by Glenn Cheney

Denver — In an effort to promote both its Chartered Financial Analyst credential and its mission outside North American borders, the 70,000-member Association for Investment Management and Research has rechristened itself the CFA Institute.

The rebranding, which was approved by some 86 percent of the membership who voted at the organization’s recent annual meeting or via proxy, would help promote the institute outside of North America — where the AIMR name is not widely recognized, or associated with the CFA designation.

CFA Institute chair-elect Monique E.M. Gravel said that the name change has been coming since AIMR became an umbrella group uniting the Financial Analysts Federation and the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts in 1990.

“First and foremost, we offer the CFA program,” Gravel explained. “It is our brand, and we feel that with the amount of effort and time spent promoting  it, we will get much more leverage out of associating the brand and the name of the institute, especially internationally.”

In 1999, Gravel said, about 90 percent of CFA candidates were in North America, with 10 percent coming from other continents. Currently, the ratio is closer to 60-40 and moving toward 50-50. Some 85,000 people in 145 countries are enrolled to take the annual CFA exam this June.

The CFA Institute is structurally organized by local societies, each incorporated individually. To simplify that structure, the institute plans to gradually have one society in each country outside of North America. Gravel expects each national society to be centered around the country’s financial capital. Countries that have two societies of more or less equal size may continue to have two.

“Our focus is to marshal our resources in separate counties and marshal our resources toward building a global interest,” Gravel said.

Gravel will assume the chair of the board of governors in September. She envisions the organization becoming an increasingly global bulwark of ethics in financial analysis and related fields.

 She would like to move forward with an idea she has for the institute to offer some kind of niche certifications or educational programs for professionals who have little need for certification as chartered financial analysts but who could use tightly focused education in such relatively narrow areas as, say, derivatives and mergers.

“There are many people in our industry who will not take the CFA exam because it would not help them do a better job other than the ethics commitment,” Gravel said. “It would not be conducive to their becoming a better employee. But if we had adjunct courses in professional areas which are remote from being a portfolio manager or an analyst, they would be more appropriate for people with different job expectations.”

At the annual meeting it was also announced that Jeffrey Diermeier will become president and chief executive on Jan. 1, 2005, when current chief executive and president Thomas A. Bowman retires. Diermeier most recently served as chief global investment officer at UBS Global Asset Management, where he oversaw the management of $400 billion in assets.

“I am truly delighted with the choice. With Jeff’s experience in the industry, his global perspective, his long history of involvement as a volunteer with the AIMR, a member of the board of governors and chair of the planning committee, he brings a terrific package of skills and experience to this organization,” said Ray DeAngelo, executive vice president of the members and societies division for the institute.

Gravel, who chaired the selection committee, agreed. “He was the closest match to our job search criteria,” she said. “He is a tremendous ambassador to the industry. We are lucky to get him. ... He had his choice of doing anything he wanted in this industry, and I’m grateful he chose this.”

Gravel said that the institute will be reaching out to employers to impress upon them the importance of chartered financial analysts. They will also be talking with regulators and government officials worldwide.

At the annual meeting, members also voted to increase from three years to four years the minimum amount of work experience that investment professionals must have before they can be awarded the CFA charter. The change will be phased in over the next three years. The work experience required for non-chartered membership, however, will be reduced from six years to four.

Gravel also reported that the institute is in the process of developing a CFA Center for Financial Market Integrity. It is expected to be in operation by September of this year.

“This is our frontline advocacy effort,” Gravel said. “We wish to be perceived as thought leaders. We want to be seen as ahead of the curve in terms of advocacy, governance and other aspects of our industry. We intend to be very high in the public profile.”

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