Oran Hall | Pursuing a career in investments
Question: I am an accountant by profession, and it is my desire to make a switch of career or do something that complements my career. My ultimate goal is to do the CFA course, but I cannot deal with this right now. I really love the idea of investing, and to realise my passion for same, I am willing to put my foot in the water right now. I am thinking of the following: i) investing $100,000 in stocks and unit trust and monitoring and reinvesting such on a regular basis as a means of studying what is happening in the market; and ii) taking short online courses that may assist me to understand the markets and how to make decisions. I am not clear how to go about the latter. Can you help me to identify sources that I could use, and short courses I could do to educate myself?
FINANCIAL ADVISER: In light of your expressed desire to pursue a career in investments, as stated in the subject line of your email, I will focus on approved online courses you may do to meet the educational requirements of the Financial Services Commission to be registered to provide financial services to the public. These courses are also useful to persons interested in equipping themselves to manage their own investments.
I know of three such courses at the basic level: the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) e-Campus online securities course, the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) financial securities management course, and the securities and portfolio management course offered by Fitz Ritson & Associates.
I am quite familiar with two of them. I am the lead lecturer of the JSE course and taught two units of the UCC course for many years. The courses are structured differently but cover material that is essential to operating in the local securities market and provide a good base for persons who wish to pursue more advanced courses in investments.
One particularly strong feature of them all is that they are interactive. Many online courses tend not to have much interaction, leaving students to work on their own with hardly any contact with the facilitators.
In the case of the UCC and JSE courses, there is a face-to-face component that is also live-streamed, but most of each course is done by lecturers at a remote location who are able to interact with the students. The students are also able to interact with each other. Classes are recorded and accessible at the convenience of the students.
From my experience, none of the fun associated with face-to-face learning has to be sacrificed. I enjoy the online experience.
Whereas the JSE and UCC assess students by examinations and projects, Fitz Ritson eschews examinations and uses only assignments and a project, but it is fair to say that they all prepare their students to readily transfer what they learn to their work or personal settings.
The JSE course includes lessons on the Jamaican investment marketplace; business structures; financial instruments; the financial regulatory framework and the laws that govern trading; basic economic principles such as inflation, fiscal policy and economic growth; ethics and best practices; the equities and debt markets; fundamentals of portfolio management, including reading and interpreting financial statements; fundamental analysis; and strategic portfolio management.
The UCC course covers the economy, including financial markets, business types, interpreting and analysing financial statements; taxation; securities and their exchange, cross-border trading, the money market and the capital market; financial planning and advising, including building an investment portfolio, ethics and professional standards; regulation of the securities; and current issues in securities management.
The Fitz Ritson course covers the macro and micro economic environment, types of investment instruments, codes of ethics and professional standards, the time value of money, fundamental analysis, technical analysis, tax laws, the concept of risk and its application, and asset allocation.
Generally, the minimum educational requirement to enrol in these courses, which vary from 30 to 65 contact hours, is a first degree.
Before deciding which course to enrol in, it would make sense to have a discussion with the people who administer them. Then, you can ask questions about cost and clarify any questions that come to mind. Online courses are convenient but require much discipline.
- Oran A. Hall, the principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers personal financial planning advice and counsel. finviser.jmD@gmail.com