AMHERST, Mass. (HedgeWorld.com)–The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association is set to double once again the number of registrants for its exam for the CAIA designation.

Craig Asche, executive director for the association, said that 1,200 registered for the group’s February exam, which is just 200 shy of the total number of registrants the group had in 2005. He expects 2,800 professionals will complete a CAIA exam this year.

“The organization has grown in lock-step with the industry,” said Mr. Asche. “We’ve doubled the number of registrants as our name is gaining acceptance by institutional investors.”

Institutions like the fund of hedge funds Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company are requiring staff to take the course and pass the exam, while other hedge fund firms and service providers to the industry are adding the curriculum to their own internal training programs.

Even some of the staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission has entered the program as part of training within the Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations.

By the end of 2006, Mr. Asche expects that close to 1,000 individuals will have completed the certificate program that has grown internationally, with association chapters springing up in London, Zurich, Geneva, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Growing interest is due to the endowment and pension funds that have taken increased stakes in the hedge fund industry. Investment consultants and others in institutional money management industry have looked to the CAIA designation has a source of assurance that an individual has completed standardized course work in the area of alternatives.

“The growth is also because we are serving a real need out there,” Mr. Asche said. “If we can help educate and improve the level of professionalism in this industry we will all be better off.”

To date roughly 25% of the CAIA holders are alternative investment managers, while the rest are in supporting roles in the industry, Mr. Asche estimated. The average years of experience of registrants at the same time has gone down since the first round of tests was given in 2003. Early on many with 20-plus years’ experience were part of the first round of exams.

Younger professionals and graduate students also are flocking to the three-plus-year-old designation. This too is part of a new effort at CAIA to offer scholarships to students recommended for the program by their professors who can offer only limited exposure to hedge fund investment courses in a university setting.

The CAIA curriculum is also being updated through feedback from certificate holders and as the industry involves. For example, materials on structured product offerings and on PIPE transactions are new for this year’s course.

The association is also working closely with Mark Anson of Hermes Pension Management Ltd. on the updated edition of Mr. Anson’s Handbook of Alternative Investments, a source text included in Levels 1 and 2 of the CAIA curriculum.

SBarreto@HedgeWorld.com

Contact Bob Keane with questions or comments at bkeane@investmentadvisor.com.