Last updated: 12:27 / Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Event in Rio de Janeiro

Bjorn Forfang (CFA Institute): “FinTech is Going to Fundamentally Transform this Industry in the Next 5 to Ten Years, if Not Sooner”

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Bjorn Forfang (CFA Institute): “FinTech is Going to Fundamentally Transform this Industry in the Next 5 to Ten Years, if Not Sooner”
  • The CFA Program started out 60 years ago, mostly in US and Canada, but now is a global program, with a 45% of growth in the Asia Pacific region and a 33% of growth in the Americas region
  • Colombia will be the next country to have a CFA Society in Latin America, they already have 80 members and 400 candidates
  • The CFA Societies of Latin America interact among them because they have similar issues

Every time Bjorn Forfang, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at CFA Institute, travels, he always gets asked the question of what could be his specific advice on how capital markets and how finance industry in certain countries should behave. His answer is always the same: “Although there are differences in financial markets, the very core of what we are trying to accomplish is exactly the same in every country around the world, and it comes down to trust, ethical and professional standards, and that is the core value proposition that exist whether you are in Brazil, Chile or Uruguay, or any other country in the world,” he stated at the “2018 Latin America Investment Conference,” an event jointly hosted by the CFA Institute and the CFA Society of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

The CFA Institute wants to globally lead the investment industry by globally promoting the highest standards of ethics, education and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of the society. And, as presumptuous at this may sound, they really mean to benefit of the society: “We simply believe firmly, that fair and free capital markets underpinned by strong ethical values and highest professional standards is critical for prosperity on the financial industry. The financial industry has contributed significantly to society, and I cannot think on how many countries could actually achieve prosperity in the long run and reduced poverty without free and fair capital markets. Financial markets are the intersection of capital and ideas. There are people that may have ideas but no capital, and there are people that have capital but no ideas, it is that intersection what creates prosperity for nations and that is what we believe, and that is why the benefit of society is such an important part of the value statement of what the CFA Institute stands for,” he added.

The CFA Program started out 60 years ago, mostly in US and Canada, but now is a global program, with a 45% of growth in the Asia Pacific region and a 33% of growth in the Americas region, where the growth of the mature markets is flatting as well, and most of the growth comes from Latin America, being one of the fastest areas of growth for CFA Charterholders. “Argentina and Uruguay had a combined society because Uruguay was not big enough by itself. But once Uruguay obtained more than 50 members and had a path to reach 100 members, the inside rule of the CFA Institute to create a CFA Society, they obtained the approval from their board and became a separate society. Colombia will be the next country to have a CFA Society in Latin America, they already have 80 members and 400 candidates.”

The CFA Societies of Latin America interact among them because they have similar issues. They are developing economies, they have a sort of immature capital markets when compared with some of the developed markets, and they cooperate on multiple levels. And they also share best practices when it comes to member and continuing education events. Moreover, the Latin American advocacy look forward to preserving best practices issues and concerns among capital markets challenges.

The lack of trust

According to Forfang, one of the biggest problems in the financial industry is the fundamental trust gap that has been widening for many years, between what the financial industry delivers and what the costumers and clients perceive are delivering. “The biggest problem is trust, we have conducted a survey all over the world, with 3,000 to 4,000 respondents from institutional and retail investors, released on March 28th. The survey asked about the concept of trust, about the quality of the financial advice that clients obtain and about attributes that the clients are looking for among other questions. In Brazil, there is a decent amount of people who still trust the industry. But Brazilians in this survey are also extremely skeptical, that trust is not something that they take for granted, is something that industry must deliver on, every single day, and that is a challenge for us, but is also an opportunity to seek for much higher professional standards in other to meet that challenges that we have, among our clients. The trust gap can be closed in a couple of ways, as trust is really about two things: credibility and professionalism, putting both together is a solution to narrow the trust gap.”

In the path of reestablishing the trust, Forfang believes that honesty and transparency are key. “Fees need to be transparent. Products, if they are complicated need to be fully explained so people who buy it understand exactly what it is that they are buying, and honest about expectations. There is a gap between how people think how they may live on retirement relative to what the actual reality is in every company of the world, and I think is up to us to be honest and explain what it does mean. There must be a commitment to put the client first when we are giving advice to a client, it interest must be ahead of our interest and that of our employers.”

The other challenges

There are other problems that the financial industry is facing: active management does not seem to be delivering value after fees, which is why you see the proliferation of passive moderate ETFs, quantitative strategies are reaping away alpha opportunities, replacing human beings with computers, and the result of all of that is margin compression. Also, the rising of markets for the last several years certainly have added a secular market compression to the industry, that leads to consolidation of asset management firms, as they are trying to build scale in distribution, technology and product offering.

Another challenge is fintech and its effect in the financial services industry. The CFA Institute firmly believes that Fintech is going to fundamentally transform this industry in the next 5 to ten years, if not sooner. Lastly, there is the regulatory scrutiny that the financial industry faces. These are the reasons why there is a need for full and complete commitment to lifelong learning by the professionals of the financial industry.

“There are topics in the curriculum of the CFA Program that are static that will always be, like the fundamental analysis, asset allocation, portfolio strategy, quantitative strategy and economics. Those things will always be in the curriculum. But then, in our continuing education program, professionals can rotate in and out topics that looks like they are going to come up, but not sure, like some aspects of fintech or blockchain. We want to make sure that our members are up to date with the latest thinking, but that is different than putting it into a curriculum,” he concluded.    

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