One of the toughest exams in finance is about to get more topical, and for some, more complicated. Starting next year, Levels I and II of the exam to become a chartered financial analyst will include more in-depth questions on fintech, including machine learning and ethics  tied to the use of technology within a work setting.

The Level III test, which focuses on portfolio management and planning, will include more questions on the latest practices in passive and active equity investment and professionalism in the investment management process. The changes will reflect an updated curriculum for the 2019 CFA Program.

“Fintech is no longer nice to know, but a need to have … a must have,” says Stephen Horan, managing director of credentialing at the CFA Institute. “Fintech is a class onto itself. It needs its own taxonomy.”

The CFA curriculum, which runs about 9,000 pages, has been updated to reflect these changes. In the past its fintech curriculum focused on algorithms and high-frequency trading. Now it includes machine learning, distributed ledger technology (blockchain) and cryptocurrencies.

Studying for the CFA test averages 1,000 hours. The Level I test is given twice a year — in June and December — but Levels II and III are tested only once a year.

The tests are not mandated like the Series 7, 63 and 66 exams because the CFA charter is not a license; it signifies a level of competency and experience — a “gold standard,” according to the CFA Institute.

About one-third of professional CFA charterholders manage assets for private clients, including wealth managers, brokers and RIAs, says Horan. About 20% work in portfolio management and 15% in research analysis.

Less than half of test-takers pass the exams, and one in five fail to complete all three.