Resolution of the six-year battle between the US-based Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has provided the much-needed relief to the former. Ashvin P Vibhakar, its managing director, Asia Pacific Operations, tells Kalpana Pathak about the institute's expansion plans in India and how it is hoping for an early resolution of its case with ICFAI University. Excerpts:
Did the AICTE verdict come as a surprise?
At AICTE, its a new committee and a new administration. We have been continuously making our case on who we are and what we are, and comparing that against the regulations that they have. So, we are very thankful to AICTE for re-examining the whole situation. And it was the executive committee of AICTE which concluded that what we do, does not fit into the regulations. Thus, there was no reason for the court case and it was resolved.
What does this mean for you now?
There are multiple things actually. From a candidate’s perspective, there is no uncertainty now. Earlier, when we opened up the registration for exams, the candidates had no idea whether we would get the permission to take the exam in India or not. Because the court waited until practically the last minute to let us know on the exam front. And our exam has a cost structure based on when you enroll for it. So, the impact additionally, on many Indian students, was higher expenses. This change will allow them enroll early at a lesser cost and also have time to prepare for the exam much in advance. If you don't receive the material early enough, you will not be able to begin preparing early. Also, resolution of the case eliminates the problem of going to another country to write the examination.
This also means more investments in India?
One aspect is we are opening a test centre in Pune. This will take our test centres to six in India. We will continue to examine where candidates are coming from and add centres accordingly. For example, next potential centre could be in Gujarat as many students from there come to Mumbai to write the test.
On the academic front, we continue to work with the Securities and Exchange Board of India, and we have an agreement with the National Institute of Securities Market. We will be making investments in India to provide a better market and better transparency for a stronger market. You will see many such engagements going forward.
You plan to work with Indian universities, too...
Yes. Other than tying up with our local member society and Sebi, we are also looking at tying up with universities. We recognise that universities as an academic entity cannot spend a lot on resources. One of the things we are trying to do is provide resources to faculty so they can see what CFA practitioners are thinking and how they can combine academic and practicing material together. We also want to offer faculty members scholarship to do CFA programme. They can look at it and combine that with their academic literature in terms of how they teach and what they teach. I think we can create a better industry with better practice and particularly emphasise on ethics which, is the last thing academics emphasise. That is an area we are looking at. We are also looking at engaging our practicing professionals with universities at counsellors and mentors. We are also examining what we are doing in other countries. So, we will be bringing that to India. We would also be giving away scholarships. With resolution of the AICTE case, we will be offering 200-215 scholarships.
Enrollment numbers for the CFA programme have been going up in the past years. Where do you see that going forward?
Well yes, the numbers should go up in the long run but with some of the recent events in India, it is difficult for me to say what would happen. Three events which have taken place in the recent past in India may be negative for our business. One is the exchange rate. Since our cost is in dollar terms, the cost for Indian students have gone up due to declining exchange rate. Secondly, India's inflation and unemployment rate has gone up dramatically in the recent times. Also, the recent tax regulation has shaken the finance industry with many of the hedge funds leaving India. So, we are not sure what kind of an impact that will have on the finance industry, and we are cognisant of that. In the short run, the numbers may not go up but it may in the long run.
What is the update on your case with ICFAI University?
We hope to have some news. We continue to work on that. We are much and much closer to a resolution. Our legal side and their legal side continue to work together.