Our member and candidate survey results suggest that investment professionals are very motivated to learn new things, but this focus declines somewhat with experience as they build a greater store of existing knowledge. We looked at nine trending areas for development and found that, on average, 68% of early career professionals either are currently pursuing these or plan to. Among mid-career professionals, 54% are pursuing them or plan to, and among later-career professionals, 35%. The investment industry attracts those with intellectual curiosity, and there are many opportunities to broaden and deepen investment knowledge, even after many years of experience.
We also found that survey respondents in less developed markets—and markets that are evolving rapidly—showed higher interest in acquiring new skills than those in more developed markets, but this difference is not strictly regional because the average years of work experience of investment professionals in the Asia Pacific region is lower than in other regions.
We can also see that there are some differences in the skills that investment professionals choose to pursue through their career life cycle. Soft skills is the top topic currently pursued. Portfolio risk optimization (one of the primary uses for AI and machine learning among portfolio managersxxxi) and data interpretation are technical skills that are of slightly greater relative interest to professionals early in their career; those in later career phases are more likely to already be proficient in these. In mid- and later-career phases, sustainability and alternative investments are prioritized more highly.
Finally, it is interesting to compare the desire for learning with the action taken to accomplish it. As in many professions, investment professionals are interested in learning but are time constrained.
The “saying/doing ratio” in Exhibit 16 indicates the proportion of those who are interested in gaining a skill or knowledge versus those who have already started to pursue it, among the CFA member/ candidate respondents to our survey. The larger this ratio, the more potential there is to increase learning in the industry by providing relevant and accessible educational material.
This gap is smallest in soft skills, which was also a topic of interest for more than 70% of those surveyed. In other words, people go beyond just saying to actually doing something about improving soft skills. This includes presentation, communication, and relationship building skills. These skills transcend roles, unlike technical skills, and in an industry known for technical and quantitative prowess, this area is a significant one for personal growth.
At the other end of the saying/doing spectrum are data visualization (3.46 people are considering pursuing this for every 1 person who is doing it) and data analysis coding (2.35 ratio). The gap in this area may reflect professionals’ discomfort with trying something very different from their daily work. It may also reflect an uncertainty about whether these much-discussed areas are worth the investment; people are taking a wait-and-see approach.