Financial analysts in inaugural conference

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INVESTMENT Professionals Association of Zimbabwe (Ipaz), a grouping of local chartered financial analysts (CFA), held its inaugural investment conference last weekend in Victoria Falls.

— Staff Writer.

The conference was running under the theme: “Disruptions — The Future of Finance in Zimbabwe”.

Ipaz has been working for some months now to become a society member of the CFA Institute and the association is close to transforming into CFA Society Zimbabwe. It has 74 qualified CFA charter holders while more than 400 candidates sat the 2019 CFA exams.

The CFA Institute is a global association of investment professionals. It offers the CFA exam which is very comprehensive. Upon completion of the three stages of qualification and attaining the minimum required years of experience, one becomes a CFA charter holder.

Ipaz’s conference was graced by Gary Baker, managing director of CFA Institute for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region who is based in London. Baker highlighted that the institute’s “Future of Finance” campaign was meant to prepare the investment professional in light of ongoing changes in the profession. He pointed out that investment professionals need to ponder what the world of investment professionals will look like in, say, 10 years’ time, the challenges that will emerge and anticipate the new skills needed in future.

He said the CFA Institute’s interests in any country include human capital development in the investment sector, building trust in the markets and promoting market integrity for the ultimate benefit of society.

“Finance is embedded in societies. There is nothing that happens in finance which does not affect societies. As investment professionals, we have a responsibility to the society in which we operate. For us to achieve this, it is easier to do it as an association,” he said.

Ipaz was formed on the very same basis that CFA charter holders and candidates need to positively influence Zimbabwe’s investment climate given the wealth of information they gather through the CFA curriculum.

According to Baker, the global CFA Society is now playing an important role in economies in which it is represented by re-writing financial news, regulations and helping central banks by offering proper skills required in the finance industry.

“The purpose of CFA is to professionalise and raise professional standards in all the fields CFA operates”, he said.

Referring to the operating environment Zimbabwe is in right now, Baker said a crisis is always difficult to deal with but “you survive”. One needs to adapt, be flexible or maybe go a different direction as an individual, family or as a nation.

“The career that you have is likely going to be different in 10 years’ time and one needs to add new skills and be curious along the way. One needs to acquire soft skills like negotiating, leadership, talking to people and making connections,” he said.

Other skills must be technical, for example adapting to machine learning and artificial intelligence developments.

“We have a tremendous advantage because of the knowledge gathered from the CFA exams,” he added.

The conference was attended by investment analysts, stockbrokers, asset managers, fund managers, bankers among others.

In a panel discussion tackling the topic “Are Zimbabwean market players ready for technology transformation?”, it was concluded that market participants are keen to embrace digital technology despite all the impediments being faced.

Feedback from regulators’ representatives was that regulators are supportive of innovation although participants challenged them to increase the number of people skilled to review investment products to reduce time spent evaluating proposals from industry.

In a keynote address on “Artificial intelligence and machine learning in Zimbabwe”, guest speaker Deslin Naidoo highlighted seven trends in investments which include lower fees and improved accessibility and investor education, increased competition, changing market environment, big data, investing beyond returns, and fee compensation.

Naidoo encouraged market participants to build businesses that harness global markets but are managed locally.

Another panel at the conference discussed the question “Is the Zimbabwe market ready for alternative investments?”
Presentations were made on three financial products, namely private equity, exchange-traded funds and real estate investment trusts.

At the end of the discussion, it was concluded that market participants are responsible for bringing new products to the market. Alternative products are desperately needed to offer some diversification since the current investment sector predominantly has equities and money market products.

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