootcamp; they deserve credit for overcoming many challenges that life threw at them,” says Charlotte Spooner, HR Consultant at CARA Executive Search, the firm that worked with CFA UK to find and select the women who would take part in the program.
“We found the experience to be incredibly rewarding and enriching and we were honoured to be asked to partner on this pilot program,” says Yvonne Crocker, Founder and Director at CARA Executive Search. Crocker felt that all the applicants were impressive, even those that were not selected to go forward in the program. “We found it a challenge to select a group of 44 for the first interview stage of the process and indeed to further narrow it down to 25 for the UK cohort,” she says.
To assist each of the forty-four who reached the interview stage, CARA proofread, edited, and improved their CVs to set them up for success for future job applications. “We feel that the experience of the interview process was also beneficial,” says Crocker. The firm also co-sponsored a coaching programme with Piers Courage-Jones and the Talent Praxis Group to profit from personal development, including personality and psychometric profiling, as well as follow up feedback and one on one coaching sessions.
After completing bootcamp, and after rigorous interview process, many of the young women are going on to complete internships in the investment industry, an opportunity that they may not have had in other circumstances.
“The vast majority of the women are from diverse backgrounds, some have financial degrees, some don’t. While many of our traditional graduates will do summer internships, a lot of these women hadn’t had internship experience because their lives up until this point hadn’t facilitated that opportunity,” says Spooner.
“You Realise How Helpful and Insightful the Training Is.”
For twenty-three-year-old Hafsa Harmache, the program offered a unique opportunity to learn about the investment business. Harmache, from Rabat in Morocco, was in the UK, completing an MSc in Investment Analysis at the University of Stirling, when she heard about the opportunity.
A key part of the experience was connecting with the other women, she says. “The best thing for me was to be able to work with other young women, who I now consider to be my friends. Although we have finished the program we are still in touch and meeting each other. It was great to cooperate with other women who share not only the same professional goals but have also similar inspirations.”
She enjoyed all of the curriculum, particularly financial modelling. “What we’d been studying at university was more theoretical. What I really liked about the program was that it was about trying to relate the technical issues to the real world which was really interesting,” she says.
For candidates who want to apply in the future, Harmache has some advice. “The program was intensive, so there was a lot to digest during the four weeks, but if you manage to organise your time, attend all your sessions and go through all the material that was shared, then you realise how helpful and insightful the training is,” she says.
Investment firms are playing a key role in the program, by offering internships to participants. “Outreach to firms has been an important part of the process. It’s not just about providing the cohorts with access to internships, but about the firms themselves having developed inclusion programs, so much so that they are ready to support them. They also need to understand that the interns are coming from different routes and so the process needs to be equitable,” says Sarah Maynard, Global Senior Head, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at CFA Institute.
Gavin Anthony, Program Manager, CFA Institute, agrees. “Outreach is key to change attitudes. When we start these programs, companies will sometimes say they are not ready to do it. Or they will have a campus recruitment program where they look at certain universities and certain types of applications, and that means they get the same types of people.”
Companies that are taking part say they are excited by the talent they are seeing.
“We are thrilled to participate in the CFA internship program this year. Like many other wealth and asset management firms, we have a significant imbalance of females in our investment-based positions, even at entry level. The CFA Program came at the right time for us, and we are so pleased to be welcoming three exceptionally bright and driven female interns through our doors this winter. The quality and engagement of the female candidates is brilliant – well beyond our expectation and the boot camp they went through definitely showcased their newly acquired investment knowledge when interviewing with us. Clearly the CFA holds an excellent reputation with university students and was able to attract some exceptional female candidates – something we need to do more of across the industry,” says Charlie Fisher, Senior HR Manager at LGT Wealth Management.