What Is a Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA)?

The Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) is a global professional credential for investment professionals offered by The International Research Association (IRA). The LIFA designation attempts to help candidates attain higher levels of professionalism and ethics in the profession of investment management and analysis.

The LIFA examinations require an in-depth knowledge of investment principles, along with an understanding of global capital markets. The program is administered by the International Research Association (IRA).

Key Takeaways

  • The Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) exam is a comprehensive credential earned by financial professionals worldwide.
  • Unlike other globally recognized financial credentialing programs, the LIFA involves no enrollment fee and, you pay only if you pass the program and earn the LIFA charter.
  • The LIFA was established to challenge the dominance of the CFA charter, billing itself as a more intensive, more difficult to pass, and lower-cost option.

Understanding the Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) Designation

Like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, the LIFA designation requires candidates to pass three proctored examinations. The IRA attempts to keep the pass rate at an acceptable (or lower) level, believing that the validity of the designation is based on pass rates, and thus the quality of the designees: lower pass rates equal a more valuable designation. Subject areas covered by the tests include asset valuation, corporate finance, derivatives, economics, financial statement analysis, ethics, portfolio management, international markets, and quantitative analysis.

In fact, the LIFA exam is billed as "the toughest exam" you can take in the field of finance and was created to be a direct competitor to the CFA charter. For instance, there is no cost to register for the LIFA program and take their series of three exams, and you will only pay if you pass ($700 per exam). The pass rates on the LIFA are also lower than the notoriously difficult set of CFA examinations, with LIFA claiming average historical pass rates on Level I: 36%; Level II: 38%; and Level III: 48%.

Moreover, unlike other programs like the CFA, which allows for those who fail to retake a test an unlimited number of times, the LIFA has a strict limit of only three attempts per exam level. Once the LIFA designation has been earned, members must pay annual dues of $275 to maintain their membership and credential.

LIFA Exam Details

The completion of all three exams in this program allows a professional to achieve the recognition that they have attained the highest levels of professionalism and ethical standards in the investment industry. The main focus of the LIFA™ exam is to measure professional excellence in a broad curriculum of investment-related subjects. Main topic areas include:

  • Accounting
  • Banking
  • Broker-Dealers and Investment Banking
  • Consulting
  • Financial Publishing
  • Foundation/Endowment
  • Government/Regulatory Agency
  • Insurance
  • Investment Company/Mutual Fund
  • Investment Management Counseling
  • Law
  • Plan Sponsors
  • Real Estate

For an in-depth breakdown of the above topics described, refer to the PDF curriculum guide provided by the International Research Association. More details of the exam(s) include:

  • Levels: 3
  • Time Limit:  4 hours
  • Cost: Varies between $155 and $600
  • Number of Questions:  200
  • Format: Multiple Choice
  • Prerequisites:  A U.S. Bachelor's Degree or equivalent must be earned by Dec. 31 of the year the first exam is attempted.
  • Exam Date(s):  260+ days offered throughout the year
  • Exam Location (online):  Moodle online
  • Official Exam Website:  https://www.lifaexam.org/