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Next is Here: Shaping the Future of the Investment Profession

October 9, 2023

By John L. Bowman, CFA, Executive Vice President, CAIA Association

History is peppered with brand campaigns that turned complacent and staid industries upside down. Nike’s legendary 1988 “Just Do It” slogan, Sega’s 1992 audacious “Welcome to the Next Level” declaration, and Apple’s 1997 iconic “Think Different” counterpunch occupy primal memories and emote vivid allegiance. The lessons on strategic counter-positioning are profound in the annals of brand leadership. 

A Dull Landscape of Credentialing: A Call for Change

Today’s industry of professional associations sorely need an agent of inspiration. There are hundreds of sub-scale credentials and certifications targeting investment professionals around the world. While well intended, our collective product positioning is almost universally wooden and dull. The calls to action are typically staged stock photos with over-used words or phrases such as of the mark of excellence, highest standard, or achieve new heights. It’s as if young professionals are aimlessly wandering through a figurative car lot of educational options, kicking the tires, comparing upgrade packages, and examining the engines under the hoods to see which will make them most “job ready.” It's nearly impossible to coerce someone to take an exam, and "selling education" shifts the focus toward profit and away from integrity, effectiveness, and quality.

The industry, and our clients, deserve better.

Aspiring investment professionals are seeking a purposeful movement larger than themselves. They are hungry for a community and learning experiences that align with their values and ambitions and will define asset allocation going forward. They want to be part of a network that helps chart the future of the capital markets system versus leaning on the nostalgia and history of the past. And they want a “lobbyist” for the client and profession overall versus a defender of a certain tribe. Next is here.

In Legend’s Footsteps: Challenging the Status Quo

Today, CAIA Association revealed our new brand campaign and organizational identity with an aim to meet the challenges described above. From our humble beginnings 21 years ago, our modus operandi has been to press the industry forward; to build awareness and transparency for formative strategies, modern capital allocation techniques, and evolving trends all while remaining vigilant in protecting the interests of the investor. As such, this new campaign is less a signal defining a new path but rather a bold decree of who we’ve always been and why we’re so different from the sea of “mediocrity” that plagues credentialing today. Next is here.

The industry’s progress continues to evolve at a breakneck pace throughout CAIA’s two decades of existence. Most acutely, alternatives are no longer alternative. Once considered the frontier hinterlands of asset allocation, private equity, real estate, and infrastructure, among other asset classes, have become mainstream in most diversified institutional capital pools and increasingly in private wealth portfolios. The debate over the efficacy of the “60/40” portfolio is reductionist and still anchors to a much-dated view of a third bucket of unconventional, uncorrelated, high octane “other stuff.” Today, for the sophisticated institutional asset owner or wealth manager, everything is an alternative. Next is here.

Interdisciplinary Knowledge: The Vision Ahead

Furthermore, with the inherent complexities of investing evolving, an interdisciplinary knowledge is now table stakes for responsible long-term stewardship of assets. Evaluating a portfolio company, power plant, private commercial real estate loan, or even manager in today’s rapidly changing global economic, geopolitical, regulatory, and social context requires a sophisticated approach rooted in complex systems thinking. Rather than cling to the bottom-up specialization approach of so many other professional bodies, we are deeply committed to a philosophy of “thinking like an allocator,” that marries the purpose and complementary interaction of various investment strategies with a meta understanding the world in which we invest in. Next is here.

Through these commitments, we are confident that we are strategically positioning the CAIA Association as the definitive professional body of the future. Our objective is to continuously cultivate a genuine, dynamic, and driven community, one that would undoubtedly resonate with these brand forerunner’s vision. We represent a professional association that will serve as an equipping fuel for you to navigate and adequately prepare for the increasing vitality of the profession and your client’s demand. We look forward to working with each of you on that virtuous aim. Next is here.