Training and Education – SAQ RM Certification: June 2017

In June the AFBS organised events in Geneva, Lugano and Zürich presenting the SAQ Certified Wealth Management Adviser CWMA training and certification programme: slides: ZH TI GE . This is a summary of the key points.

What is the SAQ certification?

The SAQ certification programme is set up along the international standards. It is in line with the ISO standard 17024, which "specifies requirements for a body certifying persons against specific requirements, including the development and maintenance of a certification scheme for personnel" (www.iso.org).

Is there a legal requirement for RM certification?

The financial services law (presently in Parliament) is expected to require RMs to be qualified at the level of the apprenticeship (Swiss Federal Certificate of Competence), but not necessarily with certification. It is expected to delegate to industry groups the competence to define minimum standards of qualification, which the FINMA can recognise as mandatory for the respective industry group.
The Swiss Bankers' Association positions the CWMA as a voluntary seal of excellence for RMs.

NB: While recognition of the standards comes from the FINMA, the content is defined by the participating banks.

How is the SAQ certification programme structured?

The certification programme consist of three independent modules:

  • Training and preparation is optional and can be tailored upon initial assessment of the candidate's needs.
  • Examination is compulsory for certification. It can be organised only by institutions recognised by the SAQ.
  • Certification is issued by the SAQ to all persons who have successfully passed the examination.

How is examination conducted?

Examination is organised by the providers according to the rules defined by the SAQ. It consists of two parts:

  • written: regulation with national or international focus; financial markets; financial products: 150 questions, 300 min;
  • oral: a client meeting: 60 minutes

Each module requires the pass vote of 70% of total score.

Upon what content is the examination based?

Body of Knowledge: Is the basis upon which certification is offered. It consists of different topical modules, which encompass general knowledge about financial markets, financial products and market-specific topics.

The body of knowledge is defined by the normative committee and the technical boards where each participating banking group is represented.

How is the knowledge being kept up-to-date?

Recertification is required every three years. Certificate holders need to provide evidence that they update their knowledge. They can do so by various means, such as through recognised trainings, supervised recertification in writing; classroom training on products and skills (min 24 learning hours); participation as expert in oral SAQ exams; training in relevant matters (minimum 24 learning hours)

What certifications are available?

At present four certifications are available: the advisor Private Clients and the advisor Individual Clients for retail banking; the Wealth Management Adviser and the Corporate Banker. Two more certifications are expected to be introduced in the realms of private banking and corporate banking respectively.

Which training and certification providers are on the market?

The following institutions are active regionally:

  • Fachschule für Bankwirtschaft: fsbz.ch (focus on in-house trainings);
  • Institut Supérieur de Formation Bancaire: isfb.ch (Geneva; with Kalaidos and SFI, SAQ approval imminent);
  • Centro di Studi Bancari: csbancari.ch (Lugano, Suisse Romande; with Kalaidos and SFI).

Training providers may adopt different means of teaching, such as e-learning, classroom teaching and others.

Info: SAQ: DE FR EN

What challenges did banks encounter when implementing certification?

Major challenges were to obtain buy-in from line management and from relationship managers themselves.

Since the certification belongs to the person and is issued by an independent body it quickly obtained recognition from RMs. They started seeing it as a seal confirming their own competence. For line management the certificate can show clients the importance given to internal organisation and quality of services provision.

What needs to be taken into account when implementing the certification?

Since training is not compulsory for access to examination and it may be difficult for the candidate to assess his knowledge, training providers offer assessments upon which a training programme is defined. Also candidates may sit mock-exams allowing to experience the examination situation prior to taking the real exam.

Solutions will have to be found in case of fail, as the examination can be repeated only after a cool-off period. Special solutions may also be appropriate for senior RMs who are planning to retire in a few years time.

Which banks are already certifying their relationship managers?

Beyond the two large banks, most cantonal banks and several wealth management banks are certifying staff. Four foreign banks are Bank CIC (Schweiz) AG; LGT Bank (Schweiz) AG; Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG; VP Bank AG.

Some foreign banks would like to benchmark their decision process with peers. Therefore, please indicate at what stage of implementation your bank is and let us know whether

  • You have already decided to implement SAQ CWMA certification, and by what date
  • You are in the process of assessing implementation
  • You decided not to implement SAQ CWMA / SAQ RM certification for the time being.

Please reply to wuergler@foreignbanks.ch by 25 Jun 2017. An anonymised evaluation will be sent to respondents.

Is there recognition of the SAQ certificate by foreign supervisory authorities?

There is no automatic recognition. However

  • Knowledge tested with the examination corresponds to a wide extent to knowledge tested by foreign certifications, which means that the training efforts of a certified RM are limited.
  • The SBA and the SAQ, jointly with training providers and banks, assess the possibility of having the certification recognised by foreign supervisory authorities. In such an instance, merely a specific exam regarding locally applicable specificities would have to be taken.