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Certified Financial Services Auditor, CFSA Certification: Details on Examination and Certification for Financial Services Auditors

Written by AnonymousAugust 31, 2011
"Financial Services Auditor Certification"

If you’re looking to improve your career in accounting, obtaining an accounting certificate is an excellent first step. Accounting certifications can expand your accounting knowledge and increase your proficiency in a specific area of the accounting field.

Introduction to Certified Financial Services Auditor Certification

Auditors are responsible for examining a company or organization’s financial information to determine its financial validity and accuracy. Along with this primary duty, auditors are also typically in charge of a number of tasks, including:

  • Reviewing internal control systems
  • Risk assessment
  • Fund accounting
  • Managing grants
  • Legislative oversight
  • Supervision of confidentiality rights

A Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) is a professional who works as an auditor in the finance industry.  Auditors may also be employed at:

  • Banks
  • Savings and loan organizations
  • Credit unions
  • Insurance companies
  • Security and commodity service providers
  • Holding and investment companies
  • Regulatory agencies
  • Credit agencies

No matter what sector of the finance industry you work in, earning your CFSA certification has the potential to:

  • Assure employers that you have undergone comprehensive training in financial services auditing
  • Provide new possibilities for professional growth
  • Expand your financial services auditing knowledge and skill set
  • Increase your earning potential

Key Steps to Certified Financial Services Auditor Certification

In order to qualify for CGAP certification, you must:

Either hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in any discipline or have two years of post-secondary schooling at an accredited organization plus three years of work experience in the financial services industry.

  • Submit a Character Reference Form signed by a CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CFSA, or your immediate supervisor.
  • Have two years of auditing experience in financial services, substantiated by an Experience Verification Form.
  • Pay an application fee, which is $75 for IIA members and $100 for non-members as of 2011.
  • You can still apply to the program and take the CFSA exam even if you haven’t met all these requirements, but certification will be withheld until all the necessary education and work experience has been completed.

You’re required to complete the program within four years of your application’s approval; otherwise all your fees and exam parts will be forfeited.

Details of the Certified Financial Services Auditor Exam

The CFS exam lasts three hours and 15 minutes and consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, 25 of which focus on one discipline of your choice: banking, insurance, or securities. These specialized questions focus on three key topics pertaining to that area of the financial services industry:

  • Products
  • Processes
  • The regulatory environment

All certificate holders use the designation CSFA regardless of their chosen specialty discipline.

The other hundred questions cover all three disciplines, divided into four domains or sections:

  • Domain I: Financial services auditing (25 to 35 percent of the exam)
  • Domain II: Auditing financial services products (25 to 35 percent of the exam)
  • Domain III: Auditing financial services processes (25 to 35 percent of the exam)
  • Domain IV: The regulatory environment (10 to 20 percent of the exam)

Preparing for the Certified Financial Services Auditor Exam

Preparing for the exam is a self-paced process with a number of different study options, such as:

  • Reviewing the IIA-published CFSA Study Guide, available for purchase on their website
  • Reviewing other books on government auditing
  • Answering sample questions provided by IIA
  • Participating in IIA seminars on financial services auditing practices and principle

Maintaining the Certified Financial Services Auditor Designation

The IIA believes that CFSAs should constantly update their knowledge and skills in order to keep up with developments in financial services auditing. Because of this, the CFSA recertification process is built around a rigorous continuing professional education (CPE) requirement standard.

The amount of CPE hours required varies depending on the level of your CFSA practice. If you’re currently practicing financial services auditing, you must complete a total of 40 CPE hours every two years. If you aren’t currently practicing, you can still use the CFSA designation as long as you complete a total of 20 CPE hours every two years. Failure to meet these requirements will result in an inactive CFSA status.

In order to qualify, CPE activities must be formal learning programs that contribute directly to your professional competence.

At least ten of the required CPE hours must be earned through your participation in educational activities. Approved educational activities include:

  • Professional education and development programs provided by accounting organizations
  • Technical sessions at accounting organizations’ chapter meetings
  • Formal in-house training programs
  • Programs sponsored by industrial or professional societies
  • Successful completion of college or university courses
  • Passing other certification examinations
  • Self-study programs designed to self-assess accounting knowledge

The remaining CPE hours can be earned through your participation in other approved activities, such as:

  • Publishing books, articles, research papers, and training materials in industry-related publications
  • Delivering oral presentations to peers on topics related to CFSA
  • Participation as an officer or committee member in a government auditing-related professional organization

Passing the CFSA exam gives you an automatic 20 hours of CPE credits in your first year.

You must also review or receive training on the IIA’s International Standards some time during the reporting period.

Though the IIA doesn’t require that you submit supporting documentation along with your CPE reporting form, you should still keep all records handy, as the IIA can request documentation at any time to ensure compliance with the requirement.

Governing Board Information

CFSA certification is issued by:

The Institute of Internal Auditors
247 Maitland Ave.II
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701

Associations to Join

The IIA doesn’t require that you register as a member in order to earn the CFSA designation, but membership does offer some advantages, such as reduced fees, discounts on review materials, access to seminars, and opportunities for networking.

Standard membership to the IIA costs $205 as of 2011. Students, educators, and retired individuals may qualify for discounted membership.

Individuals who want a lifetime membership to the IIA can pay a one-time fee of $2,100. Lifetime membership is automatically given to anyone who has been a member for 40 years or more.