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The qualifications sought after by IFSC employers Back
In the first part of the series, growth in compliance and risk roles brought about by increased regulation were identified to be a big factor in jobs growth in the sector, while the funds industry continues to be a major sector driving jobs growth. In the second part we look at the courses and qualifications that are most sought after.
As Ireland's financial services jobs markets evolves from survival mode, especially on the domestic financial services front, to growth mode with a rise in vacancies highlighted in last month's issue, the demand for candidates and employees with professional qualifications is set to increase. We asked a panel of recruitment experts what the most sought after qualifications by financial services employers?

The regulatory response to the financial crisis has seen new rules on professional standards and procedures introduced by the Central Bank of Ireland such as the Minimum Competency Code and Fitness and Probity regime, both introduced in 2011. The overall global increase in regulation, as well as new requirements in Ireland, such as the introduction of pre-approval controlled functions under the Fitness and Probity regime, has seen growth in demand for professionals with formal qualifications.

Compliance qualifications have proved popular with accreditation from the Association of Compliance Officers in Ireland (ACOI) usually required for compliance roles. Mia Barry, Paragon says, 'ACOI is a key requirement for compliance professionals and is usually a requirement for candidates to meet the Central Bank of Ireland’s Fitness & Probity requirements.' The ACOI offers professional certificate and diploma courses in association with The Institute of Banking; The Insurance Institute of Ireland and LIA. The ACOI says the Professional Diploma in Compliance has been designed to be the benchmark qualification for compliance professionals and according to Erica Skelly, Careers Register, it seems to have achieved this status. She says most compliance professionals have already pursued the qualification, and it is a now a requirement for those looking to move into compliance roles.

Paul Cotter, Cotter Personnel sees a similar trend, 'The levels of qualifications have increased in recent years and in many cases become more appropriate. The need for fully qualified accountants is still there but many people have added additional qualifications to make themselves more marketable. Compliance has seen the highest increase. Most companies when appointing someone within this area set a compliance qualification as part of their minimum requirements when hiring.'

Trayc Keevans, Morgan McKinley says that candidates with the QFA qualification, as well as those with corporate treasury qualifications and qualified accountants are the most in demand professional qualifications today. Keevans says, 'There is a lag in supply of QFA professionals as well as qualified accountants willing to engage in audit or compliance roles and we are seeing that the onus has shifted to the employers to provide a transparent career path for professionals in this area so they see the longer term potential and it becomes a more attractive career prospect.' Skelly says that retail banks looking to increase lending are actively searching for QFA qualified professionals.

Cotter, who specialises in Insurance, says that the Professional Diploma in Insurance (CIP) is now essential for those working in the sector but that professionals who have the CII Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII), are still the most valued by insurance companies. Cotter also says that since the introduction of the Minimum Competency Code by the Central Bank he has seen a significant rise amongst insurance professionals gaining further professional qualifications. APA candidates are also in demand on the retail side of insurance according to Careers Register's Skelly who says there is also a strong call for candidates that hold the Diploma in Loss adjusting for more complex claim type positions. The APA designation enables members to become accredited under the Minimum Competency Code in some of the categories of retail financial products covered by the code. The APA designation is also a stepping stone towards the benchmark QFA designation.

Hilarie Geary, Executive Connections, says that there is continued demand for qualified accountants, candidates holding ACOI qualifications, QFAs and CFAs. The Chartered Financial Analyst, or CFA, qualification is highly attractive to firms looking to fill essential risk and investment analysis roles. The CFA qualification, which is attained through a self study programme, is a fast growing qualification and in the past ten years has begun gaining traction globally. In 2003 there were just over 50,000 holders of the CFA qualification with a vast majority of these from the United States. However, by the end of 2013 the number of charter holders grew to over 108,000, with a third of holders from outside of the United States. The difficulty of achieving the CFA qualification, there is a failure rate of over 50 per cent in each of the three exams that candidates sit, have made the qualification a prized asset amongst investment professionals and much sought after globally by FS firms.

Paragon's Mia Barry says, 'Companies hiring for quantitative roles such as risk or investment analysis, place an emphasis on the CFA qualification, while companies hiring operational risk candidates are looking at individuals with Professional Risk Management (PRM) qualification.

Larry McCowen, Quest, says there is a particular shortage in the market of ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators) qualified candidates. ICSA Chartered Secretaries Ireland, the Irish representative body for ICSA, has approximately 600 members, with 200 students studying to attain the title of Chartered Secretary.

McCowen says, 'Computational and Quantitative Finance degrees are incredibly important for risk and valuations roles, which are becoming more important to the Dublin FS Market.' He adds that 'there is a distinct lack of candidates with experience in customized portfolio risk reports and risk measures for financial derivatives (Exotic Options, IR structured products, CDS, Volatility products), VaR and Risk Modelling experience such as Black Scholes, stochastic volatility among others. Considering the shortage, these candidates are more often than not sourced from London, or we would find our clients making exceptions, and making hiring decisions based upon candidate aptitude rather than experience.'

Mark Fallon, Robert Walters says that it is mandatory for a person to hold a professional qualification and being qualified by experience is no longer acceptable for mid to senior level roles. Fallon says he is seeing a rise in demand for management accountants amongst his financial services clients. 'CIMA qualifications have become a lot more prevalent in the market with clients seeking accounting professionals with exposure to planning, forecasting, budgeting etc. With CIMA providing this to their alumni some see the qualification as being more of a complete course for progressive accountants.'
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