IIM Rohtak student clears CFA level 2 exam while doing a full time MBA

Suresh Varma, a 2nd-year Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) student at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Rohtak and an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduate recently cleared his CFA Level 2 exam. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a highly regarded professional certification for Finance aspirants that is awarded by the US-based CFA Institute. Varma shares how he balanced his MBA studies and CFA preparation.

You are an IIT graduate. Was your technical degree of any help when it came to finance?

It will be beneficial in future when I will be able to connect it with competitions where you have to build trading algorithms. That is when my technical degree will come into play.

You switched from IT to finance. What are the factors that influenced this decision?

Before joining IIM Rohtak, I worked for 3 years and realised that you need something to keep you motivated at your workplace. The appraisal was not performance-based but hour-based. I liked it when there was work, even for 10 or 12 straight hours but there were times when there was no work and I still had to sit it out in the office for 8 hours. That was a pain, and hence, I started exploring several courses on Coursera to while away my time. It was there that I stumbled across courses on finance and I liked it. I realised that finance is the thing for me.

MBA is a hectic course, especially at IIMs and so is CFA. How did you strike the perfect balance?

There are several common subjects. I had already learnt the basics from Coursera such as basic valuations, time value of money, etc. This gave me a head-start, and hence, diving into finance was not that tough for me. Then I came across topics such as Derivatives that I found extremely interesting but tough at the same time. It was challenging, but challenges are what I love. It was pretty tough to balance MBA and CFA but the head-start really helped me there.

What kind of profile are you striving towards?

I am thinking of getting a Ph.D. in Finance. If I have to get into a job, then an equity research or a consulting job would be my preference. I like analysing the workings of the equity market. After a Ph.D., my dream job would be a combination of a consulting job and that of a professor.

When did you start preparing for the level 2 exam and what according to you is the ideal time a candidate needs to devote to clear level 2 of CFA?

There is no such thing as the ideal time. Everyone has their own approaches towards learning. I believe in studying on a regular basis; I spent a lot of time in the library reading up on various topics, including finance. I do not believe in studying just to get a degree. That does no value addition. One should study to acquire knowledge; the degree is a by-product.

Any suggestions or message that you want to broadcast to other MBA pursuers and CFA aspirants?

I would say, especially to the first years, that they should not look at finance only as financial accounting. The interesting part – the analysis – comes later. You will start seeing the application in everyday life. For example, when watching a cricket match, you will start analysing the number of balls left, the strike rate of players and do a mental ratio analysis to predict which team will come out on top. So I would advise them to stick it out and not perceive it as a subject which is mundane, but look at the broad application of it. Finance is not just accounting, it is much more than that.