Tuesday 18 June 2019 11:33 am CFA Institute Talk

Technology fuels increasingly mobile future for investment professionals

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These are articles written by professionals for investment professionals. They are contributions from external subject matter experts who do not work for CFA Institute, but may be a CFA charterholder as well as a member of a CFA Society. All are experts in their field and strive to deliver useful insights that help investment professionals make better decisions.

These are articles written by professionals for investment professionals. They are contributions from external subject matter experts who do not work for CFA Institute, but may be a CFA charterholder as well as a member of a CFA Society. All are experts in their field and strive to deliver useful insights that help investment professionals make better decisions.

By Ian Hall (City AM, for CFA Institute)

Increasingly tech-savvy and increasingly mobile: two of the realities of work (and life) as an investment professional in a global profession buffeted by change.  

These were among the headline findings from a presentation entitled ‘What Does the Investment Professional of the Future Look Like?’ by Rebecca Fender, Head of Future of Finance at CFA Institute.

Fender was speaking at the 72nd CFA Institute Annual Conference, presenting a report published this week based on a global survey of investment professionals.


Though her presentation took in trends ranging from fintech’s rise to ‘purposeful capitalism’, Fender’s overriding message was to urge investment professionals to embrace the possibilities of technology. This, she said, was “a necessity”. The same goes for organisations themselves: there is “only one way to progress”, which is to “become a firm that uses technology and innovation effectively alongside talent and a strong culture”.

Investment Professional of the Future
Investment Professional of the Future

These changes are hitting investment professionals fast. The survey found that 48 per cent of investment professionals think the role they perform today will be substantially different or non-existent in five to 10 years’ time. Similarly, 89 per cent of industry leaders surveyed agree that individuals’ roles will be transformed multiple times during their careers, making adaptability and lifelong learning essential skills for future success.

More than 3,800 professionals responded to a survey that fed into the report, which was also informed by roundtables and individual interviews.

On a global basis, the growth of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the use of alternative data for portfolio construction were cited as the top industry-specific sources of potential disruption and future change.

AI has the potential to displace but also enhance roles filled by humans. Routine tasks will increasingly be performed by machines, and the human element of judgment will become more important. The new human/machine interface requires people and AI to work together, and those that strike a balance will be most innovative and reap the most rewards. The survey found a ‘large degree’ of apprehension among industry leaders as to how to manage this transition.

In respect of skills that investment professionals are currently seeking to improve, the most popular answer was ‘soft skills’ (such as presentation training), followed by ‘alternative investments’ and ‘portfolio risk optimisation’. The latter was the most popular answer when respondents were asked which skill they were ‘planning’ to pursue, followed by ‘factor investing/smart beta’; other popular answers for skills that people were planning to pursue included data visualisation (e.g. Tableau, Qlikview) and data analysis coding languages (e.g. Python, R and Matlab).

One remarkable finding was that only 40% of CFA Institute members are ‘committed to a career in the investment industry’. Is the pressure of disruption getting too much? To help investment professionals think about their career adaptability, CFA Institute has created a new online assessment tool. This short questionnaire allows them to see where they stand relative to other CFA Institute members and candidates globally.

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