CISI Awards Ceremony 2018: Recognising excellence

Our annual awards ceremony and drinks reception, held at Mansion House, London on 9 April 2018, celebrated exceptional achievement amongst CISI students worldwide

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Our 2018 awards ceremony recognised winners for their achievements across 36 categories including Islamic Finance, Capital Markets, Corporate Finance, Wealth Management, Compliance and Risk, Operations and Financial Planning.

More than 40,000 CISI exams were sat in 80 countries last year, so it is no surprise that our 79 award winners are based far and wide, from 18 countries including Spain, Lebanon, Malta, Oman, UAE, Belgium, South Africa, Russia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. Countries represented for the first time this year are Belgium, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Russia.

The gender split for award winners this year is 28% female and 72% male (the 2017 gender split for winners was 43% female and 57% male).

Firms with the highest number of awards are Investec (3), with Brooks Macdonald, Nomura, Schroders and Smith and Williamson Investment Management all with two award winners each.

Waseley Hills High School in Birmingham and West Midlands featured two of its students as award winners: Ben Page and Nicholas Perry for the Fundamentals of Financial Services award.

John Preston, CISI’s chief operating officer said: “The talent, skills and commitment demonstrated by our award winners this year has been truly inspirational. We would like to thank their firms, families, friends, teachers and trainers who together provide a critical community network which has enabled the success of these achievers.”

CISI award winners who attended the Mansion House ceremony from overseas this year include Karl Micallef (Combating Financial Crime) from Malta; Sesantha Pillay (Risk in Financial Services) from South Africa and Andres Enrique Gonzalez De Lara Sarria ACSI (Certificate in Wealth Management, Spain) from Málaga, Spain.

List of 2018 award winners

Schools, Colleges and Universities

Seven awards were given out in this category. The CISI offers AS and A level equivalent qualifications for 16–19-year-olds in full-time education and these are modelled on the introductory qualifications, as well as more traditional business and economics subjects. This arrangement means that students benefit from the opportunity to participate in work experience and career insight days, plus achieve UCAS points.

Maisy Salsbury (pictured below), student in the mixed sixth form at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, Kent, received an award for the Certificate in Finance, Risk and Decision Making. She said: “I was made aware of the CISI qualification at my school and it immediately sparked my interest. I knew that the qualification was a unique opportunity for students. It is a qualification that is widely recognised in the sector and complements my three A levels perfectly.

“Thanks to the CISI and the Insight days it introduced me to, I have managed to connect with some influential people working in the financial sectors. This is a unique privilege that no other students (outside of CISI) have. It’s a real benefit.

“The events I attended through the CISI qualification inspired me to apply for an internship or apprenticeship, a route I hadn’t ever considered before. I’d strongly advise anyone to approach the qualification with the idea that ‘your potential future is within this course’. This attitude makes studying much more enjoyable.

“I tried to incorporate things relevant to the course in many aspects of my life. This included reading the Financial Times and The Economist, following relevant businesses on LinkedIn and reading many books. This wider knowledge made exam revision much easier as not only did I understand key concepts already, I knew contextualised examples. 

 “After the summer exams I’m looking for an internship or apprenticeship in investment banking. My hope is that this will generate opportunities for me to continue my career in the financial services sector.”

Foundation qualifications

Our foundation qualifications provide a comprehensive introduction to the financial services sector and offer a perfect first step on the road to developing the essential knowledge required for working in financial services. Twenty-five winners received the award in this category for Fundamentals of Financial Services (level 2). One winner, Marie-Anne Willans (pictured below), based in London, is looking at the prospect of a career change, from freelance journalist to possibly working in the financial sector, using her qualification as a test bed to gauge her knowledge for such a career move. She says: “I developed an interest in financial services largely due to the work of my husband, an investment manager. As he has clients in southern Africa as well as the UK, I have travelled abroad with him several times, attending client dinners and occasionally meetings.

“I wanted to explore the possibility of working in the sector, having previously studied economics and law, so some of the content is already familiar.

“It may be that, in the future, I will seek out a role that combines my writing/editing skills with newly acquired financial services/investment knowledge. The CISI level 4 exams seem doable for someone currently working outside the financial services sector.

“The biggest challenge at the moment is fitting studying in alongside work and other commitments. Having passed UK Regulation and Professional Integrity [a unit of the CISI Investment Advice Diploma], I plan to complete the Investment Advice Diploma (level 4).”

Operations Qualifications Pathway

This pathway provides professionals with specialist knowledge and expertise to foster strong careers in all areas of investment operations including asset servicing, collective investments, platform services, derivatives, pensions, settlements and securities services.

Kieran O’Dea (pictured below), retirement solutions associate at Fidelity Investments, is one of four award winners in the Introduction to Investment: The Foundation qualification (level 3) category. He said: “My career in finance started after I did work experience with a reinsurance firm in London. I decided it would be more beneficial to start a career in finance, gaining on-the-job experience and working towards relevant qualifications, than to go to university. I applied for a job within Fidelity's client services team and spent a year learning about the sector, before being given the opportunity to move to the retirement solutions team to specialise in retirement products.

“I decided to study for the Investment Operations Certificate (IOC, level 3) because I wanted to open the door to further qualifications and future job opportunities.

“I’m currently studying for the third module of the IOC, Pension Administration. I will then look to see which qualification will be best suited to helping make the next step in my career, financial advice.”

Gary Salmon ACSI of Quilter Cheviot in London achieved his award in Advanced Global Securities Operations (level 5). He said: “I started my career back in 2001 aged 16, working for the nominee department of a stockbroker. Looking at the current climate surrounding the uncertainty over Brexit and the increased technological advances in the sector, I wanted to better position myself in a possibly diluted future market.

“It’s hard working full time and studying, but remember, it’s not forever! I have two daughters, aged one and four, so weekends were impossible as family time was my priority. I had to sacrifice the gym to fit in my study time early mornings. I also had some time in the evenings to study, but it can be difficult to concentrate when the TV is on, so try and find a quiet spot away from distractions.”

Felicity Hooper MCSI (pictured below) of Investec Wealth and Investment based in Dorset achieved two awards: for Global Operations Management and the Diploma in Investment Operations (level 6). She said: “The Global Operations Management exam covers a wide range of topics, so it requires a broad industry knowledge. Having this knowledge has improved my understanding of how other areas of the business impact on my role, this gives me confidence and allows me to be more effective.

“I would advise prospective candidates to put the time in; it is worth it! Don’t just rely on the workbook as the exam requires an ability to analyse and to apply a management perspective to the topics covered. You will need to be aware of the current industry relevant topics, so read relevant publications such as The Review.

“Some aspects of the exams covered topics where I didn’t have practical experience. I found talking to colleagues gave me a good insight into these areas. I also attended training sessions with a CISI training partner. Being able to discuss aspects of the material was invaluable.

“Now I’ve completed the Diploma [highest level of the Operations Qualification Pathway], I’m focused on maintaining my knowledge and keeping up-to-date with sector changes. I find using the CISI professional refreshers really useful in maintaining my CPD, as the courses on offer are relevant and up to date.

“I would definitely recommend CISI qualifications to others as they offer high standard, benchmark qualifications that not only aid in enhancing knowledge but help with career development in the operations area.”

Felicity’s exceptional progression through the Operations Qualification Pathway has been recognised and supported in The Review over the past few years – she features in the July 2016 edition as the winner of the Advanced Global Securities Operations level 5 award; she is on the cover of our anniversary edition in Q2 2017 as an “outstanding young professional” to look out for in ‘Future impact’, and today that prediction is proved correct with her outstanding achievement of the highest level award in this pathway. Well done Felicity!

Islamic Finance

The CISI Islamic Finance category has been developed to provide financial services professionals with specialist knowledge and expertise in all areas of Islamic finance, including Islamic economics, Islamic business ethics, Shariah and Islamic commercial jurisprudence, Sukuks, Islamic insurance (takaful) and Islamic corporate governance. Award winners in this category include Nur Masyitah Binte Borhan of Five Pillars for the Fundamentals of Islamic Banking & Finance and both Vinay Aggarwal of Standard Chartered Bank Dubai and Sive Ozer of Marriott Harrison for the Islamic Finance Qualification.

Risk and Compliance

Eleven award winners were celebrated in this category, a key professional area for building public trust and preventing reputational and financial disasters. The skills offered by those specialising in this important area are increasingly in demand in the jobs market. Our compliance and risk qualifications provide the specialist knowledge and expertise to foster a strong career in global financial compliance, financial crime, governance and risk management or regulation and compliance.

Seshantha Pillay of Investec Bank based in South Africa travelled to London for the awards ceremony, having achieved her award for Risk in Financial Services, a stand-alone level 3 award. She said: “As a Chartered Accountant I am new to banking and wanted to study something to help me with deepening my knowledge of the financial services sector, hence choosing the International Introduction to Investment module and the Risk in Financial Services module. The international focus of the course appealed as it provided a holistic view of the industry and was not limited to regional issues.

“The foundation that this qualification has provided has helped me to engage with stakeholders on a more level playing field because I am able to have the right conversations about the pertinent risks in their respective environments.

“I would suggest that if you are prepared to dedicate the time to working through the material, the reward will be well worth the effort. There is a level of confidence in knowing that what you are studying is on par with candidates across the globe. The qualification is internationally respected and I think being able to reference this on a resume really does set you apart from the pack.”

Corporate Finance/Capital Markets

This category includes securities, derivatives, financial derivatives, corporate finance transactions, financial markets, bonds and fixed interest markets or fund management. The five award winners in this category are: Jonathan Mida of Royal Bank of Canada for the Certificate in Corporate Finance (level 3); Nicholas Hawkins of Grant Thornton UK for the Diploma in Corporate Finance (level 6); Alexander Jones of Merrill Lynch International for the Capital Markets Programme (level 3); Ricky Shah for the Financial Derivatives (Diploma) and Sharon Nwankiti MCSI of Nomura International who is overall winner for the Diploma in Corporate Finance.

Wealth Management/Financial Planning

CISI wealth management and retail qualifications provide the specialist knowledge and expertise to support a strong career in wealth and investment management, qualifying professionals to advise clients under the UK’s Retail Distribution Review, in addition to other global jurisdictions. There are 11 winners in this category.

Andrés Enrique Gonzalez de Lara Sarria ACSI of Caixabank in Spain attended the event to receive his Certificate in Wealth Management (Spain). He said: “CISI qualifications have allowed me to update my knowledge on important issues as they relate to my private banker responsibilities towards my clients and employer. In such a globalised world, a CISI diploma qualifies you to the highest professional standard, allowing you to add an internationally recognised high-quality layer to your CV.”

Nicholas Thompson, Chartered MCSI of Redmayne Bentley in Leeds achieved his award for Private Client Investment Advice and Management (PCIAM, level 6). He said: “I first started at my current firm as a placement student as part of my sandwich degree. It was a great route into the profession.

“PCIAM features a broad syllabus, therefore I acquired a breadth of wealth management knowledge by undertaking this exam. It is often referred to in the examiner’s report as a “GP’s exam for wealth management” and I think that is a very good way to describe it. It equips you with a great knowledge base to move forward with.

“I completed over 300 hours of private study before the exam and found practicing past papers to be the most effective way of preparing for it. I am currently studying for the level 7 Chartered Wealth Manager qualification which is very well recognised across the professional sector and the obvious choice after completing PCIAM.”

William Vaughan MCSI of Brown Shipley in London achieved his award for the overall highest mark achieved in the CISI’s highest level qualification, the level 7 Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification. He said: “I chose to study for the CISI Chartered Wealth Manager qualification owing to the relevance of the syllabus to my role at Brown Shipley. The application of knowledge learnt to practical examples and how the objectives of clients can be best met was what appealed to me most.

“My role focuses on portfolio management and the knowledge gained from study for the Chartered Wealth Manager qualification has helped me to become more proficient in my role. My biggest challenges were covering the syllabus and finding the hours in the day to revise but I found that being both structured but also flexible with my study schedule not only made revision manageable, it also culminated in my success.

“The best thing about the Chartered Wealth Management qualification is that it is a combination of theory and application.”

Published: 23 Apr 2018
  • Wealth Management
  • Operations
  • Islamic Finance
  • Compliance, Regulation & Risk
  • Capital Markets & Corporate Finance

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