Investment Management Certificate (IMC): A Useful Guide

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Did you know that in certain situations, the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) can be more suitable than taking on the CFA exams?

With over 5,000 exams sat each year, IMC is the most widely-recognised and established qualification of its kind in the UK.

The IMC has been used by investment professionals for 25 years, and is taken by staff in leading investment firms in the UK and overseas. With online proctoring from July 2020, IMC exams are now available globally as well.

The IMC is the investment industry’s benchmark entry-level qualification, so if you’re looking for a lighter approach to the CFA program, but still have a strong recognition in the industry, read on to find out more!


What Is Investment Management Certificate?

investment management certificate introduction

Awarded by CFA UK, the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) is the benchmark entry-level qualification for UK investment professionals.

Launched in 1994, the IMC is used by leading investment management firms to demonstrate employee knowledge and competence for regulatory purposes, and by individuals working across all areas of the sector in developing their careers.

It has been recognized by regulators as the UK benchmark investment management exam, and is an FCA Appropriate Qualification for the activity of ‘managing investments’. It is also a powerful CV booster for fresh graduates looking to break into UK investment management sector.

To date, 42,500+ candidates have passed the two-part exam and hold the IMC designation, which requires approximately 220 hours of study. Commonly viewed as a stepping stone to the CFA program, IMC covers the key topics of economics, accounting, investment practice, regulation and ethics.

Investment Management Certificate (IMC) exam candidate profile job roles

In terms of candidate profiles: over 50% of IMC candidates sitting the exam are actively involved in front office investment activities, including portfolio management, research, investment consulting, risk management and relationship management.

IMC is generally considered suitable for anyone working in an investment-related role. Typical roles include portfolio manager, research analyst, risk manager, relationship manager, wealth manager, sales & distribution, operations, IT / technology.


IMC Exams, Summarized

Investment Management Certificate (IMC) In a Nutshell

The IMC designation is a two-part, computed-based testing (or remotely proctored) examination:

  • IMC Unit 1 consists of 85 questions in 1 hour 40 minutes, whereas
  • IMC Unit 2 consists of 105 questions in 2 hours 20 minutes.

Whilst there are no constructed-response type questions (‘essay’), there are 3 types of questions in IMC exams:

  • standard multiple-choice
  • item sets
  • gap-fill style (where you have to type in the answers to ‘fill the gap’).

​Unit 1 focuses on a broad introduction into the investment environment, covering how financial markets work, ethics, client advisory and UK tax, legal and financial regulatory system. Unit 2 is more application-focused: diving into topics such as economics, accounting, financial mathematics and statistics, learning about asset classes and the investment management process.

Similar to most other professional designations such as CFAFRM or CAIA, the IMC designation is also a self-directed learning program:

  • In terms of study hours, it is recommended that IMC candidates devote around 220 hours in total to complete the certification (100 hours for Unit 1 and 120 hours for Unit 2).
  • CFA UK publishes the Official Training Manual (OTM), which forms the syllabus IMC exams are based on. The syllabus is updated every year on 1st December, and covers exams taken during 1st Dec to 30 November that year. It is important to make sure you have the right syllabus for your exam timeframe.
  • Roughly 20-30% of candidates are self study candidates (who solely use the OTM without third party materials). However, if you are considering additional study support then there are lots of third party providers available.
  • If you are a working professional, you should be able to reasonably balance exam preparation with your work schedule.

The IMC exam can be taken every working day at Pearson VUE test centres in the UK, and at selected overseas sites. You can also take the exam at home via its online proctoring service from July 2020. You can find your nearest IMC test center here. Candidates are required to sit the exam within 12 months of the registration date.

Once each exam is completed, you’ll get a provisional result statement before leaving the test center, and the official result via post within 21 working days from your examination date. The result is a simple pass or fail, with no details on exact score. However, if a candidate fails, indicators of areas of weakness will be given to guide candidates on their relatively weaker topics.


IMC Exam Pass Rates & Pass Marks

The IMC is a Level 4 qualification, which means that the level of difficulty of the qualification broadly equates to the first-year of an undergraduate degree.

Here is a chart comparing the difficulty of IMC vs other financial qualifications:

IMC exam difficulty comparison financial designation

The latest pass mark for IMC Unit 1 and Unit 2 exams ranges from 65%-75%.

On average, IMC Unit 1 and Unit 2 have pass rates of 65%-80%, which is expected for a foundation course to investment management. To pass the examination, candidates need to achieve an overall pass mark/score regardless of where the marks were distributed throughout the examination.


IMC Exam Topics & Weightings

IMC Unit 1 Exam

The IMC Unit 1 exam mainly focuses on the introduction to financial markets, accompanied with legal, taxation, regulatory and ethical considerations required in client investment advisory. It consists of 85 questions with an allocated time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

​The topics areas and exam weights are as below:

IMC Unit 1 Topic AreasWeighting
​Financial Markets and Institutions12% – 24%
​Ethics and Investment Professionalism6% – 18%
Regulation & Legal Concepts29% – 41%
Client Advice18% – 29%
Taxation in the UK12% – 24%

IMC Unit 2 Exam

The IMC Unit 2 exam consists of 105 multiple-choice, item sets, and gap-fill style questions, with an allocated time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

IMC Unit 2 builds on the foundation of Unit 1 and focuses on application during investment practice, covering topics such as economics, accounting, quantitative methods, asset classes and portfolio management.

​The topics areas and exam weights are as below:​

IMC Unit 2 Exam Topic AreasWeighting
Quantitative Methods10% – 19%
Economics (Micro & Macro)5% – 14%
Accounting10% – 19%
Asset Classes
​(Equities, Fixed income, Derivatives, Alternative Investments)
24% – 29%
Investment Theory, Management & Measurement24% – 29%

IMC Exam Fees (GBP £)

IMC exam fees are pretty straightforward and significantly cheaper than CFA exams:

Fee TypeIMC Unit 1IMC Unit 2
1) Exam Fees (and Retakes)£280£300
2) Official Training Manual (OTM), i.e. IMC Syllabus£105 + Shipping
​(£6-£25 depending on country)
£110 + Shipping
​(£6-£25 depending on country)

There are minor savings if you purchase both Units’ OTMs, but this depends on your exam timeline as candidates need to be mindful that the IMC syllabus gets updated annually on 1st December and lasts for one year until 30th November.

The fees are the same even with online proctored IMC exams.

As you can see, IMC can be a cost effective, low barrier yet reasonably prestigious qualification to kickstart your UK finance / investment management career.

With some discipline and determination, one can actually complete the IMC qualification quickly for around £800!

Of course, this assumes self-studying without additional third party material and passing both units in the first try (which is a reasonable assumption given the relatively high pass rates).


IMC Exam Dates

Unlike most other financial designations, candidates can sit for the IMC exams throughout the year (except holidays and weekends).

That said, candidates must carefully plan the time of exam registration, bearing in mind that the IMC syllabus (Official Training Manual, OTM) gets updated annually on 1st December and remains until 30th November the following year, unless otherwise necessary. ​

Here’s a quick summary of the registration and exam scheduling details:

Exam RegistrationIMC exam registration is done through CFA UK.

Upon registration, candidates will receive an email confirmation providing scheduling instructions, a unique username and password.

Note that candidates can only view exam availability after registration.
​Exam SchedulingAfter registration and payment, candidates will need to wait for 2 working days before they are permitted to schedule an exam.

To do so, they need to login to Pearson VUE’s website to select a date, time, and location to take the IMC exam. Similar process applies for online-proctored IMC exams.

Candidates can sit for exam on most working days in one of 52 locations across the UK or selected centres worldwide.
Exam ​Registration ExpiryCandidates have 1 year from initial exam registration to sit for the exam.

Otherwise, the registration will expire after 1 year with no refunds given. Re-registering will cost the same exam fee each time.
​Number of Exam AttemptsCandidates are not allowed to take an IMC exam (i.e. either one or both units) more than 4 times in any 4 month test window.

No further attempts are allowed once a candidate achieves a passing score.

For resits, candidates need to wait 3 working days after the exam date to re-register for the exam.

Note that all candidates are only permitted to attempt each unit of the IMC exam only once per calendar month.

What Are the Requirements for IMC Qualification?

One of the best features of the IMC qualification is the lack of requirements given its foundational nature, despite its relative prestige as a potential stepping stone to other finance qualification.

There is no requirement to have completed any other qualifications prior to taking the IMC. For typically 60%-80% of candidates, the IMC is their first professional qualification.

In order to complete the IMC qualification (and use the IMC designation in your CV), all you have to do is:

  • pass IMC Unit 1 and Unit 2 exams;
  • join CFA UK as an IMC member by paying an annual fee of £120.

Unlike the CFA qualification, there is no working experience required for the IMC certificate.

Exemptions are available for 1 unit of the IMC exam depending on circumstances. Interestingly, CFA candidates who have passed IMC Unit 1 exam can apply for Unit 2 exemption if:

  • They have passed CFA Level 1 or 2, providing no advice to retail (private) investors is undertaken.
  • They have passed CFA Level 3, including those who advise retail (private) investors.

That said, IMC candidates who are successful in applying for an exam Unit’s exemption still have to pay the same exam fee for it. More details on IMC exemptions policy on CFA UK’s website.​


Benefits of An Investment Management Certificate

Given its relatively low cost (from a money and time investment perspective), the IMC qualification can be particularly beneficial for those at the beginning of their finance / investment management career.

Once you earn the IMC designation, you can expect to:

  • Boost your CV as a fresh graduate to differentiate yourself from the rest
  • Kickstart your career in investment management
  • become an FCA ‘Approved Person’ which may enhance your employability and earning potential in UK investment sector
  • Pave your way for further finance designation such as CFAFRM or CAIA as you further specialize.

For investment professionals and their employers alike, the IMC-CFA route provides a globally-recognised career progression.


IMC vs CFA: Which is Right for You?

In short, the CFA charter is an all-inclusive designation that focuses more on portfolio management at its highest level. On the other hand, IMC designation is an entry level qualification – it is designed for fresh graduates, career changers as well as investment support staff who are looking level up their basic knowledge in investment management. So, from a career building perspective, IMC is a lighter version compared to the CFA charter.

​It really depends on where you are in your career:

  • If you are a fresh UK graduate, and would like to explore investment management as a potential career, it is worth considering IMC as a starting point to explore the world of finance and what interests you, whilst boosting your CV. IMC can be a stepping stone to other financial designation (such as CFAFRM or CAIA) later on as you build up your experience.
  • On the other hand, if you are already in the finance/investment sector, and would like to further specialize in investment management, CFA would be a better bet as it works best with a few years of finance experience under your belt.

Here’s a quick summary comparing both designations:​

IMCCFA
Pre-exam qualificationsNone, but it is advised that a Bachelor’s degree prior to IMC designation provides a better career standing.​Have a bachelor’s degree; or

Final year undergraduate of a bachelor’s program; or

Have a minimum of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education over a minimum of 3 years.
Number of Exams2 units (fastest route is 2 months)3 levels (fastest route is in 18 months)
Exam FrequencyUnit 1 & 2 can be booked throughout the year, whether in-person or remote testing.

Maximum 4 attempts in 4 months​
From 2021, CFA exams will transition to computer-based testing for all levels with increased frequency:

Level 1: For 2021, 6x a year, in Feb, Mar, May, Jul Aug and Nov.

Level 2: For 2021, 3x a year in May, Aug and Nov, and 2022 onwards Feb and Aug.

Level 3: For 2021, 3x a year in May, Aug and Nov, and 2022 onwards May and Nov.
Exam FormatIMC question format consists of standard multiple-choice, item sets and gap-fill style questions.

Unit 1 has 85 questions
Unit 2 has 105 questions
Computer-based exams from 2021 for all levels:

Level 1: Multiple choice questions
Level 2: Item set questions (multiple choice)
Level 3: Item set and essay questions
Pass RatesBetween 65% and 80%​​The range of CFA pass rates since 2010:
Level 1: 36%-43%
Level 2: 39%-47%
Level 3: 46%-56%
Fees and CostsTotal minimum cost: ~ £800 (or around US$1,000)​One-off Enrollment Fee: $450
Registration fee (per level): $700-$1,000​​
Retakes: same as registration fee
Total minimum cost: ~US$ 2,600
Study Hours NeededUnit 1: 100 hours
Unit 2: 120 hours
At least 300 hours per level​
Post Exam RequirementsTo become IMC-qualified:

– Pass IMC Unit 1 and Unit 2;
– Join CFA UK as an IMC member by paying an annual fee of £120;
– No work experience required.​​
To become a CFA charterholder:
– Pass all the 3 levels of CFA exams;
– At least 4,000 hours of relevant experience, completed in a minimum of 3 years;
– Submit reference letters for 2-3 professional references;
– Become a regular member of CFA Institute;
– Adhere to CFA ethics and professional conduct.​

Overall, IMC offers an excellent career entry opportunity in investment profession, particularly valued by UK investment firms. It is a good value-for-money designation that requires relatively low time and money investment, and is a perfect stepping stone for future, more specialized financial designations like CFAFRM or CAIA.

So if you’re currently student or just aiming for a career in investment management in general, and unsure if you’re ready to commit to the CFA charter, the IMC qualification can be a solid starting point. You can always decide to follow up with a CFA charter later, and meanwhile you’ll have added valuable credentials to your CV.


Any questions or comments? Let us know in the comments below!

Meanwhile, you may find these related articles in our Beginner’s Guide series of interest:

Sophie Macon
Author: Sophie Macon

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42 thoughts on “Investment Management Certificate (IMC): A Useful Guide”

  1. Hi Sophie,

    thanks for your feedback.

    i am interested in banking/sell side careers as a starting point.
    And i will begin to connect with finance headhunters in the UK as advised.

    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Good evening,

    i am 39, holds Bachelors in Economic, with 9 plus years professional experience (Retail/Branch Operations) with a commercial bank in Nigeria.
    Now, i intend to switch career to investment/finance sector, and what are my chances of securing a position with IMC qualification to begin my new career?

    I & my family will be relocating to the UK in few months time.

    Kindly advise

    Reply
    • Hi Emmanuel, it is really hard to say, as it depends on what specific area of finance/investments you’re really interested in. More details would help?

      But what I do recommend is that it is a good idea to start speaking to some finance headhunters in UK to get an idea what/how the market is like, before you decide.

      Reply
  3. Hi, Is there any time window between doing Unit 1 and 2? I did unit 1 about 3 years ago, do I have to redo it if I want to do Unit 2? Thanks, Rachel

    Reply
    • Hi Rachel, as far as I’m aware, there are no time gap limitations between Unit 1 and Unit 2 of IMC at the moment. So if you want to take Unit 2 now, the only requirement you need is to register with the SAME email address as you did for Unit 1, so that they can reconcile your enrolments and know you’ve done Unit 1 in the past. Hope this helps, good luck!

      Reply
  4. Hi Does the manual to study for the IMC is only availbale in phisical delivery or can I access to it in an online platform after payment?

    Reply
  5. Hi, are there any online mock tests available to practice please? The CFA website only has 2 mocks. Thanks, Karla

    Reply
  6. Is it possible to study with FCA textbooks alone? Or is it advised to pay for additional training for Kaplan etc?

    Reply
  7. Hi there, I am from Ireland. Would it be worth my while doing this course. Would you know if it is recognized here as much as it is in the UK? I have completed Level I of the CFA exams, awaiting to do Level II in May and thought that it would be something I could achieve in the interim.

    Reply
    • Hi Oisin, if you’ve completed level 1 CFA, and intend to complete the designation to be a charterholder, it may not make much sense to add on IMC as it’s more of an entry level qualification. It may be worth your while to explore other complementary destination like Certificate of ESG or SCR (all in our beginner guide series linked at the bottom of this article), that may upgrade your knowledge in the ESG aspect, assuming your career goals are in financial services.

      Reply
  8. Hi Henry, yes, for Unit 1 exams in Dec/Jan, you would have to get the new syllabus (v18) that would be applicable for exams starting 1 Dec 2020-30 Nov 2021. That said, the new version 18 of the syllabus should be made available end of this month, so you could wait till then to start studying. If you ever can get your hand on a v17 of the syllabus, you can technically start studying now and see the changes comparing v17 and v18 of the syllabus later. But that may not be a worthwhile endeavour given the cost and having the compare the differences later, since you’re a few weeks away from the new syllabus being published anyway. Finally, depending on your schedule and availability to commit to study, it may be possible to even start studying now for Unit 1 before 30 Nov, although it would be tight. It would require 14-16 hours of study a week, so technically feasible but intense. Hopefully these options provide some good food for thought – good luck!

    Reply
  9. With today being the 5th October, this may be too short a time to revise for a take unit 1 before 30 November, however if I wanted to take the unit 1 exam later (say, December/January) would I have to wait until December 1st to get the updated syllabus textbook?

    Reply
  10. Hi Jack, it really depends whether you are able to dedicate sufficient time for Unit 1. Unit 1 requires about 100 hours of study, and that’s 1.5 hours a day (allowing for some buffer). For most candidates, this is doable even with a full time job, assuming you’ve no additional life commitment that may take up time post work. Yes, you certainly can take Unit 1 this year and Unit 2 after 30 November with the new syllabus (version 18) . You don’t have to sign up for 2 units at once, just for Unit 1, as any registration would start the 1 year time limit to sit for the exam. You can sign up for Unit 2 after passing Unit 1. Hope this helps!

    Reply
  11. Is it advisable to start the IMC now with 90 odd days left until Nov 30th? I would like some more info on how this works, can unit one be taken in this year and unit two be taken after dec 1?

    Reply
  12. Would it be possible to choose which Unit to complete first i.e. starting with the Unit 2 exam then completing Unit 1. Or does it have to be in order?

    Reply
  13. How are you Sophie? I have started with Investment Foundation programme then I will progress to Investment management certificate hopefully next year

    Reply
  14. How are you Sophie ? Does IMC prescribe calculators like CFA ?Or you can use any calculator.When is the writing of exams resume after the Covid19?Can I pay for my exams in Rand’s at current exchange rate?

    Reply
  15. Considering what’s happening with the pandemic right now is there an option to do the IMC exam online? And if not when will I be able to sit it?

    Reply
    • Hi Jen – that’s a good question! The IMC exam is not offered online, but you may be able to take it with the appropriate measures in a test centre near you. You can get the latest details on this from CFA UK’s website.

      Reply

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