A 2020 year-in-review at CFA Society New York, and a look ahead at 2021

We know that 2020 was a challenging year for many of our members, from health concerns for themselves and loved ones, unanticipated professional and career transitions and the emotional toll from general uncertainty. We always find that community helps in times like these and appreciate of how the CFA Society New York organization and members support each other. You are not alone, and the CFA Society New York community is here to help.

2020 was a year of transition for many – CFA Society New York included. Yet, thanks to the hard work, resilience and dedication of our superlative staff and volunteer leaders, we continued producing world-class content throughout the year. And very importantly, we are entering 2021 with appreciable enthusiasm for our ongoing plans, our new ideas, and (with great hope and optimism) a relative return to normalcy.

2020 Events
Due to the pandemic, we quickly transitioned from in-person events to a virtual format. In 2020, we held our last in-person event on February 27, and presented our first virtual-only event on April 2, executing an efficient, near-seamless transition to an all-remote, all-digital world. An effort of which we are proud of, particularly given the broad, global uncertainty that marked the month of March 2020. After that first event, we quickly expanded our pipeline of content. In fact, we managed to produce more content than ever. From April 2020 through the end of the calendar year, we produced 101 events. Over the course of the same period in 2019, our event total was 76. And yet despite the challenges and all of the unchartered territory, it is our belief that we succeeded in our effort to maintain the same, high-quality content our audience deserves and has come to expect; a notion supported by a 59% increase in total registrations in 2020 compared to 2019.

So what did all of the above include? And what did we learn?

Some of our most notable events in 2020 were the Annual Benjamin Graham Conference, the 30th Annual High Yield Conference, the Asset Owners Series Virtual Keynotes, the Global Policy Makers Series and the Modernizing Investment Research Series.

Then, of course, there are the very conference participants themselves, featured across what was an exceptionally expansive and diverse range of society programming.

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, former prime Minister of Australia The Hon. Kevin Rudd, World Bank Treasurer Jingdong Hua and Nobel Laureate Professor Robert Schiller represent only a small sample of the many luminaries and market-movers we are proud to cite as speakers at a CFA Society New York event in 2020.

Since the Great Recession, understanding the complexities of public policy has steadily gained preeminence among financial services professionals. Following what, at the time, was the most severe economic downturn our country had experienced since the 1930s, a massive change in monetary policy and a leap in regulation ensued. In 2020, the policy response to the financial stresses brought on by COVID-19 were even more sweeping.

And the reality for us and for the responsibility we have to our membership base and the financial community at-large is that our content and programming is only as valuable as it is relevant.

So as the impact public policy has on capital markets again began to steadily increase, we launched the Global Policymaker Series in June, a quarterly event series borne out of a new, timely and original conception.

While we were able to continue the world-class content through virtual events, networking proved to be the area most difficult to make a transition into virtual. We know our members and ourselves benefit tremendously from each other through these informal conversations, and many develop ongoing professional relationships. While we are constantly thinking about new strategies and avenues for improvement, it’s important to acknowledge the difficulties we’ve encountered across internal efforts to facilitate a meaningful and impactful virtual-networking environment. Undeterred, please know and rest assured that this remains an area we are constantly thinking about, and one that we are determined to deliver on.

Global Presence
While we all wait and relish the opportunity to go back to a world of face-to-face interface, the virtual environment of 2020 allowed us to not only scale our reach and capabilities through technological tools, but strategically further our global presence and footprint as well. Of the 14,000+ live-streaming views collected across CFA Society New York’s programming in 2020, the viewing audience spanned more than 50 countries.

This was achieved through the creation of 161 video portals, customized for fellow CFA Institute local societies from across the globe, which were managed, maintained and updated regularly and included access to the livestreams and archived recordings of 33 Asset Owner Series Virtual Keynotes. Another key component of our global extension is represented by an initiative whereby we partnered with a large contingent of Latin American societies to create a multi-day event focused on the investment landscape and future outlook of region. And excitedly, similar global events are planned for 2021, already being worked in conjunction with societies based in Africa and Asia. Capital markets are global, and we believe it is imperative that we provide a global perspective.

2020 Challenges
Clearly, 2020 was not short on presenting new challenges. In the CFA Institute universe, the postponement and cancellation of the CFA Exam for the majority of 2020 candidates meant a 1-year delay in exam administration, directly impacting our candidate members, as well as the pipeline for future candidates. CFA Institute is launching computer-based testing in February 2021. We remain optimistic and encouraged by the transition.

Furthermore, while contending with reduction in candidates that directly impacts revenue, plus revenue hits resulting from a forced hold on room rentals and live-event presentation, we still managed to generate a net profit for the year.

2021 Outlook
As we look towards 2021 and beyond, we are optimistic about the future of Society. While we believe the world may not look quite as it did pre-pandemic, we know that the necessity and interest for investment professionals in continually developing new and honing existing skills is certain to persist, especially given how quickly the market continues to evolve. We will steadily pursue this mission and continue to be a forum for thought leadership, not only in 2021, but also in the years ahead. Our exceptional group of volunteer leaders and staff give us utmost confidence in our ability to see our vision through and make good on the society’s mission.

Professional learning and career development represent two prominent areas of continued focus – underpinned, as always, by a commitment to sustain the highest standards in member experience, opportunity and value. We will continue to offer our programming virtually moving forward, as well as returning to the presentation of in-person events when it is safe to do so. We’re sure that lessons from 2020 will allow us to take the best-of approach between the two.

We look forward to the new year, ready to leverage our historical foundation and current position to help lead the industry into the future with new ideas and a fresh outlook.

Thomas Brigandi, CFA
Chair of the Board of Directors
CFA Society New York

Sameer Jagetia, CFA
Chief Executive Officer
CFA Society New York