Investment Operations Certificate: A Guide

What is the IOC?

The Investment Operations Certificate (IOC) is a professional qualification from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments (CISI).

What does it cover?

The qualification gives you a solid understanding of the financial services industry, the bodies, rules and legislation which regulate it, and underlying areas of specialism, such as derivatives, compliance and operational risk.

Who is it relevant for?

Anyone involved in an administration or operation area within the financial services industry.

It is particularly relevant for professionals working in asset servicing, third party administration, global custodian services and back office functions of asset managers.

What types of jobs require or would benefit from having an investment operations certificate?

Essentially all types of investment operations roles, including corporate actions, trade support, client administration, fund administration and fund accounting.

If you are, for example, a tax associate or project manager within investment operations, your primary qualifications will be either accountancy related (CA, ACCA) or connected with project management (PRINCE2, Lean Six Sigma).

However, holding the IOC will also help boost your attractiveness to employers.

How will it benefit my career?

For most people working within investment operations, obtaining the IOC benefits their career in a number of ways.

First, it expands your knowledge and industry expertise, providing you with the theoretical and regulatory frameworks to strengthen your practical skills.

Second, it’s a strong signal to current and prospective employers that you are hardworking, committed and can balance work and study.

Third, the investment operations certificate is recognised globally. So, whether you are looking to work overseas or join a company with international reach, the IOC will still be relevant.

Finally, it can be a stepping stone to acquiring further learning and qualifications. If you are successful in obtaining the IOC you join the CISI as an associate member. This gives you access to continual professional development, network events, professional forums and CISI masterclasses, among other benefits. 

You now also have the option to study towards ‘Managing Operational Risk in Financial Institutions (Level 4)’, the ‘Advanced Certificate in Global Securities Operations (Level 5)’ and the ‘Diploma in Investment Operations (Level 6)’.

Do I have to sit an exam?

Yes, the IOC exam is split into three parts. They are sat separately.

  • Introduction to Securities and Investments  
  • UK Financial Regulation  
  • One technical unit relevant to your role or area of interest (from a choice of 13): 
    • Asset Servicing 
    • Client Money and Assets   
    • Collective Investment Schemes Administration   
    • Combating Financial Crime 
    • Derivatives Operations  
    • Global Financial Compliance
    • Global Securities Operations   
    • IT in Investment Operations 
    • Managing Cyber Security  
    • Operational Risk  
    • Pensions Administration  
    • Platforms, Wealth Management and Service Providers  
    • Risk in Financial Services 

What is the exam format? 

‘Introduction to Securities and Investments’ consists of 50 multiple choice questions. It lasts one hour.

‘UK Financial Regulation’ includes 75 multiple choice questions.

You have 90 minutes to complete the exam. Depending on the topic of the technical module you selected, the exam will be made up of 50 to 100 multiple choice questions and will last between 1 to 2 hours.

Do you have any examples of typical IOC exam questions?

The following examples are types of questions that can appear in the ‘Introduction to Securities & Investments’ exam.

Q. A client holds an 8% bond which matures in 2016. It is currently trading at £124. What is the flat yield?

A. 1.80%

B. 5.16%

C. 6.45%

D. 25.81%

Q. Investing in bonds provides which of the following?

A. Regular income

B. Tax-free growth

C. Risk-free saving

D. Inheritance tax protection

Q. If money laundering is suspected, to whom must employees report their suspicion?

A. Compliance Officer 

B. Money Laundering Reporting Officer

C. Internal Auditor

D. National Crime Agency

Do I need prior qualifications to sit the exam?

No. There are no entry requirements. The exam can be taken by anyone.

How long does it take to study for the IOC exam?

The CISI recommends between 80 and 100 hours study for each unit. This equates to between 240 and 300 hours for the whole IOC.

How much does it cost?

Costs vary depending on which CISI-accredited training partner you enrol with.

You will also need to buy the official CISI workbook for each of the three units of the exam. These are available in various formats and can cost in excess of £100 each.

Some trainer partners include these costs in the quoted prices, others do not.

Registering for each unit exam carries an additional fee of around £50 per unit. Again, some providers include this, others do not. Overall, total IOC costs range from between £800 to £1200.

Will my employer pay for it?

It depends. For certain investment operations roles, employers will insist you either already have the IOC or intend working towards it.

In these situations, the employer will almost always fund the cost of the course, the exams and the required study materials.

If the IOC is not mandatory for your role, but you can put forward a strong case why it would benefit you and the company, your employer will often fund or at least part fund the costs.

How do I enrol in the IOC?

Visit the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment. You have the option of self-study or completing formal training through one of CISI’s accredited training partners (ATP). You can find an ATP near you here.

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