Students of finance from 36 countries across the world celebrated their exam achievements in CISI’s first ever hybrid Awards event.
Those who were able to, attended the CISI Awards event in person, at Mansion House London, with with almost 200 dialling in virtually to the hybrid event from 22 countries around the world. This ceremony was particularly poignant as it marked two candidate cohorts, for 2020 and 2021, as the 2020 cohort were unable to receive their awards owing to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The annual CISI Awards ceremony marks the success of achievers who obtained the highest score in their exams. There was a total of 170 winners from 36 countries across both years. For the year 2020, countries with first time winners were from Burkina Faso, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Seychelles, while for the year 2021 Ethiopia, Ghana, Israel, Slovenia and Tanzania had representing students for the first time ever.
The live event (3 March) was hosted by BBC Presenter Huw Edwards, featuring short speeches from CISI exam panel volunteers, with achievers proudly displaying their award plaques.
The gender split for the 2020 Award achievers was 61% male and 39% female and for 2021 66% male and 34% female. Candidates were recognised for their achievements across categories and levels including Educational Trust & Schools, Foundation, Operations & Islamic Finance, Risk & Compliance, Capital Markets & Corporate Finance and Wealth Management & Financial Planning. A prize for the Certificate in Advanced Financial Planning was also awarded for the first time in the 2020 cohort, while for 2021 prizes for the Certificate in International Advanced Wealth Management and Level 7 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning and Financial Plan Case Study were awarded for the first time ever.
Firms and universities with the highest number of achievers for 2020 were Schroder & Co Limited (3), Agence UMOA-Titres (2), Baillie Gifford & Co (2), Barclays Capital Limited (2), Morgan Stanley & Co International plc (2) Tilney Smith & Williamson (2). For 2021, the highest number of achievers for firms and universities were One Search Limited (6), UBS (4) Christ University (4), eToro (3).
The UK regions with winners represented for 2020 were Birmingham (2), Bristol & Bath (2), East Midlands & Lincoln (2), Essex (1), Liverpool, Chester & North Wales (2), London (28), Manchester (1), Northern Home Counties (2), Northern Ireland (1), Scotland (10), Southern (1), Thames Valley (2), Wales (1), Yorkshire (1). For the 2021 cohort UK regions with winners were Birmingham (1), Bristol & Bath (2), Cotswolds (1), East Midlands & Lincoln (1), Essex (3), Jersey (2), London (36), Manchester (3), North East (1), Northern Ireland (3), Scotland (4), South Coast (2), South East (2), Southern (2), Thames Valley (2), Wales (1), West Country (1).
Susan Clements, CISI Global Director of Learning said: “It is wonderful to be able to celebrate the achievements of our award winners at the CISI’s first hybrid awards ceremony. We are so pleased to be able to celebrate the success they have had in what has been a very difficult past two years. To become an award winner is always a great achievement, but these candidates have done exceptionally well to triumph in such adversity. We also recognise, and are extremely grateful to, the firms, schools, universities and families who have supported these candidates’ learning journeys.”
Below some of our global achievers outline their thoughts on receiving their awards, the challenges they faced combing work/study and their revision tips and tricks:
Hajer Zarrouk, (left) is Assistant Professor at Higher College of Technology, UAE and studied for her International Introduction to Investment award: “In my role as a subject matter expert, to embed a finance professional qualification into our Finance (investment) Program, I identified various Professional Certification and Qualification and went through an evaluation process to validate their relevance to the demands of the UAE local job market. A full evaluation of CISI Professional Certification among others, has been conducted with Academic and Industry partners.
“CISI’s, International Introduction to Investment, is recommended, among others, to be embedded within the finance program. And in order to increase student's success rates, HCT provides support and training, and encourages Faculty to study and get the identified qualifications. I studied and sat for the exam to better pass that experience to my students.
“I attended face-to-face training for CISI international Introduction to investment. I allocated time for self-study. Even if we know the content, we have to read the manual and understand in-depth the international markets, the fundamental financial principles, and products, including assets and markets, equities, bonds, derivatives, and investment funds. It is necessary to memorize data related to a specific market or context.
“My plan is to take one professional qualification per year. I completed CISI-UAE Financial Rules and Regulations in 2021 and am planning to have CISI International Certificate in Wealth & Investment Management in 2022. Following this, I hope to move on to the Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification.”
Nicolás Naranjo (right) is a Financial and Treasury Analyst with Maxitransfers LLC Mexico, achieving his International Certificate in Wealth & Investment Management: “I decided to choose a CISI qualification due to my former boss being a CISI ambassador and he made me see the benefits of CISI qualifications, also I wanted to work abroad and a CISI qualification provides prestige.
“I prefer self-study so that was the way I prepared myself for the exam. I also made self-questions to test my knowledge. In addition, to enhance my knowledge and maintain my professional development I like to make company analysis on my blog and share opinions with others in social media. I try to be keep up to date with the news using videos, podcasts and other tools.
“This qualification not only allows you to work in several countries, but also give you status. The most important matter is that it is a beginning to a career in finance and investing and it provides a solid base to keep learning and developing yourself.”
Stuart MacLeod (left) is a Transactional Reporting Associate with Morgan Stanley in Scotland. He received his award for the CISI Investment Operations Certificate (IOC): ”The IOC qualification was a requirement for progression within Morgan Stanley as I joined the firm as a Graduate Scheme analyst. The initial unit ‘Introduction to Securities & Investment’ was a perfect platform to begin on, having studied Mathematics at University, I was coming into the industry as a relative novice, and in addition to the on-the-job training received at the firm I was able to quickly gain a useful insight into relevant products and practices.
“To study, I would initially read the book through a couple of times to get a good understanding of the content involved. Once I had this baseline understanding, I would attempt the questions provided within the book & also the online resources provided on the CISI website. These gave a good indication of what to expect in the exam and also gave the opportunity to work under time pressures. I would then return to revise areas in the book which I hadn’t performed so well on. All this individual work was supplemented by a group of friends at work (Fred and Sophie in particular) who were also undertaking the qualification as we would provide tips to each other and work together on particularly difficult questions.
“The main challenge throughout the qualification was that my studying was wholly during the Covid pandemic which caused exam centre closures for a period. This also made motivation to study even more difficult after a long day’s work as, even though I would try avoid this, there would be days where I did not get outside.
“The main tip I would give is to make sure you maintain a good work-life balance as it can be hard to find time for yourself and family and friends during study/work periods however it is pivotal to your own wellbeing and will aid study in the long run.
“I would suggest future candidates use the abundance of practice exam materials provided by the CISI without placing too much reliance upon these as the exam is certain to differ. Therefore, it is vital to understand the content in the book fully and if you are unsure on anything then don’t be scared to ask for help either within your network or reach out to the contacts provided by the CISI who are always happy to help.”
“My manager, Christina, has also provided me with great advice to further develop and progress my career by giving me great confidence within my own abilities and providing support throughout the qualification. We regularly have catch ups fully focussed on my career development and again I would encourage others to do the same with their manager or a selected mentor.”
Dan Atkinson (right) is Head of Technical at Paradigm Norton Financial Planning, London. His award was for the Level 7 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning, awarded by the CISI for the first time ever: “I decided to study to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional after having attained qualifications which focused on different technical areas of financial planning. The Level 7 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning which leads to this certification draws together these elements in service to our client’s objectives.
“Our firm believes that ‘money matters but life matters more’ so financial planning is at the core of everything that we do. Many of our partners are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals so achieving this qualification provides a common point of reference. It affirmed and expanded the way I think about financial planning and in turn supports our business.
“To equip me with an appropriate approach I enrolled on a three-day training workshop with Steve Martin of the Financial Planning Training Academy. During the workshop we discussed the different skills that we would be using, what examiners are looking for and spent some time working on our individual case studies. This set me on the right path, but it is difficult balancing a full-time job, family, and an intense piece of work like this.
Having colleagues who have undertaken this qualification in the past was helpful and I took time out for several days to focus. This really helped and removed many of the distractions that were getting in the way.
“It sounds like a cliché but when approaching the case study element do plan things out. Each element of the financial plan interacts with others, so whilst your focus needs to be methodical you need to keep the context in mind. Using a spreadsheet or software to help you take this into account is essential. Allow plenty of time and expect a few frustrating moments where you realise that you’ve missed something that has impacts throughout. Get this out of the way before you start writing and life will be easier! The best piece of advice that I received was to spend time understanding what is being assessed on the syllabus. Make sure that you clearly cover the points that the assessors will be giving marks for.
“Balancing work and study – especially working from home – is tough. The case study requires your head to be in the plan so switching between tasks makes it harder. I was fortunate and was able to block several days out to focus on it. Removing the interruptions really helped!
“Staying away from computers was key to my relaxation! All day online working/meeting and then working on a case study is tiring. I’m fortunate that we have plenty of open space near our home so getting a solid hour’s walk in each day to relax was essential. The change of scenery also helped me work my way out of ruts! To avoid slipping out of the habit I take a morning walk before I get started – rain or shine.
“Aside from obtaining an internationally recognised qualification you will come away with a confidence of ‘how it all fits together’. As a result, your viewpoint will shift away from what can the products do, to how can I put everything in submission to the client’s objectives. How can I yoke these metaphorical oxen to that task and ensure that the client doesn’t feel like they are a slave to their money. It’s incredibly exciting and once you have this understanding you will wonder how you ever served your clients well before!”
Catherine Martens (left with spaniel Cleo) is retired and achieved her award for the International Certificate in Advanced Wealth Management: “Previously (20 years ago) I worked for a leading money management company and was considering returning to work in the sector as my youngest had just left for university. It was a way of ensuring my knowledge was up to date and fit for purpose. It also gave a qualification which I hoped would be readily recognised and appreciated.
“My circumstances changed, and I decided not to return to the workplace. Nevertheless, going through the course material and passing the exam helped to build the confidence necessary to take some important personal decisions.
“I undertook self study, doing all the practice questions and answers and reviewing them several times. I have no further plans to return to formal employment – though have continued to manage personal capital and to follow economies and markets very actively. To enhance my knowledge I used subscriptions to Stansberry Research, Tradesmith and Realvision which I found invaluable. In order to relax during study times, I undertook yoga, reading, cooking and the myriad tasks involved managing a house and two teenagers.”
Andrew Ntumi (right) is Assistant Administration Officer for the Legal Aid Commission, Ghana and received his award for the International Introduction to Investment: “I was inspired by a friend called Emmanuel Nkrumah, an FX trader at ABSA. He was a member of the Institute. He encouraged me to take up the course when I told him of my intentions to be an investment banker. After a series of research, I realized an MOU had been signed between Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission and the Institute for which prospective students will enjoy a 50% waiver. SEC Ghana had also made it the industry-required course for Ghana’s capital market industry. I then decided to take up the opportunity and that is how the journey began.
“I am currently an administrator, notwithstanding, investment analysis is something I have come to enjoy. I am an aspiring economist as well. In the long term, I will be a renowned investor. Economics will play a very good role in helping me understand the potential ramifications of national policy and events on my investment. I will also gain the tools to predict macroeconomic conditions and understand the implications of those predictions on stocks, bonds, derivatives, and commodities which will make me a grade-A investor.
“The investment knowledge acquired will enable me to advise the Government on various financial policies as well, which is why the CISI qualifications are critical to my career goals and aspirations.
“Due to the pandemic, I had to do self-study. I had to combine work and studies. It took me so much discipline to do this. The CISI qualification exposed me to a lot of investment concepts. Most of them were concepts I had seen for the first time. I had to spend more time reading and researching to cope.
“CISI reading manuals simplify finance concepts and provide practical scenarios which stimulate the edge to keep reading. When I'm stuck with any challenging concept, I would look through Investopedia or stream YouTube for a more elaborate explanation.
“With the knowledge obtained now, I intend to pursue higher CISI qualifications and eventually become a Certified Financial Planner. I would also like to gain practical industry experience and start an investment firm, have a network of investment professionals, and grow my investment firm to a world-class status where I would help clients in estate planning, collective investments, asset management services and investment advisory.
“I spent more time with family when I am not studying or working. Till today, I tell them about the challenges confronting me and they continue to encourage me to press on. Occasionally, I would watch movies to freshen up. One of the movies I enjoyed was "The Big Short". I enjoyed this movie because it was very relevant to the CISI course material which talked about the 2008 financial crisis. I take this opportunity to thank my mum, Daniel, Maawura, Roberta, Elorm, Pastor Amankwah, Madam Gloria Nketiah-Amponsah, Mr. Mends, Lawyer Jeffrey, Samuel Baah-Senyah, Bernard Tetteh and others for their continued encouragement and support.”
Akash Singh Bawa (left) is WPFH India Compliance Head at Fidelity International, Gurgaon, India and received his award for Global Financial Compliance: “It is a globally recognised exam and will help build my credentials. Although I have rich experience in regulatory compliance, I was on a look out for a formal exam to cement my understanding on broader fundamentals.
“I studied on my own. Challenges mostly were around my fear of failure which deferred me taking this exam, but I decided to take a dip and make a start. CISI India office has been supportive with things that I required. I obviously have a full-time job, so it was a bit difficult of a stretch, but I made it a point to study daily. This helped as it allowed me to revise the course at least 7 to 10 times at my pace before I took the exam. My experience also helped as it allowed me to connect things pretty quickly. Tips I would offer to others, which worked for me, are:
- Devote at least an hour DAILY
- I gave myself good lead time so that I can focus on understanding concepts rather than rushing to pass it quickly
- Used my practical experience as a tool
- Referred regulator’s websites for more information so even thought this was not going to be tested in the exam, I wanted to build more understanding than what the book contained
- I did not study on day before exam - this allowed me to relax and not panic
- I completed all samples questions that I could get hold off, and finished them many times over several weeks
- Focus was not alone on right answer but also questioning why others are wrong etc - this helped reinforce concepts
- I did not think about exam score or result - not even once as I just wanted to devote myself to the process and not the result
Nantia Nikoleta Zygiridou (right) is Senior Global Compliance Risk Officer at Rabobank, The Netherlands. She received her Risk in Financial Services award: “I was looking for a compliance related course that would provide me with a globally recognized certification that would:
- meet my educational and development needs as a compliance officer in an international organization
- be offered in a form (self-study) that is flexible enough to fit my planning and schedule.
“After some research and feedback from colleagues in the same area of expertise, I concluded that the CISI qualifications are the best match. The content of the qualifications is very to the point and can be directly linked to my everyday work. It has both solidified my knowledge on certain topics and introduced me to topics I was not familiar with. All in all, it creates a good basis to build on as a compliance risk professional. Furthermore, shortly after I completed the “Global Financial Compliance” qualification, my organization established it as a mandatory training for all non-Dutch speaking employees within Compliance in the Netherlands. As a result, the qualification is now widely recognized within the bank.
“The most important point I would like to stress is planning. Make sure you make you allocate enough time throughout the week to study. Make your planning realistic. Working and studying can be a daunting task so make sure you don’t overestimate the time you can allocate to study during the weekdays. I personally found it rather difficult to properly concentrate on and absorb the information at the end of a workday. Weekends work best as you can study with a clear mind and absorb information more efficiently.
“Another point I would like to make is: do not memorize the study material. The exam is structured to test your understanding of the information and not your ability to memorize it. So, I would suggest planning in some time for at least one review of the study material. Repetition is the mother of learning.
“Activities that helped me relax and allow my mind to focus on other things, so that I could come back to work/studying with renewed focus and energy, included socializing with friends, exercising and movies.
“I would definitely recommend the CISI qualifications. The content of the qualifications is very to the point and can be directly linked to the everyday work. All in all, it creates a good basis to build on as a compliance professional. Furthermore, the self study option and pack is a perfect solution for professionals that require flexibility in their schedule. Finally, the qualifications are globally recognized.”
Baichuan Li (left) is self-employed and works with eToro Popular Investor, Israel. He achieved the Certificate in International Advance Wealth Management: “Etoro made it a requirement in 2021 that all Elite level popular investors would need to hold a level 3 CISI qualification, and all Elite Pro level would need to pass a level 4 qualification. As an Elite level popular investor, I completed the level 3 first (International Certificate in Wealth & Investment Management) but decided to push myself and complete the more advanced level 4 version as well.
“It gave me a better and more systematic understanding of wealth management which has and will continue to greatly help me manage my copiers’ as well as my own investments and grow as a popular investor on eToro. I purchased the textbooks and self-studied. I find it helpful to filter content – essentially, if a concept is explained in the book by a few long paragraphs, I try to filter those into short, easy-to-remember points before committing it to my memory, so that it’s easier to recall later on. I also find it useful to do past exam questions in a mock exam setting as part of preparation.
“My focus now is on my business, investment portfolio as well as being a popular investor. I will continue to learn and use my investment knowledge to both benefit myself as well as others interested in what I do. I have a growing portfolio of different instruments from equities to property that I hope will give me increasingly more passive income as time goes on. I’m currently looking at perhaps tackling the CFA.
“I heavily use resources from the Internet to keep up-to-date with current affairs, gain new knowledge, as well as learn others’ valuable opinions on topics I’m interested in. This, combined with active discussions and debates with friends who work in finance, enables me to further my knowledge and develop every day. As I am self-employed, I took a week off from my business to focus on studying for the level 4 qualification.
“I generally focused on studying for quite a few hours at a time before having a break. A day of studying for me would consist of 2-3 long blocks of study time with a relatively long lunch break and perhaps another 30-minute shorter break. During the breaks I would spend some time with my partner, play chess online, or do some light gaming. On my days off I enjoy watching Netflix with family as well as listening to classical music.”
Justinus Steinhorst (left) is a Global Market Graduate Analyst with UBS Investment Bank, London and received his Capital Markets Programme award: “I took the CISI Capital Markets Programme as part of my FCA certification process. The CISI exams are taken by all new joiners in the UBS Global Markets Graduate Talent Programme in front office roles. These qualifications not only enabled me to receive regulatory approval to start my role in dealing securities, but also formed a foundation of knowledge about financial markets - something I did not previously have much exposure to in School/University.
“If you are able to, enlist the help of an external training provider like Fitch Learning. This will help you prioritise which areas of the syllabus to focus on. Moreover, after you have achieved an initial high-level understanding of the syllabus, question practice will be one of the most effective uses of your studying time. Lastly, having a genuine interest/passion for the subject matter makes studying a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience!”
“To unwind, I would recommend spending time with friends and family to get your mind off studying and treating yourself to the odd day off if you can! If you start studying early and follow a schedule, you should be able to fit this in. The Capital Markets Programme gives you a fantastic overview of Financial Markets no matter your academic background. It is a tough exam but at the same time valuable preparation for a front office role in an investment bank.”
Nur Masyitah Binte Borhan (right) is a student based in Singapore and received her Islamic Finance Qualification: “Back when I was in high school, taking the Fundamentals of Islamic Banking and Finance qualification was a part of the school programme. I didn't find it hard to grasp, so I decided to take the Islamic Finance Qualification as the next step.
“I am someone who is still finding her passion and strengths. I still do not know in which field I would like to pursue my career, nor do I have any significant dreams. And that is one of the reasons I decided to take the Islamic Finance Qualification. It is a part of me trying out things here and there, and also hoping it can widen my choices as I go job hunting soon.
“Self-studying for the qualification while pursuing my undergraduate degree is, of course, a struggle. There were times when I didn't quite understand some of the concepts. Nevertheless, knowing the Arabic language helps. After all, Islamic finance is a knowledge that stemmed from Islamic texts, which are in Arabic. My proficiency in the language has gained me access to information not only from sources in English but also in Arabic.
“To relax in between studying, I mostly watch dramas, play games, and read fictional books. Although anything other than studying can help me de-stress, for example, going for a jog, doing household chores, and spending time with my family. Currently, I am trying to utilise my time better. I hope that some of the time I spent watching dramas and playing games will be used on watching informational videos and reading non-fictional books instead.”
James Beck, (left) a Financial Planner with Fiscal Engineers, Nottingham received his award for the Financial Plan Assessment, made available by the CISI for the first time ever for the 2020 cohort: “I’m a big believer in investing in educating yourself and, to be the best, you have to take on the highest level of qualifications which is why I decided to take on the Level 6 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning/CFP qualification. To be able to have a globally recognised qualification is also something which is quite rare in the financial planning profession, so it really does help to set you apart. In addition, at Fiscal Engineers we want our financial planners to be the highest and most skilled individuals, so although it’s not something that’s required by the FCA, we want all our planners to have the CFPTM qualification to show clients we hold ourselves to the highest standards.
“The Financial Plan Assessment really teaches you to understand the financial planning process, what order you need to address your clients’ goals and how a small change in one area of a clients planning can have knock-on implications in other areas of their planning. It gives you the opportunity to improve your problem-solving skills and tackle more complex planning issues which you may not come across as often which helps expand your knowledge and expertise.
“The level of research and detail required in the assumption section gives you a great foundational knowledge to do the same in your own firm when using cashflow software. It’s also helped me to articulate these assumptions to clients in a concise way which prompts some really useful discussions.
“For the entry exam I self-studied using the textbook and available resources on the CISI revision express which was very helpful. I always find doing past papers a great way to test your knowledge for multiple choice exams.
“For the Financial Plan Assessment, I watched each of the videos on Revision Express and tackled my plan in the order suggested. In addition, I spent some time with my friend/mentor who had already completed the case study who explained the way he tackled his Plan and shared his learning with me which was incredibly helpful.
“The first thing I did was create a mindmap so I could consolidate all the client information on one page, we do this as part of our own financial planning process, and this really helped me to reference certain information quickly rather than flicking through the Fact Find which is quite a long document.
“I then organised the soft skills into different areas/goals so again it was easier to reference this information when putting together my plan and at the end I could sense check that I’d hit all the goals/objectives in a particular section.
“Once I’d put my plan together, I asked several colleagues to read through and give me feedback. Finally, my wife read through the plan as having someone who isn’t in the profession read your case study really helps make sure you pitch it at the right level for a client and ensures it’s easy to follow and understand.
“I found that the case study wasn’t something you could pick up for an hour or two, so I mainly did it over the weekends. Having a big block of time enabled me to really get into the detail and make good progress.
“Now the CISI has released the Level 7 qualification I’m sure that’s something I’ll do in the future, but as I’ve just transitioned to a Financial Planner role, I’m focusing on making sure I’m well embedded in the role before taking this on. I am completing some further technical exams over the next year as I want to become a long-term care specialist.
“I also help to run our graduate program which is constantly evolving and helping them to work towards the CFPTM qualification is a longer-term goal once they’ve competed the level 4 qualification. My aspiration is to be the best Financial Planner in the Midlands and one of the best in the country.
“I use the CISI Professional Refresher content regularly to make sure I’m up to date with what’s going on and can refresh myself on any areas I’ve not looked at recently. In addition, I’m a member of NextGen Planners network which is great.
“I think the most challenging thing about this is giving yourself time to unwind as working 5 days and tackling the case study at the weekend is quite full on. Also, it’s challenging to give full focus to one as there will always be things that crop up at work which may mean you have to change your study plan, that’s why dedicating weekends to the case study worked best for me.
“I found planning trips with my wife or going out to see friends worked best as if I stayed at home, I found I wouldn’t give myself time to relax and I just picked up the case study. I did have a study schedule, and this really helped me plan in time to relax so I didn’t feel guilty about not working on the case study.
“I would recommend the Level 6/7 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning because it pushes you to expand your knowledge and gives you the tools to think through how you can improve your own financial planning process.”
Ernest Adinku (right) is Team Lead at PEMBA Consult Ltd, Ghana. He achieved his Fundamentals of Financial Services award: “I have always wanted to get into investment banking but as life would have it, I got into mainstream universal banking. After several years of working with some of the top universal banks in Ghana, I finally came round to making that big career decision and this led me to take the CISI qualification.
“To operate in the securities and Investment space in Ghana, just like in any other country, one needs to be certified by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In my case however, i am also open to opportunities globally and not just in Ghana and so the CISI qualification will give me the required certification as well as knowledge needed to work in the securities and Investment sectors
“I enrolled with the Ghana Investment and Securities Institute (GISI) that runs the program in Ghana in collaboration with CISI. This gave me access to the study manual, online videos as well as the revision kit on the CISI website. I must mention that the revision kit was extremely helpful.
“Post qualification, the plan is to work in the industry for a while, while working on getting a PhD. In addition to helping people get financially stable, it is also my desire to get into a position where the knowledge acquired can be transferred to others desirous of coming into the securities and investment space.
“Prior to the CISI online resources, there were a number of CPD sessions organised by previous employers as well as other local industry players which I patronised. At the time of starting the CISI program, I was working on a start up, a training consultancy (PEMBA Consult). The pressure of balancing trying to get the business on its feet whiles making enough time to study was a major challenge especially in a season of covid pandemic
“I watched movies to relax during my time away from work and study. I definitely will recommend the CISI qualification over and over again. In comparison with other resources, I have seen for other certifications, this is by far the one that has the interest of its members at heart. It is willing to make available to them every necessary resource to ensure they are equipped to achieve and maintain high global standards for the industry.”
Dr Stephen D’Souza (left) is a Consultant Interventional Radiologist at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He received his Fundamentals of Financial Services award for his role as a Non-executive Director for Charter & May Ltd: “I am a consultant vascular and non-vascular interventional radiologist with over 35 years experience (25yrs as consultant) based in the northwest of England
“I am a Trustee and Director for the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses and member of the finance and business effectiveness committee. I am a NED for Charter and May Ltd an International Tax Consultancy. CISI is a recognised organisation both within and outside the financial community. I wanted to gain and demonstrate an understanding of financial services to support and enhance my roles as Trustee and NED. I believe this and future courses will help me develop a career as NED.
“I undertook this course whilst in lockdown, with self study of CISI course book and supplemented with videos and internet to support training. I read the course book through once. I hope to develop a career as NED (in the financial or healthcare fields or ideally combining both) and Trustee, whilst continuing a part-time medical career. I intend to take further courses to further enhance skills some with CISI.
“In order to balance work, revision and family life, I timetabled sessions for the revision based around working through a chapter at a time. Gardening and spending time with family outside, watching TV and exercise helped me unwind. Although a relatively straightforward course it helped me to build on my existing understanding of financial services. It has provided an excellent starting point for progressing my career as NED, particularly in the financial field and Trustee.”
Dimitrios Sachinidis (right) was working as Regulatory Counsel at Compliancy Services Ltd, London at the time of studying for his exam. Now working as Senior Regulatory Compliance Manager at Revolut Ltd, he received his Diploma in Investment Compliance award: “Further to obtaining a Banking and Finance Law LLM, I wanted to remain up to date with developments in financial services and explore certain topics of personal interest even further. The opportunity to do so arose when I started working as a consultant. My then employer had a requirement that I study for a professional qualification to rise through the ranks of the company. I chose the CISI Diploma in Investment Compliance as it was, and remains, an attractive qualification, covering securities and investment, risk in financial services, professional integrity, UK regulation and compliance.”
“The CISI Diploma in Investment Compliance was a prerequisite for my current role. Career-wise, CISI qualifications are well known among industry participants. They serve as indicators of one’s commitment to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). A professional membership, supported by a strong CPD record, can have a significant impact on one’s career development. In a consulting environment, clients might show preference for a consultant who has relevant qualifications. From an in-house perspective, there is an increase in legal and compliance job descriptions which require candidates to have undertaken, or to commit to obtaining, a professional qualification.
“You can sit the non-narrative exams almost every day. Take advantage of this option and order your study material well in advance of the time when you would ideally like to sit your exam. Familiarise yourself with the syllabus, test your knowledge and, once you feel confident, set a deadline. Book the exam and keep studying whilst testing yourself under exam conditions. CISI's Revision Express is an invaluable tool as you prepare for your exam. For the narrative exam, order the studying material as soon as issued. You might want to choose a learning provider to support you with your studies. Remain focused, follow industry developments and prioritise your exam. The more of an interest you show for the topic, the more are your chances to succeed.
“I would definitely recommend the CISI Diploma in Investment Compliance to any lawyer working in the financial services industry. It builds on top of your existing knowledge, offering a fresh perspective, so that you can approach the relevant topics from more than just the legal angle. A must-have qualification for those considering a Compliance Oversight and Money Laundering Reporting Officer role in a regulated environment.”
Elizaveta Kleiman (left) is a Pensions Administrator with Alexander Peter Wealth Management, Spain, receiving her award for Combating Financial Crime: “My CISI journey started from a somewhat unfortunate event, namely losing my job I had for five years (working in Spain for a UK based company). However, as they say there is a silver lining in every cloud. I started looking for new opportunities and a new direction in my career. I had a job interview with a financial services firm in Marbella, and despite not being chosen for the job due to the lack of experience in the industry, I became aware of the career path that I thought was very interesting and also would allow me to utilise my previous legal experience in New Zealand and my recent UK work experience in operations. The interviewer was very helpful and advised me of the required qualifications and organisations that offer them, for which I am very grateful. After visiting CISI's website I found the qualifications that appealed to me, namely the Operations pathway.
“I started with Level 3 Introduction to Investment which is a very broad foundation qualification that introduced me to the financial services industry. I subsequently took Level 3 Global Financial Compliance and Combating Financial Crime unit, for which I won this award and after around a year qualified for Level 3 Investment Operations Certificate. Finally, after taking Integrity Matters exam, I joined CISI as an associate member. I am very proud to belong to a professional organisation with high standards of knowledge, skills and behaviour.
“After completing my qualification, I was able to find a job in a financial services firm in Marbella, where I am working now. The knowledge I gained from the CISI qualification enabled me to enter the financial services industry and complement my studies with practical experience.
“I self-studied using the CISI study materials and Revision Express to prepare for the exams. I began studying when the pandemic started, and Spain went into a complete lockdown. After three months of studying, I had to travel to a nearby testing centre in Gibraltar to sit my first exam as online exams were not available at that time. There was a lot of uncertainty whether I would be able to cross the border into Gibraltar and then back into Spain again as the countries' restrictions constantly changed, and I had to postpone the exam until the time both borders were open. The exam centre was excellent, my exam went really well, and it gave me motivation to study further.
“I believe it is important to study regularly, a certain amount of time a day or a week. As I was not working at the time, I was able to completely focus on my studies. I made typed notes as I read through the chapters, so that I could revise them easily. After studying each chapter, I revised it and then answered questions in the Revision Express until all my answers were correct. Before the exam I revised all the notes and repeated the Revision Express several times.
“I am currently focusing on getting practical work experience and learning on the job. I am interested in the areas of Operational Risk and also Green, Sustainable and Responsible Finance which I plan to study next. I read The Review which has a wide range of articles on various topics. I then selected a CPD course that maybe relevant to something I read. If I like the topic I do more in-depth CPD on it. I have recently done a CPD module on greenwashing and I would like to explore the subject further with the other relevant CPD modules available. Also, I have read very interesting articles on behavioural finance and gamification of investing.
“I was not working while studying, but I can imagine it is hard to find time to study after work, especially with many other commitments and responsibilities that we have. I am a single mother, and my son is at school, so I would find it very challenging to combine study, work and family. Perhaps, it would be possible to study for a qualification over a longer period of time, even if you could allow only a few hours of study a week. The best break for me, while studying, is walking with my dog, and luckily, we have a perfect climate here in Marbella and beautiful beaches to enjoy all year round.
“Yes, I would definitely recommend these qualifications. There is a variety of pathways and areas of study, and you can progress to higher levels within each pathway. Also, there are many ways of combining qualifying units which allow to progress as you need in your career. The Review articles and CPD courses are also very informative and thought provoking. For me, joining CISI has opened a pathway of continuing learning and advancement and I look forward to continuing this journey.”
Adrian Samiro See (right) is Chapter Lead at ING Bank Shared Services, Philippines. He received his award for the International Introduction to Investment: “Being that I am in the field of banking operations, I really wanted to gain exposure and appreciation for other products in the financial markets and CISI has topics targeting operations management, as well as a dedicated module for Derivatives operations, Global Securities Operations and Operational Risk - all of which i am really interested in. I also believe it is one of the more cost-effective certifications geared towards business outsourcing operations, where you can study and complete modules at a time and pace convenient for you.
“Taking the certification supports my goal to develop specialization and help look into the untapped potential of improving our back-office operations. CISI has also helped me learn operations across different asset classes which includes an overview of trading and dealing, clearing and settlement, risk management, ethics and the regulatory landscape. This helps with knitting the value chain between our stakeholders.
“One thing that really helped me is to make sure I fully understand the concepts learned and how they are being applied. If something was unclear, I would consult colleagues or other online sources. I also found the exercise exams to be very helpful. They give you a feel of how questions can be asked during the exam. I am still one module away from completing the Investment Operations Certificate and become an ACSI. That will be my short-term goal!
“I enjoy being outdoors, i think its the perfect break one can get from the city life. Two weeks before my exam, I took a trip to the far islands of Batanes to clear my mind and to focus on my exam, but I ended up studying there instead of taking a break.
“CISI has specific topics targeting multiple fields, you can choose and build a specific specialization rather than take a more general course. It is also one of the more cost-effective certifications geared towards operations, where you can study and complete modules at a time and pace convenient for you.”
Isobel Barlow (left) is a Financial Crime Advisory Analyst at BNP Paribas, London, receiving her award for Regulation & Compliance: “I am incredibly honoured to have received this award from the CISI. The CISI is a hugely respected professional body which holds the respect of governments and firms around the world, which makes me feel extremely proud to have been presented with the Regulation & Compliance Outstanding Achievement Award.
“Studying with and gaining a qualification from the CISI is a demonstration of professionalism in the financial services sector, which is what inspired me to choose CISI to further my professional career. I was confident that the CISI could provide me with the in-depth knowledge and learning experience that would help me shape my career for years to come.
“By studying for the Diploma in Investment Compliance, I have been able to develop an in depth understanding of the extensive and complex regulatory landscape that underpins the UK financial services sector. Not only has this helped me with my day-to-day duties in my time at BNP Paribas, it has also allowed me to discover my passion for the world of financial crime and has affirmed to me how I want to shape my career in the future.
“I studied for my qualifications with CISI during the pandemic which meant that all trainings were held online and revision had to be carried out from home. At times I found this challenging because there was a question of how to effectively separate work from home life. During my studies at university I always found it incredibly useful to study with other people at a library and bounce ideas off of each other, so not having these interactions was a challenge at first. However I arranged with a fellow colleague to have revision sessions over Zoom which was a great way to overcome the challenges of the current times.
“I aim to focus my career on the world of financial crime and to gain significant practical experience within this field. In the future I hope to build upon and apply my technical and leadership skills so that I can make a difference at a business-wide level.
“I found that exercise and sports really helped me to mentally separate myself from work and studying. The most useful technique for me was studying in short but intense revision sessions, say 45 minutes or so, and then taking 15 minutes for some meditation and mindfulness or yoga. This really helped me feel energised for each revision session and was a great way to feel motivated.
“This qualification is a fantastic way to experience an in-depth learning experience and to gain knowledge of your field in order to boost your career. Studying with and gaining a qualification from the CISI is a demonstration of professionalism in the financial services sector and is a very impressive achievement. “
Glory Awuah-Sarpong (right) is General Manager with S-Rock Multimedia, Ghana. He received his award for Fundamentals of Financial Services: “After my MBA programme in Finance, I developed a strong interest in investment and securities. I chose the CISI qualification programme because it is a global platform that presents a professional pathway for financial professionals to gaining professional knowledge and insights in the field of finance.
“This qualification has broadened my scope in the field of finance and has also challenged me to think globally. I dedicated time and effort to reading the materials more than three times and also answering module tests and the standard exams test on the CISI website. The challenges of working and studying were mitigated by following through my study schedule assiduously.
“The focus now is to complete the remaining qualification courses in Chartered Wealth Management and attain high CPD records to become a Chartered Fellow of CISI. I hope to chart the career path in International Wealth Management.
“I would recommend this qualification to others because the qualification pathway is not solely exams centred. The CPD offers the best way to track your progress in your professional development.”
Simon Watterson (left) is an Associate at TP ICAP, Northern Ireland. He received his award for the Investment Operations Certification: “In 2018 I changed career and moved into financial services through a scheme run in partnership between TP ICAP and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy. Over a 6-week period, along with my soon-to-be colleagues, I participated in a range of skills and knowledge-based teaching sessions. One of the goals at the end of the 6-week period was to pass the first module of the Investment Operations Certificate. Not only did I pass the exam with merit, but I also picked up the Introduction to Investment (Education) Winner Award 2018. Over the next two years I juggled learning a new career and studying for the UK Financial Regulations exam and the Operational Risk exam, once again passing both exams with merit. Although I didn’t actively choose to take the Investment Operations Certificate qualification, I immediately saw the benefit of not only studying the material, but really immersing myself in the subject matter. It has definitely paid off.
“As a career changer I already had a broad base of experience in various aspects of business, but what I lacked was a deep understanding of the financial services landscape. The payoff in deep study is being able to contribute to the discussion around business problems with a solid, well-informed perspective. I was invited by the CISI to sit on the exam panel for both the level 3 and 4 Operational Risk exams and I’ll confess to feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome - but the panel members are very welcoming and I have been able to make genuine, albeit small, contributions to the panel’s work.
“Across the three different modules there was a mix of face-to-face training (with the University of Ulster), online training and good old-fashioned nose-in-the-book reading and copious note taking.
“My tips for studying include: Find Your Why. Start by asking yourself why you are thinking of taking the exam and ask yourself “what’s my purpose?.” Keep focused on that all the way through, you’ll need to rely on it at some point! It also helps to take methodical approach to ensure that you are devoting the right amount of time to study each chapter in an exam workbook. Don’t get bogged down in a very lengthy chapter that only has a few questions when there may be shorter chapters with many more questions. Assign your time proportionally. Oh, and “why” doesn’t just apply to your purpose – when studying a particular topic keep asking why and then ask it again. Seek to place the topic in context, either with your own work, within the broader financial services landscape, or preferably both. Finally, focus on the process and the result will take care of itself.
“In terms of career development, I would like to become a business analyst. I have a background in technical and application support and have a significant amount of experience in trying to uncover the real underlying need of an application user when they are experiencing an issue and then translating that need to technical teams if I am unable to solve the issue directly. Within the operations world this also has application in business process analysis because operational risk often occurs at the handoff points between teams when the teams don’t understand each other’s requirements.
“I have a special interest in business process analysis and operational risk. For each I use a variety of sources including podcasts, online courses and of course Google. I have used the CISI Professional Refresher in the past and found it to an excellent way to focus on specific topics.
“The study/work challenges included mental exhaustion. My role at TP ICAP is very challenging and at the end of the day the very last thing I want to do is study. Instead of studying after work I studied before work and at the weekends.
“Although I love reading, when I was studying for these exams I needed to allow my brain to recover and so I let my body take over the reins in the gym. Without any hesitation I would recommend these CISI exams. For anyone new to financial services the Investment Operations Certificate is an excellent way to level up, quickly.”
Karoline Nowosad (right) is an Asset Management Sales Executive with SH Capital Ltd, UAE. She received her award for Fundamentals of Financial Services: “I truly believe the best investment is to invest in yourself therefore we should always aim for the best possible option when it comes to education. CISI is one of the most recognized qualifications in the financial world therefore that was an easy choice for me.
“In my current role I am in the front line when it comes to facing the customers. I need to be fully prepared and aware of all financial services available there for our clients.
“Since I have a financial background (Masters in Finance) I didn't need additional help to prepare for the exam, self-study with the online resources provided by CISI website was more than enough. In case you didn't have much to do with financial subject in the past, you might need some additional training. I am planning to take another CISI exam - level 3. I believe it is prestigious certificate that helps to be recognizable in the community as well as give your customers better trust in you.
“My tips include working on time management. I suggest taking the study series and to give up on some entertainment during preparation for the exam. Focus on the goal, study and pass.
“Walking with my dog was one of the best breaks for me. It’s great for the brain, good for the body and helps to reduce the stress. It also does not involve much time and you can go back to study after one hour or, so which is an excellent break. The CISI certificates are very well known and the Institute gives you an advantage when it comes to finding a new role, recognizability with your peers and customers as well as confidence when it comes to dealing with the financial world.”
Pranav Murthy (left) is a student at Christ University, Bangalore, India. He received his International Introduction to Investment award: “CISI is a very lucrative qualification that sought to provide me with great insight into the world of finance and investment analysis. It is a globally recognised certification, with the added benefit that CISI had an MOU with Christ University. This was the perfect opportunity for me to leverage and build up my skills
“CISI has given me a great platform to build up my skills in the world of finance and at the same time has allowed me to build and maintain a great network with global professional in the field. The qualification has also helped me with my applications for placements as well as interviews in other said fields on my education purely due to the value that the certification provides, along with the enhanced knowledge it provides.
“A few important pointers to note for studying for this exam, in my experience, are:
- Make a timetable and a timeline for completing each chapter of the module
- Write down all doubts which you should revise before the exam
- Finish the syllabus well before the deadline
- Make maximum use of the Revision Express
- Practice the Sample Paper at the end of the workbook – it is a great help
- Attempt the mock paper only once you complete the syllabus
“My future career goal is centred around Financial Research and Investment Analysis as part of the larger framework of Private equity or Investment Analysis. I am actively pursuing an FRM Charter along with my CISI and also plan to take the CFA examinations in the next few years.
“I actively involved myself in a wide degree of sports and extracurricular events at college to give myself the space I needed to keep myself calm and composed and not take too much stress related to the exam. It is extremely necessary to take the test in the right frame of mind., I would definitely recommend these certifications to my peers as it has greatly benefited me both in terms of how much knowledge I can gather through these certifications and also the CPD activities have helped a lot of fellow candidates I know stay in touch with the process of learning and development. Furthermore, you also have the opportunity to build a great network. “