Having lived in Japan for over 3 years now and having spent some time preparing for this exam, I thought it would be worthwhile writing about it. This is a Financial Analyst exam administered in Japanese twice a year by the Securities Analysts Association of Japan. To qualify for the charter, you will need to pass levels 1 and 2 and have 3 years of qualifying work experience. It goes without saying that if your Japanese is not near-native level you will find this exam quite tough.
How respected is it?
Having met numerous professionals in the financial industry here in Japan, I must say I was surprised by the number of people who have the letters CMA on their business cards. In terms of prestige I would compare it to the CFA, although the CFA is regarded more highly due in part to the perceived difficulty with regards to the English language barrier that some Japanese might face.
Registering for the Exam
Registering to take the programme costs 50,300 JPY for members and 56,500 for non-members. Once you are registered for the exam you will be sent the institute (institution?) materials as shown in the below image.
You will then have 3 years to pass all the required exams. Since you can take the exams in both autumn and spring, that gives you 6 attempts to pass. If you don’t pass within those allotted 6 attempts, you will need to pay the registration fee again.
Level 1 Topics
Level 1 is comprised of 3 topics: Economics (1.5 hours), Accounting (1.5 hours) and Portfolio Management (3.0 hours). You can take ALL 3 exams on the same date or you can take the exams separately.
Economics: microeconomics (supply & demand curves), macroeconomics (ISLM curves, Fiscal and Monetary Policy), FX theory (PPP, IRP).
Accounting: basic financial statements, asset accounting, debt accounting, leases, pension accounting, parent accounting, tax accounting, ratio analysis.
Portfolio Management: portfolio management (Markowitz theory), DDM, CAPM, Free Cash Flows, Residual Income, Derivatives, Fixed Income Pricing.
Level 2 from what I have heard is a written exam (a bit like the CFA level 3 constructive response) and I will cover this in more detail in a future post.
Popular Learning Materials
As far as I have seen, TAC seems to have the monopoly when it comes to learning materials for this exam. I would recommend purchasing the below learning materials. The smaller books contain summaries of the topics and the bigger books contain practice questions that are based on past exam papers (the institute discloses past exam questions).
What are the Pass Rates?
These are the pass rates for the last 5 years, as you can see roughly 50% of the candidates pass.
Having almost completed the level 1 exam, I must say that it is not impossible to pass. This is especially true as unlike the CFA, you have a big advantage that you can take the exams individually. You also have specific types of questions that reoccur, so practising as many questions as possible helps. A Japanese candidate would tend to spend 1-6 months preparing for the exam depending on their background. I think the average (non-Japanese?) candidate working in the financial sector should need 3-4 months to be comfortable in his/her preparation. If you are considering taking the exam and have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me!