The CISI’s Chartered Wealth Manager qualification – Routes to achieving success


Introduction to the Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification

There are many financial services qualifications available these days some specialized and some more holistic in the areas they cover. The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment’s (CISI) QCF Level 7 Chartered Wealth Manager (CWM) Qualification fits into the latter category. In my opinion, it is one of the few awards that tests the full range of topics private client wealth and investment managers need to know and understand and is therefore highly relevant to the development of people working within our industry.

It has a great deal of credibility too. It has been developed in consultation with leading stockbrokers, investment banks and industry trade bodies, including the Wealth Management Association (WMA) and is recognised by financial services recruiters as the best qualification for roles in wealth management

It also meets RDR exam standards and is FCA compliant for a wide range of regulated activities including: advising on and dealing in securities and derivatives, advising on retail investment products and friendly society tax-exempt policies and managing investments.

Is it straightforward to achieve?

Relatively speaking, yes. Subject to meeting the CISI’s minimum entry requirements of a suitable QCF Level 4 financial services qualification such as the Institute’s own Investment Advice Diploma, students can go on to take the three, three hour papers that make up the CWM qualification namely:

  • Paper 1 – Financial Markets
  • Paper 2 – Portfolio Construction Theory
  • Paper 3 – Applied Wealth Management

You should be under no illusions however, that straightforward means easy. Each of these exams has been designed to build an in-depth understanding of the industry with an expectation that students can apply their knowledge to a number of complex case scenarios. Whilst they do not have to be completed in order, it is generally sensible to do so as the syllabuses of the later papers build on the earlier ones.

The scope of each exam is very wide but particularly so with Financial Markets. It is a tricky paper to get through and the pass rate which usually hovers between 40% and 50% has historically been lower than the other two papers.

Are there any exemptions?

Few. What exemptions there are relate only to Financial Markets although as this is the paper that appears to cause the most angst, they are welcomed by many.

Candidates whom have achieved certain professional qualifications elsewhere will be exempt from the Financial Markets paper. The CISI states on its website that:

“Exemption from the Financial Markets unit will be granted to ACCA holders and CFA Charterholders.

MSc/MA degrees in relevant disciplines where there is a strong match with the content of Financial Markets unit will be considered.”

Candidates may also gain an exemption from the Financial Markets paper if they have taken certain routes with other exams provided by the CISI. Here you have to be a bit careful as in one or two instances, what appears attractive may not be so good after the candidate has gone through the time and expense of undertaking extra “gap fill” training. I will lay the standard exemptions out below including my interpretation of each:

  1. Exemption from Financial Markets will be granted to holders of the CISI’s Investment Advice Diploma (IAD) where candidates have passed UK Regulation and Professional Integrity, Investment Risk and Taxation, one of Securities or Derivatives and level 5 Private Client Advice.

This means that students who would normally complete the IAD with the first two of the above core papers plus a specialist paper from Securities or Derivatives can be exempt from Financial Markets if they then go on to complete the Level 5 Private Client Advice 3 hour written exam. In my opinion, this is one of the most attractive alternatives. The standard IAD route is common amongst entry level wealth and investment managers anyway so to then take the ostensibly less demanding Private Client Advice paper without any further requirements and gain an exemption from Financial Markets would seem a sensible alternative.

  1. Candidates who have passed the CISI Diploma Level 6 unit of Private Client Investment Advice and Management (PCIAM) and have completed the Core, Securities and Derivatives gap-fill training for RDR purposes, will be exempt from Financial Markets.

This seems an attractive route to take especially if a candidate has already passed PCIAM and there are close links between this exam and the remaining two papers of the CWM Qualification.

However, the gap fill! In terms of hours needed, a candidate would have to complete at least 5 hours for the core gap fill, one day for the Securities and two days for the Derivatives gap fill with a CISI recognized provider of gap fill training. So there is a time as well as monetary cost.

  1. Candidates who have completed the Securities pathway of the IAD (i.e. have passed UK Regulation & Professional Integrity, Investment Risk & Taxation and Securities) passed the PCIAM paper and completed Derivatives gap-fill, will be exempt from the Financial Markets unit.

Many of the points made in 2 above, apply here in terms of extra time and costs.

  1. Candidates who have completed the Derivatives pathway of the IAD (i.e. have passed UK Regulation & Professional Integrity, Investment Risk & Taxation and Derivatives) and passed the PCIAM paper will be exempt from the Financial Markets unit.

This route would appear the next most attractive to option 1 as an alternative to taking Financial Markets.

In summary, there are a number of routes to obtaining the prestigious CWM qualification. Candidates and firms should ensure that whatever alternative route they take, it is appropriate for the responsibilities and accountabilities to their role. Some firms may decide that the alternatives to the three core CWM papers are justifiable, others may decide that the main exams are there for a reason in terms of ensuring that investment advisers and managers have the necessary tools to carry out their roles in the most effective way.

We are more than happy to discuss all options to students and their firms alike to arrive at the most effective solution for you. Our new open course dates and brochures can be found at:








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