Chief executive's review
The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) is a global professional body, headquartered in London, with a strong UK base and wide international reach. Its 170 staff are spread over eight offices and governed by a board of Trustees.
In a normal year, this report would reflect on, and provide many examples of, how the Institute has, and continues to, help the public by improving the knowledge, skills, and integrity of those working in the wealth, financial planning and capital market sectors of the global economy. We are proud of its many achievements, especially during the first eleven months.
However, the impact of the Covid-19 virus has scared and scarred the world. Some countries are emerging from the global pandemic, but others are at very different stages and it continues to present a major threat to sections of our society and economy.
Like other disasters, thanks to numerous selfless individuals, humanity will survive and prosper. However, it is against this background that I present a short summary of the Institute’s contributions in the fields of education and integrity.
During the year we saw the retirement of our long-standing chair, Sir Alan Yarrow Chartered FCSI(Hon), who, under good governance arrangements, stood down after nine years. We are indebted to him for his leadership, advice, and passion for the Institute. It was fitting that Sir Alan retired after the annual dinner in October 2018, at which the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, spoke warmly of his achievements.
We are delighted to welcome the Institute’s fourth chair, Michael Cole-Fontayn MCSI, a veteran from Bank of New York Mellon and also chair of the investment bank trade body, the Association for Financial Markets in Europe.
Last year was a conundrum. On the one hand, we welcomed 3,066 new members, taking the total of fully qualified members to 25,897 in addition to 16,114 student members.
On the other hand, entries for examinations fell by 6%, partly reflecting the lack of business confidence and, in the UK, some banking roles moving outside UK borders in anticipation of its departure from the European Union.
For the UK, much of the year was surrounded by Brexit paralysis which slowly sapped business and public confidence. For 11 of the past 12 months, examination activity in the UK declined. The clear December General Election result revitalised confidence and there were encouraging signs of growth – which were abruptly halted by the unprecedented shutdown of all most major economies a few months later.
Nevertheless, although less than last year, over 37,000 (-7% on the previous year) qualifications were taken, 24,565 in the UK (-9% on the previous year) and 12,588 internationally (-3% on the previous year).
Financially, despite the tougher economic conditions and the shutdown towards the end of the year, we increased our net reserves by returning a surplus of £283k, while our investments rose strongly during the year but fell back to end the year almost neutral, taking the total level of reserves to £13.6m.
This positive financial out-turn has allowed us to continue to donate £150k to the CISI Educational Trust.
We are proud to be both a Chartered body and a charity. This means that we seek to maximise our objectives rather than our profits. That is not to devalue the importance of earning a surplus, as we receive no public income or government subsidy, but creating money is not our primary aim.
Being focused on our objectives allows us to consider the longer term and to carry out initiatives which might be the right thing to do for our profession and society rather than the most profitable.
As the Institute approaches its 30th birthday, we have been reflecting on the recent focus on ‘purpose’, contributing to the discussion by running a workstream amongst wealth management firms for the FCA, which is interested to consider what role purpose plays in determining behaviour and culture in financial services firms. As a result, we have started to consult our members and stakeholders in order to refresh and renew our purpose, and, although stalled by Covid-19, the consultation will continue later in the year.
Our second core principle – integrity – is as relevant now as it has
always been: finance continues to rely on trust. People buy from
people and if there is no trust, there is no transaction.
Our integrity case studies and guidance have continued to be well
received during the year, especially internationally.
Over 70,000 of our unique IntegrityMatters tests have been
completed and the Institute remains the only professional body
to require new members, and those taking some of our capital
market exams, to take and pass a unique integrity test.
However, not every member lives up to our expectations
and, during the year, 40 disciplinary cases were reviewed by
our internal panel, and seven cases were sufficiently serious
to be heard by the Disciplinary Panel, an independent
review body made up of CISI and lay members.
Regrettably, of those disciplinary cases reviewed by the
Disciplinary Panel, one member was expelled from the
Institute, three members received reprimands, one member
received a severe reprimand, one member had their
Chartered status revoked and, for one member, there was
ultimately no case to answer.
Membership of the CISI requires members to meet standards set
out within the Institute’s Principles as part of our Code of Conduct.
These Principles impose an obligation on members to act at all
times not only in compliance with the rules, but also to support
the underlying values of the Institute. The public needs to have
confidence in the integrity of members and we actively encourage
the reporting of behaviour which falls short of the Institute’s
The acquisition and assimilation of knowledge is one of our
core pillars. Our aim is that CISI qualifications and the body of
knowledge that accompanies them are recognised as the global
benchmark for wealth managers, financial planners, capital
market, compliance or operations professionals.
It was therefore pleasing to receive recognition from 14 further
jurisdictions during the year, taking the total to 62 and meeting
our strategic goal to reach 60 by the end of 2020.
Amongst the countries recognising our qualifications in 2019
was Saudi Arabia, where we are developing a suite of local
qualifications that will be taken alongside our global securities
and wealth qualification.
Our work in Africa continues to expand significantly, particularly
in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana, where we are working in
partnership with local regulators.
Lifelong learning, or continuing professional development (CPD)
is now the norm in firms and mandatory for our members. Since
its inception we have focused on providing high quality learning
experiences and, apart from the Financial Planning Annual
Conference, are at no additional charge.
This year we have expanded the quality and range of digital
learning, providing over 135 elearning suites, many in a variety of
languages, including Spanish, Arabic, French and Greek. As many
as 10,000 of these modules are downloaded monthly. CISI TV
has added 175 seminars, which were accessed over 82,000 times
during the year.
To make further use of technology, during the year we have
been consulting with our members on, and developing, a fully
responsive and interactive mobile app, which we expect to launch
in the summer. Thank you if you took part in this survey, results
from which will enable us to focus on delivering something you
want and need. The app will be available for both Apple and
Android devices, and will make learning even more accessible for
We are seeing strong growth in other countries, particularly the
Gulf region, where regulators, having first raised the level of skills
by introducing benchmark qualifications, are now focusing on
ensuring that individuals maintain their competence by actively
encouraging or mandating CPD.
Integration of services
Financial planning is an important part of the Institute’s core
activities and we are seeing an increase in demand for financial
planners being integrated into wealth teams as firms widen their
scope to provide full rounded advice to their customers
The number of members who have joined our Financial Planning
Forum has surged to circa 5,300, making the CISI the natural
home of real financial planning. We are delighted that financial
planning candidates are now taking our new level 6 Advanced
Financial Planning exam and then continuing along the pathway
to our updated level 7 Financial Plan Case Study, culminating in
the prestigious and globally recognised CERTIFIED FINANCIAL
With costs and value for money in the investment world generally
becoming more and more important, many wealth managers
see the value of adding a financial planning service to their
businesses. Adding this service should help with client retention
and growth in the years to come. To become a CFP™ professional,
entrants will need to hold sufficient exams to be authorised by
the FCA to sell retail packaged products (i.e. activity permissions
4&6). For those with only securities exams, the CISI’s Financial
Planning and Advice exam should be taken. Once checked by our
qualifications team, entrants can embark on the new Advanced
Financial Planning Diploma. More details can be found on our
Chartered Body Alliance
It is now two years since the formation of the Chartered Body
Alliance, which is a loose alliance of three professional bodies: the
CISI, the Chartered Insurance Institute, and the Chartered Banker
The enhanced cooperation between the bodies is proving
beneficial to members, who have been able to attend events
put on by other bodies and a number of tripartitely arranged
It has also allowed the three institutes to engage with regulators
at a high level and provide a direct route for them to speak with
People are the Institute’s special ingredient. As I have written
before, we are so fortunate to enjoy the assistance of many
hundreds of practitioners who voluntarily help us every year.
Some help with our exam panels, some run our Professional
Forums, some write articles for us and some run our regions.
We owe them a huge debt of gratitude because, without our
volunteers, we would not have an Institute.
Most of us will have used technology while working remotely, so
will be familiar with its benefits, but also its shortfalls. Humans are
social and, especially during times of crisis, including significant
market volatility, they need and value advice, especially from
professionals, the vast majority of whom possess high levels of
empathetic and relationship skills.
Therefore, we place a high value on our regional networks and
forums where individuals can learn, debate and enjoy fellowship.
During the year we have been part of the government’s Financial
Services Skills Taskforce, led by former Minister and chair of Flood
Re, Mark Hoban FCSI (Hon). This year-long review concluded in
January 2020, setting out the challenges of attracting talent to
the sector, including providing reskilling opportunities, especially
for those in the more administrative roles, which are increasingly
Professional bodies have a large role in helping to retrain and
reskill members and employees, especially in what are seen
as ‘soft’ skills, such as creativity, emotional intelligence and
Under the banner of the Chartered Body Alliance, the CISI will take
a seat as a director in the first year on the new Financial Services
The Institute is a charity and we are fortunate that so many
dedicated professionals wish to help us meet our objectives
across the world. During the year we adopted a number of new
initiatives, including enhanced maternity/paternity provision and
remote working as a standard option.
All staff now have laptops, which proved critical when we needed
to close the office due to the global pandemic and move to
remote working in London (118 staff) and in Colombo (50 staff).
Although we are not required to report our gender pay gap, it
is 15%. However, we do not support the use of quotas and will
continue to appoint on merit. We already recruit on a genderblind basis.
As we move into 2020 we know that these are difficult times for
everyone, and I have been delighted and impressed by how well
everyone has adapted and quickly moved from dealing with
the immediate dislocation to business as normal, which means
actively seeking to help our candidates, members and the public
with their learning experience.
I thank our staff, especially, for their dedication and commitment
during this difficult period.
The impact from the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for many
years, not just the significant loss of economic activity and knock
on effects, but also in a potential rethink of the importance of
global financial centres.
We as an Institute can expect a loss of around £2m to £3m for
2020/21 as we evaluate the lasting effects of a very different
economic environment. Fortunately, we have significant reserves
for precisely such unexpected situations, which have allowed us to
continue to pay all our 170 staff their full salaries.
When we emerge, we may be faced with a different landscape and
different challenges, but we are well prepared to meet it.
Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI