Making the Decision: The IBP or the CFA

How does the IBP Program compare to the CFA (or CAIA or FRM)?

The IBP Program is specifically for candidates pursuing investment banking careers. Below we contrast the IBP with the CFA, as well as with CAIA and FRM.

"Liberal arts students who successfully pass the IBP Exam are the total package for investment banks – well-rounded while possessing the financial skills that place them on par with business students."

David Resnick, Former Head of Investment Banking at Rothschild

IBP or the CFA:

The CFA program is rigorous and well-respected globally in both the asset and investment management industries. The program is perhaps the most time intensive of all finance certifications, taking an average of 4 years to complete, involving 300 hours of study for each of the 3 exam levels.  While the program is directly relevant to the investment management and research community, the rigor and recognition of the program has led to some adoption in investment banking.  However, because the CFA curriculum doesn’t include critical investment banking topics like M&A, due diligence, effective communication, presentations and modeling, the CFA is considered to have limited applicability.


  • Candidates looking for a finance credential with a wide body of knowledge and/or targeting a career in investment management, wealth management or research should choose the CFA.
  • Candidates that are specifically interested in investment banking, corporate finance or private equity should choose the IBP.

Comparison of Leading Finance Certification Programs

Offered byCAIA AssociationCFA InstituteGARPIBP Institute
Primary industryAlternative InvestmentsInvestment ManagementRisk ManagementInvestment Banking
Min. Hours of Study200 hours x 2 exams300 hours x 3 exams240 hours x 2 exams250 hours x 1 exam
Pass Rates63%43%42%31%
Min. total cost1$2,840$2,400$1,650$1,230
Main areas of study
  • Asset allocation
  • Real Assets
  • Hedge Funds
  • Private Equity
  • Structured Products
  • Portfolio management
  • Risk management
  • Commodities
  • Ethics
  • Quantitative methods
  • Economics
  • Corporate Finance
  • Financial Reporting & Analysis
  • Portfolio management
  • Securities analysis
  • Ethics
  • Foundations of risk
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Financial markets
  • Risk modelling
  • Market Risk
  • Credit Risk
  • Risk and Investment management
  • Operational and integrated risk
  • Accounting, Financial Reporting & Analysis
  • Excel and PowerPoint
  • Financial modeling
  • Capital Markets
  • Corporate valuation
  • M&A and buyouts
  • Commercial awareness & communication
  • Ethics
Level ExamsI & III, II, IIII & III
Dates Offered
  • March
  • September
  • June
  • December (LI only)
  • May
  • November
  • June
  • August (Private at Banks)
Duration of each exam4 hours6 hours4 hours4 hours
Test Format
  • Multiple choice
  • Essays (LII only)
  • Multiple choice
  • Essays (LIII only)
  • Multiple choice
  • Build Excel models
  • Multiple choice
  • Essays
  • PowerPoint slides
Test EnvironmentTesting CenterTesting CenterTesting CenterProctored Online
Registration RequirementsNoneBachelors, or in final yearNoneNone
Credential RequirementsBachelors and at least 1-year work experienceBachelors and at least 4 years work experienceAt least 2 years work experienceBachelors and at least 1-year work experience

1Cost includes exam fees plus study materials