Students of finance across the world came together to celebrate virtually their achievements and commitment to their studies, during the latest annual CISI global Awards ceremony.
The CISI awards mark successes achieved by a total of 84 candidates from 18 countries across 39 categories who obtained the highest score in their exams during 2019. Countries with first time winners included Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo. These candidates would have received their awards in 2020 at a ceremony in Mansion House, London but the pandemic meant the CISI ceremony had to be postponed.
So the CISI brought award winners together in a virtual ceremony for the first time ever which was hosted by BBC journalist Justin Webb. The ceremony, which was broadcast live on 11 February 2021, featured speeches from volunteers involved in CISI’s exam panels and showed the winners celebrating their success with their recently received award plaques.
The gender split for award winners is 64% male and 36% female. Candidates were recognised for their achievements across categories and levels including Investment Management and Advice, Islamic Finance, Operations, Risk and Compliance, Fund Management, Financial Planning and Wealth Management.
Firms, schools and universities with the highest number of award winners were JP Morgan (3), Rathbones (3), University of Rwanda (3), Brewin Dolphin (2), City of London School for Boys (2), Cleeve Park School, Sidcup, Kent (2), Financial Ombudsman Service (2) and Morgan Stanley (2).
The UK regions with winners represented were Birmingham & West Midlands (1), Bristol & Bath (2), Cotswolds (1), East Midlands & Lincoln (1), Essex (1) Isle of Man (3), Liverpool, Chester & North Wales (2), London (32), Manchester & District (1), Northern Ireland (1), Scotland (8), South Coast (2) South East (2), Southern (2) Thames Valley (1) and Wales (2).
Susan Clements CISI Global Director of Learning said: “We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of these outstanding award winners many of whom will have been juggling the demands of study with work and family commitments. Their success is testament to their tenacity and dedication. We also recognise, and are extremely grateful to, the firms, schools, universities and families who are a critical support for these candidates’ learning journeys.”
Below some of our achievers outline their thoughts on receiving their awards, the challenge of combining work and study and reflecting on revision tips and tricks which worked best for them:
Razik Sheikh (left) was at City of London School for Boys, when he studied for his award for the Certificate for Introduction to Securities & Investment (Schools) said: “I am extremely honoured to have been chosen as the best performer out of all those who took part. All the information and material were accessible and compact, meaning studying in small periods of free time between lessons was made easier. The most challenging aspect was the extended project, which required a greater amount of free time than periods between lessons!
“Being quizzed by my friends, who were also taking the certificate, and quizzing them in turn was a great way to speed up the retention of information. Planning was key for the extended project, with a predetermined structure allowing for the lowest amount of time possible spent writing it up. In terms of relaxation, as I was going to school at the time I was lucky enough to able to hang out with my friends.
“My teacher Mr Dharamshi was an extremely valuable source of information when it came to the study material. Studying for the Certificate is a great way of not only gaining a valuable endorsement for any potential applications, but also of learning new and relevant information.”
Anaa Azote (right) is from Togo, works with Trésorerie Générale de l'Etat/DGTCP and received his award for Fundamentals of Financial Services. He said: “I just feel grateful, proud and excited about my achievement. It has strengthened my confidence and my desire of always working hard to achieve something greater. I am happy and I feel blessed because the training that I have received will help me meet the requirements of markets and regulators across the globe and achieve core competence for my job requirements.
“Fitting study around work was a challenge. The first thing I did was to set up a goal, have a good planning timetable, set deadlines and stay motivated and confident.
But the main challenge was how to get enough time to balance work-study and family life. I managed that by sleepless nights.
“I read the course and tackled the exercises on a daily basis. I also made sure that I understood what I learned and the exercises I was doing by checking for answers to all the difficulties I was facing online and by reading many other books of finance. The most important trick for me was that I took practice tests as if they were real exam tests.
“Both, Revision Express and the CISI Financial Services Fundamentals Teaching Manual were very helpful for me while preparing my exam. Having some time out to relax is important and I practiced sport, played with my children and visited relatives.
“This qualification is just the first step and I am preparing myself for the next level.In the medium term, I would like to have a position in an international financial corporation in order to have international financial management experience.In the long term, I would like to create my own cabinet, which will operate as a financial asset management-consulting firm in Togo.”
Nicky Byrne (left), who was with Cleeve Park School, Sidcup, London when he achieved his award for the Diploma in Finance, Risk & Investment said: “I am really proud of this achievement. I put a lot of hard work and dedication into this qualification as I have always been interested in the finance industry and was aspiring to work in finance (which I have now gone on to do). So it was really nice to see the hard work pay dividends.
“I have always been very self-disciplined. For this reason, I always found ways to implement study into and around my schoolwork and routine. I always felt like I could not properly relax until I had made some progress with my study and revision. I also found study timetables very useful to plan ahead my study sessions.
“I never used any specific revision techniques; I have always been one to write out detailed revision notes as I found that the information is absorbed best when writing out the textbook word for word or paraphrasing it into study notes. I also would sometimes watch revision videos. One tip, or quote, which I have always followed is: ‘Do your future self a favour and work hard today’. I have always found this motivating and would say most of the motivation comes after a study session when the progress is obvious.
“I try to make the most of my down time as I believe that a balance between work/study time and down time is the key to success. In my down time, I really enjoy spending time with friends and family. I am also a speedcuber, meaning quite a bit of my down time is spent solving Rubik's cubes in as quick a time as possible (my fastest time is currently 9.15 seconds). I also enjoy jigsaw puzzles and exercising - which is something I have really began to enjoy more recently.
“My family were a massive support throughout the journey of completing this qualification. I am lucky to be really close to my family and can always turn to them for any advice or support. I would also very lucky to have Nick Seaward as my main Finance teacher throughout my A-level studies. I always felt like he tried to encourage me to always stretch my knowledge further and outside of the basic curriculum which I believe really helped me to progress and excel in the qualification.
“I am currently taking my exams and training to be a Chartered Accountant. In the medium to long term, I would like to complete these exams to achieve the status of a Chartered Accountant and progress further into management positions. In the long-term future, I would also like to use my experience to build a finance-based business of my own.”
Amber Watkin (right), who was a student at Tormead School, Guildford, Surrey when she achieved her award for Fundamentals of Financial Services said: “I’m really proud to have achieved this award and qualification during my A levels. Not only did it mean I could put it down on my UCAS form but it also gave me an insight into the finance sector and opportunities I could go for in the future.
“I was lucky in that I had time during the summer holidays to learn and revise the content for my exam and I did some last minute re-reading of the book the night before the exam which helped jog my memory. I found studying for my exam quite relaxed, partly because I used the online portal so much. This was full of easy-to-follow exercises that complimented the workbook really well.
“My economics teacher, Mrs Williams, was incredibly helpful in introducing me to the course, enrolling me, and then helping me get the correct resources to learn with.
I’d say if you’re even slightly contemplating doing this qualification to just enrol and try it. It was so easy to do and provides such a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of financial services. It’s invaluable whether you want to go into the finance sector or not. I’m hoping to go to university to study economics.”
Esther Munezero (left) achieved her award for Fundamentals of Financial Services while studying at the University of Rwanda. She said: “I am very happy to receive the CISI award I thank almighty Lord for that. The main challenge I faced was time management, I had to juggle many priorities in a short time frame. My main tips would be to love what you do and manage your work effectively and efficiently.
“CISI notes were a useful resource because they contain all the required clear information, it was easy to study and kept my attention. I did not get bored! In my down time I listened to music which helped me to relax. I'm happy to encourage Rwandans especially for those interested in finance to do this qualification because it’s very helpful and it will assistant the improvement of our country's financial market and therefore help boost our economy. My career aim is to become an excellent financial and investment analyst.”
Andrew McCormick ACSI (right), who works with Nedbank Private Wealth Isle of Man and received the award for Risk in Financial Services, said: “Although I’m a bit of a perfectionist and always strive to take on board as much knowledge as possible when studying, it was still a surprise to hear that I had attained the joint highest score in the exam. It was a welcome reminder of what I’m capable of when I set my mind to something.
“I mainly used my lunch hours for study but I set myself a target of 1 hour and 15 minutes of studying every day, which forced me to pick up my workbook when I came home for the day.
“I found that allocating a certain amount of time per day for study and sticking to it helped me to stay on track (I even created a log with a habit tracker to show me how many days in a row I’d hit my target – not breaking an ever-growing streak was powerful motivator for the gamer in me!). I also found that writing my notes in a question-and-answer format helped massively as I’m terrible at writing notes in the usual way and this helped me to focus on the key points.
“The gym helped me to take my mind off things. My friends and work colleagues were supportive throughout, the latter always making sure I had the time away from the day-to-day to study.
“I plan to evolve my role into a more risk-focussed one and to gain significant practical experience in this field. Longer-term I aim to develop my leadership skills and perhaps move into building a strong risk culture at a business-wide level by helping to develop people.”
Sanjana Sanjay (left), who was studying at Christs University, Bangalore, India when she received her award for Risk in Financial Services and is now a Masters student at INSEAD said: “As someone who has always been focused on academic learning and excellence, this achievement was nothing short of a privilege. I feel ecstatic to have been bestowed upon this honour by CISI, as it signifies my deep understanding of finance, a field of study I’m passionate about.
“I was a university student at the time of preparing for the examination, and hence I probably found it easier to fit it into my schedule when compared with working professionals. The main challenges for me personally, were managing my university course load and applications to masters programs, both of which were extremely heavy during the examination.
“Solving the questions behind every chapter of the CISI workbooks was crucial as it helped me test myself with regards to the fundamental concepts. The mock tests provided by CISI helped me prepare myself for examination day and helped calm my nerves with respect to the exam format. The CISI workbooks and mock tests were the most useful as they explained the syllabus in a very clear and concise manner. In fact, I still refer to the workbooks when I need to study a related concept during my Masters degree!
“I love playing the guitar, and this activity served as a break between study sessions. I also spent time with my friends after a long day of studying to cool down and relax. My professor- Raghunandan sir was extremely supportive during my journey by clearing any course related doubts I may have had and motivating me to stick to my study schedule. My parents and friends were also strong pillars of support by keeping me grounded and making sure I wouldn’t burn out.
“For other students in India thinking of studying for this qualification, I would say it’s worth it! You’ll have to put in a lot of focused study hours, but the knowledge that you will gain is immeasurable. This qualification from a prestigious institution such as CISI is definitely a strong distinguishing factor in your career. Everything I learned while studying for this qualification still helps me to this day during pursuit of my Masters degree at INSEAD.
“My immediate plans after graduation are to work in consulting to help clients improve performance, and my long-term goal is to start my own consulting firm. CISI qualifications help me distinguish myself from other candidates, not only by the value that recruiters place on them, but also by enabling me to use the knowledge I gained in my work.”
Nour Osama Morsy Mohamed
(right) from Egypt
achieved her award for
Fundamentals of Financial Services. She said: “I am very proud and happy about my achievement. It has given me confidence in my abilities. It was very challenging, as I was a Bachelor student at the time and I was trying to keep up my studies, a part time job, and studying for the CISI exam. In addition to that, maintaining a work life balance was hard but I believe it is all part of the experience.
“Time management is the key. Juggling work and studies can be very challenging but when you manage your time and set goals for the tasks to be done you can do anything and everything. You must prioritize tasks and set a time limit to complete a task. Dedicate some time in your day just for studying and switch off your phone and just concentrate on getting some studying done, most importantly, take a break between work, studying, and getting other tasks done.
“Another tip would be getting the help of your friends. Meeting up with my friends to study together helped me a lot even when each of us were working on different things. Traveling to the beach and reading a good book always helped! I also took on new hobbies like backing, fashion sketching and playing the piano.
“One of my friends was taking the exam with me and this gave me a real push. We used to study together, and this helped a lot emotionally as well as practically when it came to practicing for the exam. Also, my parents were very supportive, encouraging, and they always pushed me to do my best. I could not have done it without their help!
“To other Egyptian students interested in studying for this CISI exam I would say go for it. It may seem tough and you may think that you do not have the time but getting this qualification will give you a sense of direction for the future. This qualification provides practical and applicable understanding of the financial market and it provides richer understanding to the business side of things.
“Once I graduated, I started working as a Teaching Assistant at the university and I am currently preparing my MSc in Entrepreneurship and Technology management. My plan is to continue in an academic career where I can bring together my knowledge in the finance and entrepreneurship fields and explore how these fields come together. I would like to point out that having this qualification did not go to waste since I am not directly pursuing finance as a career. The knowledge I have gained from this qualification and from studying finance gave me a perspective on how deep the field goes.”
Abi High (left), Investment Manager at Sarasin and Partners, achieved her award for the Private Client Investment Advice and Management (PCIAM) Certificate. She said: “I was very pleased and surprised to receive the CISI Award. CISI is a highly regarded institute within the wealth management profession and the PCIAM exam is an applied practical exam. I was very happy to have passed the exam with distinction.
“The challenges with the PCIAM exam, like other professional qualifications, is finding the time to study around your working day. Given the guide of 200 hours of study to pass the exam, I had to be disciplined in making time to study in the months leading up to the exam.
“My top tip for anyone studying for the PCIAM exam is to try to find practical applications for your studies as much as possible. Working in portfolio management, I was privileged to be able to apply my studies to my work. The more you can understand the "real-life" applications of the exam, the better!
“I am a keen runner and therefore ensured that I kept up my exercise routine during study breaks! My mentor at work was very supportive of my decision to sit the exam. Having sat the exam previously, he knew the curriculum and value of sitting the PCIAM Exam. My Dad has also always been very supportive when the study stress ramps up!
“I really recommend sitting the exam. Although a lot of work, the exam is really useful to understand tax implications of portfolio management in the UK. I plan to continue to work in portfolio management over the long term. In the medium term, I hope that I can understand investment management from various perspectives, including analytical work and management.”
Jack Whittaker, Chartered MCSI, Portfolio Manager (right) at Brewin Dolphin Cardiff achieved the Chartered Wealth Manager award. He said: “I was humbled to receive the award for highest mark in the Chartered Wealth Manager qualification.
"A strong understanding of the syllabus is essential, but it is also important to get as much practice as possible by completing past exam papers. This not only improves your exam technique but also boosts your confidence.
"I also found revising in short, frequent sessions to be much more effective than trying to do ‘all nighters’ where you just end up tired and frustrated. Finding time to relax is key to a good study strategy. I made sure I saw friends and spent time with family as much as possible.
"Brewin Dolphin ensured I was provided with excellent tuition and plenty of study leave. I can’t thank my team and manager in the Brewin Dolphin Cardiff office enough for all the support they gave me – covering my work when I was busy revising, giving me tips from their own exam experience, ensuring I wasn’t overloaded with work on the days just before an exam, and just being a source of constant encouragement. Truly the most supportive company I have ever worked for.
"The qualification is not only one of the most prestigious within wealth management, but it also teaches you skills and knowledge that you will use throughout your career.
"I have a great passion for investment markets and enjoy managing portfolios which help clients to achieve their life goals. I hope to be able to continue to develop my skills and experience in these areas over the coming years.”
Daniel Brawley, ACSI (left) Investment Analyst at North Capital Management Edinburgh achieved his Investment Management award. He said: “I am honoured to receive the Investment Management award and have my efforts recognised by the CISI.
“Mornings were usually the most productive study time for me. Having a good understanding of the basics makes the transition to advanced topics easier, and it is important to tackle practice questions early.
“I found the Revision Express service very useful, as it is more concise than the textbook and offers interactive questions to test your knowledge. There are also many useful videos on YouTube if you are a visual learner like me.
“In my free time I enjoyed running, seeing friends and eating out. Running is a great way to mentally separate free time from work and studying.
“My fiancé was very supportive and understanding throughout. My employer also helped by providing adequate study leave.
“The qualification is a great way to gain an overview of the investment management profession. It provides a foundation in key topics that are applicable to many career paths.
“I first hope to become chartered, as I am currently a candidate for the CFA Level 2 exam. Beyond this, I would like to advance my career within investment management, maintaining the analytical focus from my engineering background.”
Stephen Cowan ACSI (right) who works with Capital International Group, achieved his award for Advanced Global Securities Operations. He said: “I’m delighted to have achieved the top mark in my first written exam with the CISI. It’s given me the confidence to further my qualifications and it’s a great addition to my CV.
“I’m a very visual learner. I know people that study by re-writing an entire textbook word for word, but I found that by breaking down each individual section of the study material into its minor parts, then reproducing those as images or bullet points to be stuck on a wall, I would have a much better chance of remembering it.
“I play football for a local amateur team and found this to be good respite from studying. Long, continuous hours of intense revision can be counterproductive, so even during the period leading up to my exam I benefited from sticking to the routine of football training two evenings a week, as this served as a chance to relax and let the information for my exam be absorbed.
“My partner was very patient and supportive throughout my studying, which gave me the time and energy I needed to completely focus on passing.
“For anyone else planning to undertake this qualification, I would advise fitting studying around your normal life. it’s important to still maintain your regular social activities or hobbies. Things will always be pushed to the side when studying takes priority, but it can also be highly beneficial to your learning if you keep up your regular routines.”