The Johannesburg Stock Exchange had its first market data staff take industry association FISD's Financial Information Associate (FIA) professional certification this month, and plans to make the program a prerequisite for its senior and client-facing market data employees, with the aim of better serving its customers by narrowing the training gap to top financial centers.
Ana Forssman, director of market data at the exchange, says that since JSE is South Africa's only exchange, local market data industry professionals aren't exposed to the same levels of experience and training opportunities available in leading finance capitals such as London, where there is a concentration of multiple trading venues, and where banks' data staff may have relationships with more than 100 exchanges.
The first JSE staff member to pass the exam is a market data financial analyst hired about a year ago, while another employee is expected to complete the certification this year. By the end of next year, Forssman says she hopes that all senior staff members in the market data division─10 employees out of a total of about 14 in the market data team─will have taken the exam.
"When it comes to market data, unless you get a market data practitioner from another exchange or end-user company, you have to start from scratch," Forssman says, referring to the lack of experienced staff in South Africa. "If they don't have an understanding of the complexities of the market data industry, there is no opportunity for them to be able to have a comprehensive conversation with a new or existing client, because this environment is technologically so complex, and changing so quickly, that the amount of time they'd have to stay in the industry before they can even have a conversation is that much longer," she says.
According to Forssman, it takes about a year of on-the-job training to acquire the "comprehensive foundation" of industry knowledge provided by the exam. "The reason we've only done it now is because up until last year there was no possibility to do e-learning modules," she says. Online training modules from London-based Learning Modules, are one way that candidates can study the program requirements online in the absence of─or alongside─class-based training.
Forssman plans to discuss the possible benefits of introducing the certification in other divisions within the exchange─including staff responsible for data technology, as well as teams such as trading and product development.
David Anderson, principal of Atradia Consulting and program director at FISD, says the adoption of the certification by these departments will allow them and their market data colleagues to do a better job when they have to interact with each other.
"This is an important mechanism to educate the uninitiated, the people who are less familiar with the market data industry," Anderson says.
Forssman also intends to have discussions with JSE clients to determine to what extent they could make use of the certification─which she says "would increase their awareness of the importance of this industry,"─and to promote the certification to other African exchanges during an upcoming JSE industry seminar titled "Building African Financial Markets" in September. "With those exchanges becoming more sophisticated and having to engage with market data, it's important for them to understand," she says.
Indeed, Anderson says JSE can act as an "advocate" for market data expertise and the certification in Africa, where data is used to a lesser degree than in other parts of the world, adding that the certification would expose local practitioners to all "the nuances, complexities and opportunities" of the market data industry.
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