Paraplanning – Come Join The Gang!

What a difference a few years make! Whilst the financial services industry has never stood still for long, this ever-changing environment has seen the role of the Paraplanner become established, recognised and more importantly, respected. A Paraplanner is now seen as a valuable commodity within an IFA business.

We have seen the implementation of a new Paraplanning examination via the Institute of Financial Planning, Paraplanner of the Year awards, Paraplanning Conferences, dedicated Paraplanning websites, product provider sponsorship of Paraplanning workshops and events, and a plethora of high quality outsourced Paraplanning companies come to the fore. There are even colleges offering paraplanning courses. Exciting times!

So what makes a good Paraplanner? In no particular order –

1. Good communication skills– Paraplanners have to be adaptable at all levels due to the diversity of the individuals they speak to – product providers, the Financial Advisers and, in some cases, the clients.

2. Organisational skills – dealing with different Financial Advisers requires adaptability and importantly the ability to organise your working today. Being able to work smartly and efficiently is essential.

3. Understanding the paperwork and data systems – this seems pretty basic, but you need to be able to source the required data quickly and efficiently so the ability to find your way round the back office system or the client fact find is imperative.

4. Industry experience – financial services is one of the most complicated and ever changing industries to work in. You can never have enough industry experience!

5. Qualifications – an essential to increase knowledge and understanding and to put Paraplanners on par with Financial Advisers.

6. Technical knowledge – The level 4 Diploma qualification, though essential for Financial Advisers post RDR, is not a requirement for a Paraplanning role. However, many Paraplanners see this as a minimum standard already reached and will be progressing towards Chartered status.

7. Patience – so much paperwork – so much missing information!! Need I say more?

The route to becoming a Paraplanner is not clear cut – there is not a specifically defined career path and no ideal route into this role.

Many Paraplanners have progressed from administrative roles within the IFA office or a product provider environment. This is an excellent starting point, as administrators are key players in the smooth running of the office. They get to grips with the day to day running of the office, become familiar with the paperwork, deal with the data input onto back office systems and get to know the clients pretty well, as they are the first line of communication. Backing up their general day to day office skills and knowledge with financial services examinations makes them ideal candidates for a Paraplanning role.

There is no timescale set to confirm when an administrator is ready for a step up to Paraplanning; only the Financial Adviser and the administrator concerned will know when the time is right. Good administrators are worth their weight in gold. So supporting these individuals, involving them in tasks such as researching products, arranging illustrations and encouraging them to take their financial services qualifications will help them grow in confidence and become an even greater asset to the Financial Adviser and the business.

If your administrator shows an interest in the Paraplanning role, encourage him/her to involve himself in the Paraplanning community. We are a growing band of technically competent individuals who are happy to welcome new recruits. Point him/her towards for support from other like-minded individuals.

An alternative route is the recruitment of graduates. Though qualifications are all well and good, what is taught in the lecture hall is simply not what happens in the office. This doesn’t mean that these individuals are not ideal candidates, it just means that on the job training is required which could be time-consuming for the Financial Adviser. But again, there is no reason why graduates wouldn’t make ideal Paraplanners – they are technically competent individuals who have proven their dedication and intelligence at university and will be raring to gain valuable work experience.

The Retail Distribution Review and the impact of it is forefront in every Financial Adviser’s mind as we race through 2012. Raising industry standards to the minimum level 4 qualification is no bad thing, but is does mean an exodus of highly knowledgeable Financial Advisers from the industry. Would these individuals make ideal Paraplanners? Respected individuals with years of industry experience and technical knowledge– sounds perfect – but it could be a difficult transition. Not being able to advise their existing clients will be difficult for both the de-registered Financial Adviser and incredibly difficult for the clients to understand. There will be a place for individuals who genuinely wish to step back from the advice role and will be happy to take a back seat and maybe a Paraplanning role is the ideal position.

There has never been a better time to consider a role as a Paraplanner, so if you think this role could be right for you, explore the opportunities within your current organisation, think about additional qualifications if necessary and most importantly – do your research – it’s what Paraplanners do best!