The number of candidates for the examinations leading to the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation has more than doubled last year.
A record 800 professionals enrolled for the July sitting of the CAIA tests, and registrations for the February 2006 session of the global certification programme are expected to break the 1,000 mark.
Sponsored by the CAIA Association, a not-for-profit and independent organisation established in 2002, the CAIA charter attests an individual's mastery of the concepts, tools and practices essential for managing traditional and modern alternative vehicles such as real estate, private equity, hedge funds, commodities and managed futures.
More than 3,000 individuals from 46 countries worldwide have received or are seeking the professional designation that is becoming the alternative investment industry's hallmark of excellence.
"While 55 per cent of registrants come from the United States and Canada, Europe has recorded the fastest year on year growth of all regions and now accounts for about 30 per cent of candidates. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and France make up the bulk of the numbers and Germany and Italy are also significant contributors of candidates," explains Professor Frédéric Ducoulombier of EDHEC Alternative Investment Education, the French Business School picked by the CAIA Association a year ago as its exclusive official provider' of preparatory courses in Europe.
"So far fund managers, analysts, consultants and research heads have been dominant in the classrooms, but we have also helped product, marketing and sales managers; legal personnel; and top executives prepare for the exams," he adds.
Craig Asche, the CAIA Association's executive director, comments: "CAIA Candidates include industry newcomers seeking to establish a core understanding of alternative investments, generalists wishing to add another asset class to their investment arsenal, and seasoned professionals looking to explore new areas within the AI space."
Guaranteeing a high level of competence to increasingly demanding investors and getting ahead of competitors are the main drivers of institutional support for the CAIA programme. According to the CAIA Association, candidates represent over 700 organisations including financial intermediaries (prime brokers, banks, asset managers, consultancies, accounting and auditing firms), institutional investors (pension schemes, foundations, insurance companies), family offices, and industry regulators.
"Institutional sponsorship of group registrations has progressed dramatically. We are seeing large alternative managers signing up multiple employees for our preparation courses and have been approached to train whole teams of specialists through tailor-made in-house CAIA review sessions," says Ducoulombier, whose organisation has been offering review courses in London, Paris and Geneva for a year.
"There is a small but growing list of alternative specialists who make it a requirement for their professionals to pass the two exams that lead to the CAIA certification, while many more organisations, such as Citigroup or CSFB, use the CAIA curriculum as an essential part of their alternative investment education," he adds. "I expect the decision by the US SEC to integrate the CAIA Association's charter programme into their internal hedge fund training system will accelerate these trends."
Background notes: Founded in 2002, the CAIA Association is sponsored by the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA) and the Centre for International Securities and Derivatives Markets (CISDM) -- two organizations providing global leadership for alternative investment professionals by setting the highest standards in alternative investment education, professional conduct and advocacy programs.
The CAIA Association sponsors the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation, the first and only professional certification for the global alternative investment industry.
The CAIA curriculum is designed to provide investment professionals with a broad base of knowledge in traditional and modern alternative vehicles, including real estate, private equity and commodities, as well as hedge funds and managed futures.
The programme's diverse curriculum appeals to investment advisors, consultants and analysts, fund managers and administrators, accountants, lawyers, academics as well as compliance and back office personnel. Candidates include seasoned professionals looking to explore new areas within the Alternative Investment space, generalists wishing to add another asset class to their investment arsenal, and new investment professionals seeking to establish a core understanding of the sector's unique fundamentals.
The CAIA programme is divided into two distinct levels. Level I reviews the traditional tools of investment analysis and introduces candidates to the fundamentals of each Alternative Investment asset class, while Level II concentrates on advanced topics in alternatives.
Based in France, EDHEC Business School is recognized as a centre of excellence for applied research in asset management and alternative investment and several of its professors are regarded as international experts in the fields of asset management, fixed income securities, alternative investments and risk management. The Edhec Risk and Asset Management Research Centre's team of 31 researchers implements six industry sponsored programmes focusing on asset allocation and risk management in the traditional and alternative investment universes. The EDHEC Alternative Indexes are measures of performance of the various hedge fund styles. Edhec Alternative Investment Education helps investment professionals to upgrade their skills with hedge fund training and preparatory courses for the CAIA examinations, the alternative investment industry's global educational standard.
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