By Mark Louis F. FerrolinoSpecial Features Writer

For more than two decades now, CFA Society Philippines serves as a catalyst for improving the quality and standards of the financial profession in the country. Its unwavering efforts on promoting highest ethical standards and professional excellence within the local investment community take part in achieving a more developed capital market that creates new opportunities, thus fueling economic growth.

As part of its mission of improving the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of the country, the society partakes in supporting higher levels of competence in the investment industry by advocating industry-wide principles like the Asset Manager Professional Code of Conduct, and the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS).

According to CFA Society Philippines’ Board of Trustee Dr. Robert B. Ramos, who is also heading the organization’s Industry Relations Committee, the society has achieved a lot of benchmarks this year on pushing local firms to adopt the said standards.

He shared in an interview with BusinessWorld that there are now four asset management companies in the country who comply with the Asset Manager Professional Code of Conduct, a voluntary code of conduct that helps asset managers practice ethical principles and puts clients’ interests first.

These are the Union Bank of the Philippines-Trust and Investment Services Group, the Security Bank Corp. Trust and Asset Management Group, the EastWest Bank Trust Division, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands Asset Management and Trust Corp.

By adopting the Code, asset management firms signal their commitment to commonly held ethical principles and allow plan sponsors and other investors to easily identify which asset managers uphold the principles that resolve conflicts of interest in favor of investors.

“When you say you adhere to fund management standards, it’s good to have a global benchmark, so at least you can say: Okay, this is my reference and we practice that,” Mr. Ramos said.

Meanwhile, there is finally one local investment firm who claimed of compliance with the GIPS Standards, a set of voluntary standards based on the fundamental principles of full disclosure and fair representation of investment performance results, the EastWest Bank Trust Division.

The GIPS Standards guide investment firms on how to appropriately calculate and present their investment results to prospective clients. Becoming GIPS compliant means that the firm computes returns according to certain standards, Mr. Ramos said.

“There are regulations in place that you have to show them (clients), but, being compliant to the GIPS Standards highlights higher standards of reporting,” he added.

To encourage other firms to comply with the Asset Manager Professional Code of Conduct and the GIPS Standards, CFA Society Philippines continuously spreads knowledge on how the standards are done and how firms will benefit from it.

“The first step that we usually do, and we’ve been doing this for several years, is education, education and education. We’ve been reaching out to other firms, we’ve been reaching out to other asset managers, we’ve been reaching out to the regulators to highlight the benefits,” Mr. Ramos said.

Aside from pushing for the adoption of the aforementioned standards, the society is also working relentlessly in making significant contributions to the Asia-Pacific Research Exchange (ARX), a research exchange project initiated and developed by CFA Institute to promote and foster the effective and efficient sourcing and distribution of Asia Pacific-oriented finance and investment management research.

ARX accepts contributions from CFA charterholders and even from non-charterholders, including finance and investment management industry professionals, the government, regulators and the academe.

“This year, we are very happy because, finally, we submitted some studies to the ARX, and they acknowledged it. We also uploaded some videos to ARX. So, that was a big starting point,” Mr. Ramos said.

“For me, if I’m sharing something to ARX, my other neighbors across Asia-Pacific can learn from our best practices. In the same way, if I see some studies that I could learn from or [I could] implement here, I would love too. Of course, students can also use that as data and information [resource] for their own studies if they want to create papers on fund management,” Mr. Ramos said when asked on the significance of such research exchange initiative.

In the years ahead, CFA Society Philippines will still fulfill its mandate by continuously offering educational programs that help members remain experts on key topics that impact global markets, creating awareness of the significance of the CFA designation among various constituent groups, being an advocate on behalf of industry issues, and encouraging ethical behavior.

“The major objective of the society is to promote higher standards in finance or investment. But, that’s also the biggest hurdle because you have to reach out a lot, you have to coordinate a lot, then we have to make sure that those words resound with the people. The nice thing with the society and with the exam is it really focuses on ethics. We do seminars on ethics and the exam has an ethics portion. People who take the CFA exam are taught how to put the clients’ interest first,” Mr. Ramos said.