Is a Career as a CFA Right for You?
7 Important Soft Skills You'll Need

See also: Money Management and Financial Skills

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is a respected certification for investment and financial professionals, like portfolio analysts and managers. In the process of earning this certification, you'll often develop key hard skills that you'll need to succeed as a professional.

With that said, most CFAs will learn these skills naturally, especially if they take a program that encourages them to use their accounting, technical, and management skills. What isn't guaranteed, however, is the adoption of necessary soft skills, like communication or creativity.

For many financial students, soft skills are just as necessary to land a job as hard skills, but they are often overlooked. Even if soft skills are often difficult to quantify, they are necessary to distinguish yourself from your peers. In the end, people skills are increasingly important in today's workforce, and being able to influence a team will impact your career for better or worse.

But this implies that starting a career as a CFA is the right choice for you. After all, it becomes increasingly difficult to build relationships with people when you’re stuck in a job you hate.

Man taken written notes on a desk with a laptop.

7 Soft Skills All CFA's Need to be Successful

Your career choice should play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. If the following soft skills don't come naturally to you, you'll need to work on them to be a successful CFA.

1. Empathy and the Ability to Form Personal Relationships

The ability to build customer relationships is not just the prerogative of sales representatives. All careers need this essential skill to attract and maintain clients. As a CFA, people skills, like empathy and trustworthiness, allow others to open up to you, making it easier to offer advice.

Empathy can help you see things from another perspective. Not only will this strengthen your analytical ability, but it’ll also firm up the bonds you’ve established with clients. No one wants to hand over their financial future to someone who doesn't seem to care about their needs.

CFA's should ensure they practice what they preach. All empathetic and trustworthy people act with integrity and follow through on their promises. Their values are consistent with their actions.

2. Strong Independent Study Skills to Pass the CFA Exam

When you pass the CFA, you're proving that you’re competent in investment analysis and wealth management. CFA's are considered all-stars of the money management industry, as they can excel in the competitive world of financial analysis, investing, and risk management.

However, passing the CFA exam is impossible without strong independent study skills. The CFA tests are famously rigorous and require 900 hours or more of study. Unfortunately, the majority of CFA applicants don't make the cut, as the pass rate for each section is less than 40%.

If you want to crush your exam, we recommend searching for resources online that can help. For example, a prep course can offer actionable study tips that may improve your final score.

3. A Decent Work Ethic and an Overall Positive Attitude

Someone who exhibits a decent work ethic always behaves professionally, is organized, can cooperate with others, is consistent, and has a strong desire to succeed. Employers prefer to hire those with a strong work ethic because they require less oversight and are more reliable.

But hard workers won't get far if they don't have a positive attitude. A CFA could make many more friends if they're pleasant to be around, and a joyful person will always be welcomed on a team. If you constantly want to be employed in this industry, you can't be negative all the time.

4. Effective, Clear, and Expressive Communication Skills

Effective communication is the process of exchanging thoughts, ideas, knowledge, opinions, and data so that the message received by the other party is understood completely. Whether the communication is verbal or non-verbal, written or visual, it's essential that it's done right.

A CFA has to communicate complicated financial topics to someone who isn't familiar with industry jargon. A great financial coach can explain these concepts to others without making them feel incompetent or confused, leading to better client relationships down the line.

What's more, CFAs need effective communication skills to manage employees and build teams, grow an organization more rapidly, and attract more opportunities for their employer’s business.

5. Creativity and Innovation to Tackle Complex Tasks

Financial professionals exist in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA). For this reason, a CFA needs to anticipate problems and come up with original and innovative solutions to solve them. The best CFAs know how to think outside of the box.

Innovation and creativity go hand-in-hand in the business world. If you constantly rely on plain and unappealing solutions, you won't be able to stay competitive. But with creativity, you can solve problems faster and easier. This will help keep your clients interested and engaged.

When your employer or client is experiencing budget constraints or low cash flow, you can figure out the best way to allocate funds toward future business or investment capital.

6. Attention to Detail to Correctly Analyze Financial Data

While CFAs should absolutely process information in a creative way, they can't do that without actionable data. A CFA should know how to read balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, statements of changes in shareholder equity documents, and statements of income.

If they're working for a non-profit, there's a different protocol for the documents stated above. But regardless of who they work for, CFAs will still require a strong attention to detail if they want to analyze them correctly, as the knowledge gained from these sheets can help their clients.

Financial professionals will become more observant when they become more attentive, which may end up boosting their communication and listening skills, aiding their clients further.

7. Resilience and the Ability to Work Under Pressure

A lot of CFAs work in high-pressure environments that often come with demanding deadlines and high stakes. Therefore, you need to have a decisive attitude, the ability to compartmentalize stress, and an unfaltering ability to think clearly. It also helps to be self-aware and critical.

Financial careers are also susceptible to burnout. A resilient person will work well as a CFA, especially if they’re able to adapt to change. You must also handle disappointments at work, for example, losing clients or making a bad investment call, and maintain a clear head.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.