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CFA Society UK's new ESG Investing Course attracts 1,200 students in just a few months

A new certification in sustainable investments has attracted over 1,200 European applications since October. The online course was launched by CFA Society UK and is now being offered by Finansforeningen in Denmark. Both associations are experiencing high demand for the course.

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Sustainable investing is becoming a must for asset managers. But this change has happened so quickly that requirements for qualifications among sustainable investors haven’t been able to keep up.

The British association for people working in investments and finance, CFA Society UK, is trying to change this, with a new online certificate, ‘Certificate in ESG Investing’. ESG stands for Environment, Social and Governance, and since October 2019, 1,200 people have signed up.

The Danish association offering the course has experienced overwhelming interest according to Michael Albrechtslund from CFA Society Denmark, also known as Finansforeningen.

“There is a significant desire to be educated within this area. There are two groups who are interested – businesses, who want their people to be certified, and individuals who want the qualification,” he says about the demand.

By practitioners, for practitioners

The idea of the course is to supply skills and knowledge to help those working to integrate ESG and investment processes. The British association has also emphasized that the course is developed by practitioners, for practitioners. The sign up for the course is on the association’s website, and the course costs GBP 470.

“Businesses like all of their employees to take the course at the same time, because it is an online, self-study course, and then they can take the exam when they are ready. We are collaborating with the UK so we can also run the exam in Denmark,” says Albrechtslund.

The Danish association is among a small group of countries who have allied with CFA Society UK to offer the course and have been allowed to run the exam locally. In Denmark, the exam can be taken at three test centers, including in Aarhus. The exam can also be taken in Switzerland and Spain, according to CFA Society UK’s website.

Positive feedback

The first group of students completed the course and gained their certificates in fall. According to Albrechtslund, only small changes were made to the syllabus after a pilot group took the exam. The focus on UK regulations has been reduced, but no big changes have been made to the material or the course.

“The feedback we are getting is extremely positive and shows large interest,” he says.

“We have had our own experts go through the material, and they say that it is well thought through. That is a kind of quality control in relation to if we had created the course ourselves. They say the material is good and well thought through, and nothing is missing,” says Albrechtslund.

He thinks that the target group for the course lies within three categories: Investment advisors, asset managers and analysts.

“To a large degree, it is the people who practice investment that now want the ESG angle on their existing qualifications, because ESG investment is developing really quickly at the moment,” he says, adding that the demand may also come from people who work with investor relations and NGOs who want to know more about what requirements ESG investors have.

How do you ensure that the course goes deep enough to avoid greenwashing?

“All of us are reading up on the ESG mechanisms. We are making huge efforts to agree on what we are talking about when it comes to ESG. The regulation side is doing this as well, so there is a symbiosis at play. People are really curious and eager to learn about this, because it is central to the entire investment area,” Albrechtslund responds.

He believes that the tide is turning towards a state where companies that are not ESG conscious will risk appearing unattractive to investors. Sustainable investments therefore have a self-strengthening effect, and everything falls into place when investors, legislators and companies move in the same direction.

English Edit: Catherine Brett

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