Mumbai: The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which regulates all professional courses and the institutes offering them, including engineering colleges and business schools, has restrained the Virginia-based CFA Institute, which offers the chartered financial analyst qualification globally, from “issuing public notices seeking admissions” for its programme.
According to AICTE, the CFA Institute is not approved by it as a “foreign institution imparting technical education in India”.
The CFA Institute has been offering Indians the opportunity to appear for its exams that are conducted in India, but evaluated overseas. A successful completion of the course leads to the award of the chartered financial analyst (CFA) degree.
The US institute has been offering its programmes in India since 1995 and its success in attracting students has led to other similar US-based organizations such as the Chartered Financial Planners body to offering their courses in the country.
The CFA certification is widely valued in the financial services industry, particularly by brokerages and mutual funds as CFAs are experts at analysing the attractiveness of various investments.
Officials at the CFA Institute refute that the programme offered in India is unauthorized. “The CFA programme, in the field of financial analysis and investments, is not technical education,” says Jan Squires, managing director (Asia Pacific), CFA Institute, indicating that the institute therefore does not need any approval from Indian regulators.
The CFA charter, too, is granted by the US institution itself and is typically recognized by US investment banks and brokerages operating in India and in the US.
AICTE issued the show-cause notice on the order of the Gauhati high court, following a February 2007 complaint by CFA Institute’s Hyderabad-based rival Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI).
This is the latest development in a decade-old spat between the CFA Institute and ICFAI. The two were once partners in popularizing the CFA concept in India; now each claims the other is not authorized to offer CFA degrees.
V.R. Shankara, registrar of the ICFAI University at Tripura, says the institute filed a court case following advertisements issued by the global institute “cautioning the Indian investment community”. “As per the ICFAI University Act, we have the mandate to offer this programme at the university,” says Shankara, responding to the US institute’s claim that it holds the rights to the CFA trademark in India too.
“ICFAI introduced and popularized its own CFA programme in India over the past 22 years and is the first user in India,” says a release on the institute’s website.
“CFA Institute charter holders are, and will continue to be, recognized the world over for their knowledge and professional excellence,” the US institute counters.
The Delhi high court recently ruled on a trademark dispute and ordered ICFAI and its associates to stop using the ‘CFA’ and ‘chartered financial analysts’ brands as they belong to the US body.
ICFAI plans to appeal this judgement, says a spokesperson for the institute.
Caught in the crossfire are hundreds of students. The Indian institution says it has 4,000 alumni who are part of its CFA charter, whereas the CFA institute says that more than 6,600 Indian candidates enrolled for its programme in 2006 alone and that there are more than 76,000 CFA charterholders in 125 countries around the world.
Alumni of ICFAI who hold the CFA qualification of the global institute say that there is a vast difference between the two programmes. “Clearly, each programme has its own merits,” says a senior official with a financial institution, who did not want to be identified.
“For students who want to focus on India, the ICFAI programme is more useful, whereas for those with aspirations to be part of the global financial industry, the CFA Institute’s qualification is more desirable,” he adds.