How CFA Institute Developed Over Time

CFA / CFA Institute history

The beginnings of CFA Institute

To draw the history of CFA Institute from the very start, we should go back to 1947 when the National Federation of Financial Analysts Societies (NFFAS) was founded.The main purpose of the Federation was to promote the exchange of ideas and support the welfare of the financial analysts profession. Looking back, some analysts societies had already been organized before the World War II  in Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Los Angeles. They had been meeting regularly, they had developed forums for sharing information and promoted learning and teaching among their own members. As the devastating war ended, more favorable conditions appeared. As the postwar prosperity in the U.S. economy developed and many veterans returned home, also the necessity for wider organizational reach arose. Finally, in 1947 the first decisive step was taken  eleven representatives of analysts societies in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York formed the NFFAS. These representatives formed the governing body of the new organization.

In the 1950s, the membership was increasing rapidly. A multitude of new societies joined the national Federation. However, not everyone was accepted at the first attempt. The NFFAS established strict requirements for the admission to its ranks. In 1960, the Federation prepared its first organizational handbook both for applying groups and for those who were already the NFFAS members. It was the period of dynamic development and the beginning of a true profession. As the Federation went from strength to strength, the main purpose was to establish future directions for the growing Federation and to develop professional competence for analysts. Although the analysts were already well-educated, they kept learning as what they had to know kept changing.

CFA Institute history 1964 to nowadays

1960-1990  the times call for innovation

In 1959, the Federation established an independent organization, namely the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts (ICFA), whose task was to manage the CFA® credentialing program. Two years later, the NFFAS changed its name to Financial Analysts Federation (FAF) and reformed the Federations constitution and bylaws. The word National was removed from the institutions name as a result of rising internationalism. The Federation already counted thirty-nine associated societies and over 11,000 analyst members.

The Federation at its very beginning wanted to define the elements of professionalism and create the mechanism to certify and raise the standards of the profession. Finally, in 1963 the ICFA offered the first CFA® exam to 278 men and 6 women. 268 individuals passed the exam (at that time only one level of the exam was available). One year later, all three levels of the CFA exam were already administered to 1,732 candidates in the United States and Canada. In the meantime, the ICFA adopted the Code of Ethics and from then on questions concerning ethical conduct appeared in all three levels of the Institutes exams.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as the nature of financial analysis has changed, a new challenge for the organization arose. Technology and computerization transformed financial markets. In that times the professionalization among financial analysts faced a problem. The scope of knowledge was already much different from that which had been required at the Institutes beginning. The development of new analytical and computing tools demanded the development of computer skills among analysts. Also the body of knowledge, upon which the examination is based, was extended and additional information concerning computer applications was added. The Institute experienced remarkable growth and it engaged itself in the writing of books, monographs and articles for its members and candidates.

The steadily growing importance of both the FAF and ICFA, as well as the increasing number of their members bring us to 1970, when the idea of the merger between the FAF and ICFA was first proposed. Nonetheless, the idea was put into practice twenty years later, in 1990 and a new global organization  the Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR)  was established. Since the early 1990s, the CFA® designation has been the gold standard for investment professionals.

In 2004, the AIMR changed its name to CFA Institute. Currently there are more than 112,000 CFA® members in 137 countries all around the world and 138 societies in 60 countries. 65% of CFA® members come from North America and 91% of all members are CFA® charterholders. In June 2012, 38% of all Level 1 CFA® Exam participants passed the exam. For Level II the incidence amounted to 42% and for Level III  to 52%. The numbers show how challenging the exams really are and how much of great effort they require.


"From Practice to Profession. A history of the financial analysts federation and the investment profession." Charlottesville, Virginia, AIMR 1997.

Nancy Regan, "The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts: a twenty five year history", The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts, 1987.

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