Becoming a Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM)

Finance professionals wishing to advance their careers may ask, is the path of Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) worth the effort? Find out here

Becoming a Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM)

The career path of a finance professional in Canada is an interesting one. Depending on the individual, their finance career can take on many different twists and turns, opting to take on more advanced courses to boost their knowledge (and hopefully their careers) and pursue other job designations.

An intriguing designation is that of Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM). As the name implies, the CIWM designation is a top credential for wealth management that knows no borders. Thanks to its portability and international recognition, finance professionals who obtain this designation have access to tremendous opportunities, as they can exploit career opportunities anywhere in the world.

In this guide, Wealth Professional delves into how to become a certified wealth manager, the Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) requirements, CIWM fees, and more.

Introduction to the CIWM Designation

The designation of Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) is a prestigious one and is recognized all over the world as a high-level credential for wealth management. This designation is an indication that finance professionals possess the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the exacting needs of high-net-worth clients.

CIWM designation is jointly conferred by the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI) and the Association of International Wealth Management (AIWM).

Eligibility criteria for CIWM certification

To qualify for the CIWM certification course, candidates must first have the prerequisite requirements and pass the Dealing with High-Net-Worth Clients Program from the Canadian Securities Institute.

The prerequisite requirements for registration in the CIWM Certification Exam include one of the following:

  • a Financial Planning (CFP, CLU, IQPF, or PFP) or an Investment Management (CIM, CIM or CFA) designation
  • completed CSI’s Wealth Management Essentials (WME) course

Earning CIWF designation consists of:

  • completing the Dealing with High-Net-Worth Clients program
  • having the prerequisite requirements
  • taking the CIWM Certification Examination

Meanwhile, the Dealing with High-Net-Worth Clients program consists of 5 online courses:

  1. Retirement Planning for High-Net-Worth Clients
  2. Investment Strategies for High-Net-Worth Clients
  3. Estate Planning for High-Net-Worth Clients
  4. Dealing with Special High-Net-Worth Client Situations
  5. Practice Management in High-Net-Worth Segment

Here’s a guide to certified financial planning courses to get you started.

What is the Dealing with High-Net-Worth Clients program?

This program is tailored such that financial planners obtain and develop the appropriate skills as Certified International Wealth Managers (CIWMs). Instead of merely focusing on asset management, financial planners develop holistic wealth management skills to make them the high-net-worth client’s private banker.

The program aims to equip financial advisors with the right knowledge and skills so they can provide the right financial services for high-net-worth individuals. The High-Net-Worth Clients program is the core educational component on the path to becoming a CIWM.

The program consists of several modules that make up a curriculum that is flexible, concise, and accessible to most learners; the program also considers prior learning.

The Dealing with High-Net-Worth Clients program’s modular nature can be part of students’ continuing education, as this enables learners to choose only the most relevant topics. Learners can earn CE credits in small increments across provinces. They can also get micro-certificates (represented by digital badges), course completions, and other certificates as they pursue the internationally-recognized CIWM designation. There are no prerequisite courses for this program.

Course exemptions for previously taken courses

Due to the prerequisite 3 years of experience in the finance industry, many candidates will likely have already taken other CSI courses that may pre-qualify and exempt them from specific courses. Here are the possible course exemptions:   

Exempted Course

CSI Course Granting Exemption

CSI Certificate Granting Exemption

Other Certification Granting Exemption

Retirement Planning for High-Net-Worth Clients

Advanced Retirement and Estate Planning Strategies; Advanced Retirement Management Strategies

Certificate in Retirement Strategy


Investment Strategies for High-Net-Worth Clients

Advanced Investment Strategies;

Investment Management Techniques

Certificate in Advanced Investment Advice; CIM


Chartered Financial Analyst

Estate Planning for High-Net-Worth Clients


Certificate in Estate Planning and Trust Strategy

Chartered Life Underwriter; Trust and Estate Practitioner

Any external designation recognitions are subject to the CSI’s policies, procedures, and fees.

Candidates who have prerequisite designations and/or completed recognized wealth management courses from other educational providers may also apply for course exemptions.

CIWM Certification Examination requirements

The CIWM Certification Examination is designed to assess the candidate’s expertise in developing strategies and relationships with high-net-worth clients.

This exam has 3 components, based on a high-net-worth client scenario to be completed over 8 weeks. The average effort required is estimated at a 25 to 35-hour long period.

Who should take the CIWM designation course?

The Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) is a diploma set at degree/graduate level with a strong practical focus. It is aimed at financial, legal and other professionals who already work in the wealth management industry and are keen to develop their in-depth knowledge and expertise. CIWM is tailor-made for:

  • investment advisors
  • financial planners
  • wealth managers
  • asset managers
  • portfolio managers
  • investment managers
  • relationship managers

Can you make a lot of money as a wealth manager?

As a Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM), you should be in a favourable position to earn a sizable salary. The salary range of a CIWM will depend on a few factors, such as:

  • years of experience
  • type of firm hiring (independent RIA, investment house, retail bank, etc.)
  • geographic location
  • investment performance and assets under management (AUM)
  • other relevant professional credentials you may have (CFP, CFA, etc.)

CIWM salaries according to employer

Large national firms

If you obtain CIWM designation and get hired at a top firm such as a Wall Street brokerage, you can expect to earn some of the highest salaries in the industry. Base salaries at large national firms typically start at:

  • $100,000 annually for junior roles
  • $300,000 annually for senior positions

The total compensation with bonuses can be in the range of $250,000 to over $1 million annually, especially for top performers. The main drivers of salaries in a large national firm are:

  • years of experience: the decades spent as a finance professional can impact on your salary
  • certifications and credentials: expect to earn more if you have other credentials apart from your CIWM, such as CPA and/or CPA-Attorney
  • book size: the total AUM brought in by the advisor
  • revenue generated: these include the commissions, fees, interest income you earned for the firm

Aspiring CIWMs can look to the more famous investment firms like UBS, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch. They offer the highest chances for lucrative wealth management careers due to their size, brand recognition, and access to high-net-worth (or even ultra-high-net-worth) clients.

Independent firms

While smaller, regional independent investment firms may not match the salaries offered by large firms, they can still offer substantial compensation. The base pay that they offer can typically range from:

  • $60,000 to $150,000 based on experience level
  • $150,000 to $500,000 for total compensation with bonuses 

As these are smaller companies with room to grow, compensation largely depends on performance-based commissions and bonuses. Key factors for these parts of a CIWM’s compensation include:

  • the assets you brought in from new and existing clients
  • the investment products you sold and revenue you helped generate
  • client retention rates
  • your years in the industry
  • your other credentials like CFP, CFA, etc.

The pay structure in a regional independent firm is typically designed to incentivize CIWMs to grow their business and cross-sell the value-added services they offer.

Registered Investment Advisers (RIA)

CIWM salaries at these independent practices or family-owned firms can still offer lucrative compensation packages. Base salaries in companies like these can often range from:

  • $75,000 to $150,000 a year for wealth managers
  • up to $300,000 with bonuses for high performers

Although the base salary range may seem small compared to larger firms, the most prestigious independent RIAs can pay top-performing advisors over $500,000. Pay is largely determined by:

  • AUM
  • client retention rates
  • years of experience
  • how much you win in new business
  • relevant credentials

The pay structure is modeled slightly differently from the independent firms – they emphasize the quality of their client relationships and customized services rather than sales quotas.

Another benefit of working as a CIWM in an RIA is that advisors have flexibility to build their practice, focusing on their individual areas of expertise.

CIWM salaries according to qualifications and experience

Apart from which types of firms are hiring, your salary as a Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) can vary according to the other qualifications you possess and the years of experience you have under your belt.

Starting CIWMs can expect salaries ranging from $50,000 to $75,000. Those with finance or accounting degrees can be offered slightly higher starting wages. Essential factors that impact entry-level pay for a CIWM include:

  • education level and field of study
  • relevant internship experience
  • financial certifications (CFP, CFA, etc.)
  • scores on skills assessments

Many firms offer extensive training programs for junior hires to develop sought-after skills such as:

  • financial modeling
  • client relations
  • wealth planning
  • portfolio analysis

If you perform well and have a high capacity for learning during training, this can lead to pay increases.

CIWM salaries, mid-career

With about 5-10 years of experience, CIWMs can expect to earn $75,000 to $150,000 as base salary. Additional compensation from bonuses and commissions can push their total pay to more than $200,000. Mid-career salaries may be boosted by:

  • their AUM
  • meeting their personal production goals or quotas
  • client retention rates
  • additional credentials and designations

Performance-based bonuses reward growth in assets, revenue, and bringing in new clients. Higher-performing advisors earn significantly (and sometimes disproportionately) more.

Veteran CIMW salaries

CIMWs with a decade’s worth or more experience typically earn base salaries ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. However, their total compensation with bonuses can exceed $500,000. What drives their earnings can include:

  • AUM: often $100 million or more
  • personal client rosters: 100 households or more
  • revenue generated from clients
  • rainmaking abilities: their prowess in getting more new high-net-worth or institutional clients

Advisors in the top 5-10% usually produce over $1 million in revenue while managing over $500 million in assets. These moneymakers can earn multi-million-dollar compensation packages from salaries, bonuses, commissions, and equity stakes.

In this video, some finance experts talk about CIWM designation and what it can do for them and their HNW clients:

The challenges and rewards of being a CIWM

As with many other financial designations, getting Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) status is a long, challenging process. For the intrepid financial advisor, the rewards can be immensely worthwhile, if they are willing to deliver beyond excellent service and earn their clients’ trust.

Becoming a CIWM can be considered a good career move with long-term prospects of making any ambitious advisor into a wealthy, successful, and fulfilled finance professional. Ultimately, that decision is up to the individual advisor to make. Only those who are prepared to work with high-net-worth individuals and institutions stand to enjoy the rewards of a CIWM career.

Is a career as a Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM) something you’d consider? Let us know in the comments