A Highly Insightful and Value-Added Panel Discussion on Career Changing

CFAA career changer panel discussion was held on December 7th at the Union League Club of Chicago. Three successful career-changers, Dr. Anlong Li from Spot Tradings LLC, Sam Yan from Morningstar Investment Services, Inc. and Harry Gao from Institutional Capital LLC, who all came from different non-finance backgrounds, met with CFAA members and friends and shared their career transitioning experiences. Over thirty attendees, including professionals in financial related industries, as well as students and recent graduates attended the discussion to gain insights and seek advice from the experts for career changing strategies.

The panel discussion started with an introduction of the panelists by the Moderator and CFAA Secretary of Board, Hong Cheng. All three panelists received their master or Ph.D degrees in non-finance backgrounds. After realizing where their real interests were, they decided to get involved in the finance industry and became successful finance professionals in the trading, quantitative finance and fundamental research fields.

The Moderator asked several general questions about career changing and career development. When asked about the initial motivation of transferring into the finance industry (other than financial incentives), the three panelists agreed that the ability to make investment decisions played a large role.

When the discussion turned to strategically mitigating the disadvantages (e.g. lack of finance experience) in the search for finance-related jobs, the three panelists provided a variety of suggestions. Dr. Li believes that the most critical finance knowledge can be acquired through working and training, but candidates must have a clear mind and strong motivation to work in the selected field of finance. Sam used his own internal transfer experience to illustrate the importance of having a good attitude and personality to market yourself internally to other colleagues. Harry encouraged people not to be afraid of asking questions, especially when they get started. He pointed out that critical thinking skills and a business mindset are valued more by finance employers than any particular finance knowledge candidates possess.

The role of CFA and MBA was also discussed. While Dr. Li mentioned CFA is not as important in the trading/quant industry, Sam and Harry highly recommended the CFA program. They believe that the CFA exam not only provided them with a comprehensive and systematic training in finance and investment, but it also provided evidence of their commitments to the finance industry which did not go unrecognized during their job interviews.

Lastly, Dr. Li gave suggestions to PhD candidates who want to transfer to the finance industry. Dr. Li cited several interview examples to illustrate the thinking from the other side of the table. He stressed the importance of being passionate and leveraging research experiences during an interview.

The panel discussion received very positive feedback and strong interest from the attendees with several great follow-up questions. The panelists provided their professional contact information to continue to help and advise CFAA members on their career development.

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