Investment Professionals Association of Zimbabwe (IPAZ), an association comprised of local Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) charter holders and candidates held its inaugural investment conference over the weekend in Victoria Falls. The conference was running under the theme: “Disruptions — The Future of Finance in Zimbabwe”.
IPAZ has been working for some months now to become a society member of CFA Institute and the association is close to transforming to CFA Society Zimbabwe. It has 74 qualified CFA charter holders and more than 400 candidates sat for the 2019 CFA exams.
CFA Institute is a global and leading association of investment professionals. It offers the CFA exam which is very comprehensive which upon completion (three stages) and attaining the minimum required years of experience, one becomes a CFA charter holder.
IPAZ’s conference was graced by Gary Baker, managing director of CFA Institute for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region who is based in London. Baker highlighted that the Institute’s “Future of Finance” campaign was meant to prepare the investment professional in light of ongoing changes in the profession. He pointed out that investment professionals need to look into what will the world of investments look like in say 10 years’ time, the challenges that will emerge and anticipate the new skills which will be needed in future.
He said the CFA Institute’s interests in any country include human capital development in the investment sector, build trust in the markets and promote market integrity for the ultimate benefit of society.
“Finance is embedded in societies. There is nothing that happens in finance which does not affect societies. As investment professionals, we have a responsibility to the society which we operate. For us to achieve this, it is easier to do it as an association,” he added.
IPAZ was formed on the very same basis that CFA charter holders and candidates need to positively influence Zimbabwe’s investment climate given the wealth of information they gather through the CFA curriculum.
According to Gary, the global CFA Society is now playing an important role in economies in which it is represented by re-writing financial news, regulations and helping central banks by offering proper skills required in the finance industry.
“The purpose of CFA is to professionalise and raise professional standards in all the fields CFA operates”, he said.
Referring to the operating environment Zimbabwe is in right now, Gary said that a crisis is always difficult to deal with but “you survive”. One needs to adapt, be flexible or maybe go a different direction as an individual, family or as a nation.
“The career that you have is likely going to be different in 10 years’ time and one needs to add new skills and be curious along the way. One needs to acquire soft skills like negotiating, leadership, talking to people and making connections,” he said.
Other skills must be technical for example adapting to machine learning and artificial intelligence developments.
“We have a tremendous advantage because of the knowledge gathered from the CFA exams,” he added.
The conference was attended by investment analysts, stockbrokers, asset managers, fund managers, bankers, and many more.
In one of the panel discussions dubbed, “Are Zimbabwean market players ready for technology transformation”? it was concluded that market participants are keen to embrace digital despite all the impediments being faced.
Feedback from regulators’ representatives was that regulators are supportive of innovation although participants challenged them to increase the number of people skilled to review investment products to reduce time spent evaluating proposals from the industry.
In another keynote address on “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Zimbabwe’ from guest speaker, Deslin Naidoo, he highlighted 7 trends in investments which include lower fees and improved accessibility and investor education, increased competition, changing market environment, Big Data, investing beyond returns and fee compensation.
Naidoo encouraged market participants to build businesses that harness global markets but managed locally.
Another panel at the conference was discussing on the question “Is the Zimbabwe Market ready for Alternative Investments”? Presentations were made on 3 financial products namely Private Equity (PE), Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).
At the conclusion of the discussion, it was concluded that market participants are responsible for bringing new products to the market. Alternative products are desperately needed to offer some diversification since the investment sector currently has predominantly equities and money market products.