— Ken Luce, CFA Vice President, Global Client Group, BlackRock Asset Management Canada Limited Toronto, Ontario, Canada
“I try to offset my corporate life by riding my road bike and de-stressing,” the 29-year-old charterholder says. But as Luce attests, proper planning is the key component to a training ride.
“I use these weekend rides to help get me ready for longer rides, so it’s like a training schedule that I’ve set up,” he says. Last fall, he flew to northern Italy and logged 200 kilometers (124 miles) a day riding in the Alps.
It was this same careful planning strategy that Luce used, and credits for his success, on all three levels of the CFA exam. “I put together a five-month plan to study for each level of the exam, with dates that I wanted certain things done,” he says.
He stresses the importance of creating a precise study schedule and following it to the letter. Preferring to study at home alone, Luce spent the first four and a half months doing the required readings and then spent the last two weeks before each exam reviewing the material with his notes, he says. A few days prior to each exam, he worked through practice questions. “I worked through about 2,000 practice questions from Level I through Level III,” he adds.
Now, as a vice president in the Global Client Group with BlackRock, Luce believes that the 600 hours he spent preparing for the exams have been very useful in his career — not only for the subject matter he applies every day on the job but also for the experience of intense study.
“[The exam] really teaches you time-management skills because you have to balance work, your social life, studying, and figure out what takes priority,” Luce says. “And since the CFA study is self-paced, you basically have to teach yourself how to plan all of this.”
“I think the biggest challenge [of the CFA Program] was just the quantity of information. Our industry has so many different financial products and types of products, and the CFA [Program] covers basically every single different area,” he says.
Although Luce doesn’t use all of the CFA exam content on a daily basis, the exams comprehensively covered the specific areas of his job, and that’s given him more confidence, he says.
At BlackRock, Luce serves mainly Canadian institutions: pension plans, foundations, endowments, and insurance companies.
“It’s a fascinating, challenging time for pension plans since many have had their funds’ surplus greatly reduced over the past couple of years with the market correction,” he says. “Clients need inventive solutions to restore not only their portfolios but their confidence as well.”
Luce believes the CFA Program helped him understand the importance of learning as much as possible about his clients so he can identify their particular needs and serve them better.
“In terms of listening, the CFA Program really helps you along that course, especially in the area of relationship management. You have to be a good listener to figure out what the clients’ concerns are, what they are interested in, what problems they need solutions to,” he says.
Plus, every client is different and requires a customized plan, in most cases, Luce notes.
“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of things, but if you realize that these investments are for the institution and the ultimate beneficiaries are thousands of retirees, you begin to realize that your job has a big impact.”
Interview conducted in September 2009.