Years back, I heard of CFA and I was elated because it was just the thing that I was looking for. I had defiantly refused to study the course that everybody else was doing (CPA) and peddling at the time. I am a proud man and CPA was not something I would be proud to have in my itinerary. I also hated the idea of accounting for other people’s money when I could be making mine. CFA was therefore the course that would give me the inroads to Millionaire status.
I decided to study CFA and went ahead to look for more information on it. I asked friends, surfed the net and eventually got a place where I could apply for it with ease. I was told to head over to the second floor of the Nation Building where those who offered the course here in Kenya were based. I remember thinking that this must definitely be the place after realizing that it was on the same floor as NSE.
I got the prospectus but became very skeptical after reading through it, more so because of the fees than anything else. The fees were similar or slightly less than that paid by those who were studying CPA at the time. That to me was a Red Flag. CFA had been touted as the greatest hurdle towards being an investment practitioner and one that took lots from one but whose rewards were equally satisfying. I was therefore curious when I saw the price tag.
I am in my mid twenties and I have many principles that are already cast in stone, one of them being “cheap is dangerous.” Quality is expensive and I don’t mind paying for it. I therefore looked deeper and came across the real CFA, offered by the CFA institute. I was disappointed that I had to wait until I was in my fourth year of campus before I could enroll for the exam but quality is also worth the wait; especially when your career is contingent on it.
I decided to use the little money that I had then to enjoy my time in campus but also to buy shares in the then many IPO’s and then use them later on when I enrolled for CFA since it does not come cheap. So I read every financial magazine I could lay my hands on, collected many more all in an attempt to get my head around the investment atmosphere in the country. This proved very useful on so many fronts.
Later on when I was in fourth year, I did not apply for CFA as I had planned to because of so many issues here and there. The most significant impediment was that I had locked all the money I had in applying for the biggest IPO in the country earlier in the year. I figured that there was enough time for me to apply for CFA after all and that applying while in my fourth was me exerting extra pressure on me.
The listing came and suddenly the IPO was not worth all the time and money I put into it. In retrospect, if I had studied CFA prior to this Safaricom IPO, I would not have bought the shares to begin with since all the evidence pointed the other way i.e. not buying was there for all to see but for few to comprehend. Anyway, I realized, albeit too late, that I had made a mistake in locking up my money in this IPO whose returns would be too negligible in the short run especially for individual investors like me.
I cleared campus in June last year, and decided that my first course of action would be to enroll for the June 2009 CFA exams. The first deadline was in September, the second in February and the third in March. With each deadline, the fees went up from USD 990, to USD1080 and lastly USD 1480 on the last deadline.
As the first deadline approached, the Kenyan shilling was exchanging at 62 KES to the USD. That meant that my fee was about 63,000 KES excluding the wiring fee. I was good to go but delayed going to the bank for no good reason. By the time I went, the rates had jumped a bit and I needed 70,000 instead to cover the same 990 USD. That I was pissed was an understatement. I was furious both at me and the guy dealing with me at the bank for the exchange rate problems.
Then I made the worst mistake ever. I asked this guy if it was possible for me to shop around for better rates and then get me those dollars so that I could deposit them. He wished me luck and off I went to every forex bureaus in town. After shopping around for a while, I found this place that gave me the best rates such that I was only 5 dollars shot. I told myself that I would deposit the 985 USD and then buy the remaining the 5 USD at the bank regardless of the rate.
Happy with what I had accomplished, I went back to the bank the next day. I told this guy that I had succeeded and I went on to reach in my pocket to remove my wallet. This surprised him because he wondered how the hell I had managed to squeeze 72 notes of 1000 KES denominations into a wallet. To his surprise, and thereafter mine, I pulled out 9 crisp 100 dollar bills , a few 20 dollar bills, a couple of 10′s and a 5, all totaling to USD 985. This guy did not have to say shit; I knew I was in deep shit the moment I saw something in his face change. “What! Don’t tell me I am in trouble…” I jumped in without him saying a word.
He nodded and I knew I was finished. This was the only day I could wire the money for it to arrive in time on the other end. He went on to tell me that I could not deposit dollars; apparently, the only way I could deposit dollars was if I had a dollar account or for them to buy my KES using their crappy rates. That meant that my dollars were no good to me. But before I put them in my pocket, I turned on this guy, got into his face about him encouraging me to go ahead and even wished me luck whereas he knew too well that I was digging my own grave. He tried to explain what he meant but I did not buy it.
In the end, I spent KES 100,000 on this exam because the rates went over the roof.
Anyway, I have been too busy trying set up my own thing over here and could not finish this CFA story of mine. All I can say is that it got worse before it got better. The results are coming out at the end of this month and depending on whether I pass or fail, I will either continue with this peice or leave it at that. But I sincerely do hope that I aced this thing. Things went down to the wire on this one and I am not as confident as I normally would be on such things.