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Why chartered institutes can help to boost your career

Timothy Barber
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SOME name changes are only cosmetic, but for the financial services industry, the transformation of the Securities &amp; Investments Institute into the Chartered Institute for Securities &amp; Investment (CISI) could improve the careers of many in the City. <br /><br />The body, which has over 40,000 members including stockbrokers, investment advisors, portfolio managers and wealth managers and which oversees a raft of professional qualifications, was last month granted its Royal Charter. Ruth Martin, the CISI&rsquo;s managing director, says that at a time when the finance sector&rsquo;s reputation is so damaged, a charter for the body that sets investment standards is a crucial development &ndash; and it should spur a growth in membership.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our main aim is to raise professional standards, and to represent professional practitioners in excellence, in integrity and in competence,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We need to make sure we promote and prove these high standards, and being a chartered body absolutely underpins it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Chartered institutes are bodies that represent particular professions and set their national occupational standards. Many people&rsquo;s principal interaction with them is academic, with bodies setting key professional qualifications: 33,000 people have sat CISI exams this year, including 27,000 in the UK. However, only a small fraction of those chose to become members upon qualification.<br /><br />Becoming a member of such bodies can have benefits for career advancement, though. These include access to resources for continuing professional development, opportunities to network and, of course, the prestige of gaining membership.<br /><br />Among the best-known chartered institutes are the accountancy associations such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and others include the Law Society, the Chartered Insurance Institute and the Chartered Institute of Personnel &amp; Development. <br /><br />Unlike accountancy or law, for those working in finance there is currently no mandatory requirement to hold membership of a professional body, but this could change. The Financial Services Authority&rsquo;s Retail Distribution Review, published in the summer, recommended a mandatory minimum level of qualification for those involved in selling financial services products to members of the public, as well as the introduction of compulsory continuing professional development. Justin Urquhart Stewart, director of Seven Investment Management, says more people becoming members of the CISI is essential to creating a more professional industry. &ldquo;Investment has never been seen as quite a profession in the same way as being a lawyer or an accountant, and it needs to be,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You wouldn&rsquo;t deal with lawyers who aren&rsquo;t qualified, and we have to prove that we have people who&rsquo;ve passed these qualifications.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>PROOF OF COMPETENCY</strong><br />That qualification process tends to be rigorous, and at the most fundamental level, membership of a chartered body is a proof of competency, since members must have the academic aptitude and practical expertise to complete it. Associate CISI members must pass one of the Institute&rsquo;s benchmark exams like the Certificate in Corporate Finance or a Level 3 Certificate in Investments. At the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), those who wish to become full members must complete the Chartered Manager qualification, submit evidence of management skills via an in-depth review by their employer, and meet with an interview panel. <br /><br />Beyond this, one of the principal reasons for joining a professional body is to become part of a club in which you can network with other industry professionals &ndash; the key way to open career doors. Institutes will hold regular events, seminars and receptions for their members. From charitable events to lectures, forum events for areas of professional interest to banqueting receptions, these are opportunities for people to become socially embedded in the industry while developing professional knowledge.<br /><br />&ldquo;You can get to know a lot of very useful people very quickly, and you&rsquo;re always picking up knowledge and information in the process&rdquo; says Martin.<br /><br />While companies will often support people in their membership of such bodies &ndash; though few directly require it &ndash; Ruth Spellman, managing director of the CMI, says the onus is on people to take their careers in hand and increase their employability themselves by qualifying for membership and joining. <br /><br />&ldquo;If it comes from the individual then it&rsquo;s almost better, because it shows initiative,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Gone are the days when you sat back and waited to be developed, you have to empower yourself and show that you&rsquo;re up there with the best.&rdquo; <br /><br />THE CISI&rsquo;S PROFESSIONAL CODE PRINCIPLES<br />&bull; To act honestly and fairly at all times when dealing with clients, customers and counterparties and to be a good steward of their interests, taking into account the nature of the business relationship with each of them, the nature of the service to be provided to them and the individual mandates given by them.<br /><br />&bull; To act honestly and fairly at all times when dealing with clients, customers and counterparties and to be a good steward of their interests, taking into account the nature of the business relationship with each of them, the nature of the service to be provided to them and the individual mandates given by them.<br /><br />&bull; To attain and actively maintain a level of professional competence appropriate to your responsibilities and commit to continued learning and the development of others.<br /><br />&bull; To strive to uphold the highest personal standards including rejecting short-term profits which may jeopardize your reputation and that of your employer, the Institute and the industry. <br />For further info visit www.cisi.org