SAQ Certification

Questions and answers

Larissa Kungudi, ISFB Quality Manager, April 2023

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the SAQ certification?

The SAQ certification is the Swiss Bankers Association's response to the training requirements set out in the Financial Services Act.

It consists of an evaluation of technical and behavioral skills, divided into one or more written exams and an oral exam.

To this end, the SBA has commissioned the Swiss Association for Quality (SAQ) to set up this certification program in accordance with the content requirements set by the SBA.

SAQ certification is not a training requirement; training requirements are part of the recertification process (see recertification section of this document).

The SAQ certification is available in six variants depending on the type of clientele for which the candidate is responsible:

  • retail (retail customers CP and individual customers CI) ;
  • wealth management (affluent clients or high net worth CWMA ;
  • company (SME or large companies CCoB.

ISFB only conducts CWMA certifications.

What is ISFB's role in certification?

As an SAQ-approved subcontractor, ISFB is authorized to produce and administer written and oral examinations according to SAQ standards.

To this end, both the written and oral exams (content and organization) are subject to a rigorous control process and are regularly audited by SAQ.

ISFB organizes and administers the examinations according to the regulations set by SAQ and the content (topics, scope of the examination) determined by Swissbanking.

The ISFB is not the certifying body and as such is not competent to determine whether a person is eligible to be certified.

In what language can I take my SAQ certification?

The SAQ certification is delivered in French, English, Italian or German, according to the candidate's choice.

The ISFB is only active in the English and French versions.

If you wish to do your certification in one of the other two languages, we can put you in touch with a colleague organization.

Is SAQ certification mandatory?

SAQ certification is a standard and generally accepted industry solution for meeting the requirements of the FSLA.

This solution has been chosen by the vast majority of banks and financial institutions.

The SAQ certification is not legally binding and is not made mandatory by FINMA to practice its profession.

In addition, some banks require their employees to have this certification to ensure customer accountability.

How were the contents of this certification determined?

All examination and examination questions are the responsibility of the SAQ Standard Committee.

This committee is made up of employees of Swissbanking member banks (you can find the composition on the SAQ website).

The following aspects are determined by the standard committee:

  • Subjects of the examination
  • Scope of the examination
  • Level of difficulty of the questions
  • Degree of complexity of the questions (knowing, understanding, calculating, analyzing etc.)
  • Weight of each theme in the review

The ISFB exam questions were written by external experts (people employed by member banks) and approved by SAQ.

Who is eligible for certification?

The persons eligible for certification are bank employees in contact with customers (notion of "customer facing employee") and having a customer responsibility ("a book").

Investment advisors may also be eligible.

I am no longer employed, what happens to my ability to continue my education?

You have 3 years to complete the certification from the time you take your first written exam. If you are no longer employed, the 3-year time frame is not extended and you are not eligible to take the exams until you return to work.

I am changing employers, what does this mean for my certification process?

Although generally encouraged and/or sponsored by the employer, SAQ certification is personal and portable.

A change of employer does not affect your eligibility or your acquired results.

Since SAQ subcontractors such as ISFB have exams and training paths that are not perfectly similar, we recommend that you continue your certification course with the same subcontractor.

How long does it take to complete the certification?

You have 3 years from the first written exam to complete your course.

In practice, the vast majority of candidates complete the program in 9 to 15 months.

How do I register for certification?

The registration is manual and is done by return mail to the Program Manager SAQ Larissa Kungudi

All exam dates are available on our website by semester here.
You will find the dates of the written exams as well as the dates of the oral exams. Please note that the dates of the placement tests correspond to the dates of the written exams.

I have passed my 3 exams, what are the next steps?

Once you have passed the 3 exams, the ISFB will contact SAQ to register your results.

You will then obtain a certificate with a unique number that attests to your certification.

It will then be your responsibility to maintain the validity of this certificate through training courses approved by SAQ as certifying a volume of 24 hours of training in 3 years.

How is certification organized at ISFB?

CWMA SAQ certification follows a standard and logical process which is as follows

  • You register through the site
  • You take the 2 positioning tests A and B
  • You get your access codes to the e-learnings
  • You study for Part A and take the exam on the date of your choice among the dates indicated on the site here
  • You study for Part B and take the exam on the date of your choice among the dates indicated on the site here
  • You take the oral exam
  • The ISFB reports your results to the SAQ and requests the issuance of your individual certificate
  • You receive your certificate


What is the format of the written exams?

The written examinations are administered as two separate examinations, Part A and Part B.

Each part consists of 75 multiple choice questions with only one correct answer and covers different subjects. Each question has a weighting of 1 point: a correct answer gets 1 point, a wrong answer 0 points.

The duration of each exam is 2.5 hours.

You are not entitled to any material for your exam except a calculator which is provided by the ISFB

What is the content of the written exams?

There are two CWMA written exams: the domestic and the international.

The tables below show the contents of each exam with the number of questions per topic.

The weighting of each subject is set by SAQ.

What is the placement test?

The placement test(s) is a written exam offered by ISFB before your training: there is a part A and a part B exam.

It has the same characteristics as an official exam in terms of form, duration, weighting of questions or difficulty.

The positional test is a preparation tool that serves three purposes:

  • offer you the opportunity to experience the conditions of an exam
  • find out what form the final exams take
  • to make a theme by theme assessment of your degree of preparation for the different subjects and thus to orient your preparation and training

Since the placement test can be considered as a check-up, it is not necessary to prepare for it.

What are the requirements for passing the written exams?

Each partial examination (Part A; Part B) must be passed independently.

The pass mark is 70%, or 53 points out of a maximum of 75 for each of these two exams.

Each exam can be taken up to 3 times.

If you fail a partial exam, you only have to retake that exam and not the whole one; in other words, a partial exam is a pass.

However, if you fail a partial exam three times, you will have to serve a 12-month deferral period and then repeat the entire recertification process, i.e. both the A and B exams.


What is the form of the oral exam?

The oral exam takes the form of a mock interview with a client.

The role of the client is played by an expert and a second expert plays the role of observer.

The interview lasts 60 minutes.

You will receive your case data which includes all the necessary information about your client allowing you to prepare your interview one week before your exam.

What skills are tested in the oral exam?

The oral exam is designed to highlight interpersonal skills, not technical skills.

The competencies evaluated are the subject of a 20-criteria evaluation grid.

The 20 criteria - which are not revealed to the candidate - can be assimilated to one or the other of the six meta-competencies below (you will find them in the SAQ exam regulations as well as on the oral case data that you receive 1 week before the exam).

  • The client's personal and business needs and objectives, as well as their strategy, must be fully understood and must encompass the entirety of their problem.
  • Concrete proposals across the entire value chain should be brought to the customer and, if possible, a concrete sale should be made. At the very least, you should obtain the customer's agreement to further discuss the matter at a later date.
  • The client's questions must be accompanied by relevant answers that highlight your competence: in addition, a professional consulting experience must be provided to the client
  • The use of sales and consulting methods and techniques (handling objections, discovering needs, etc.).
  • Establishing a relationship of trust with the client
  • Conducting a structured and efficient interview with the client

What documents am I allowed to bring with me to the oral exam?

You can bring your personal notes and any material from your establishment that you deem necessary (prices, marketing documents, product sheets, etc.).

All documentation you bring to the examination, as well as your personal notes taken during the interview, must be returned to the experts


When do I receive my result?

You will receive your results usually between 15 and 30 days after the examination.

Your result is sent by e-mail.

Can I see my written exam paper?

A consultation of your written exam is only possible through an official complaint.

SAQ - not ISFB - becomes your official contact for claims

You will find on the SAQ website all the information on the procedure to follow in the document "Guide to legal proceedings".

What is the procedure for complaints about the oral exam?

A consultation of your oral examination is only possible through an official complaint.

SAQ - not ISFB - becomes your official contact for claims

You will find on the SAQ website all the information on the procedure to follow in the document

"Guide to legal remedies

What are the success rates?

Statistics on overall success rates are compiled by SAQ and are not reported.


When and for how long will I have access to my e-learning?

You will receive your e-learning access codes at the same time as your placement test results.

Your accesses will be automatically turned off at the end of your certification.

How many hours of review are required on the e-learning platform?

The investment of time is a personal matter.

On average and according to the candidates' indications, 40 to 60 hours of personal investment seems to be the norm

Can we know the detailed study program?

The study program is available on the e-learning platform and will detail the topics of the exams for parts A and B

What is the right study strategy to adopt?

The results of your placement tests are provided with a breakdown of the results by subject. Start by studying the subjects on which you can earn the maximum number of additional points.

For the number of points per question, refer to the table above in the document

What is the difference between domestic and international CWMA certification?

The CWMA (Wealth Management) certification is available in two versions, domestic and international.

The version is chosen by the candidate according to his affinities in terms of clientele (offshore vs. on shore).

The two versions are almost similar and differ only in these points:

  • For the written exams, the content of the topic on estate planning is different (Chapter 6)
  • The domestic program includes two additional subjects, basic products (card accounts) and mortgages (chapter 11 & 12)
  • The fictitious client in the oral case has a different profile

Is it mandatory to take a training course?

Although specific training is a facilitating factor in preparing for the exams, SAQ certification does not impose any volume or form of training.

Do you offer training?

The ISFB offers different training formulas via e-learning and or in face-to-face classes.

For any information or advice, please contact Frédéric RUIZ 058 414 40 41

What training do you recommend?

For a personalized advice according to your results in the positioning test, do not hesitate to contact Frédéric RUIZ 058 414 40 41