Paraplanning on the Front Line

When I joined Robertson Baxter some 18 months ago I did so having been a Paraplanner since 2008.  And during this time I have worked for a few firms, each which seemed to have a different view on what a Paraplanner was and how the role should be executed.

I have often found that as a Paraplanner you can be involved in the advice process as little or as much as you wish, but one thing I had not really done before was sit on the front line with the adviser and actually be part of the client meeting that I was about to conduct research on and write an advice report about.  This all changed with Robertson Baxter.

I have the benefit of working for a very forward thinking and open minded firm, and I wanted to share my experience about being part of the client meeting and how I think this makes the job so much easier to do in my opinion in the hope that it gives others of you out there the chance to give this a go and see how it works, not only for you but the adviser also, as it has benefits for both.

As a brand new client to the firm as a result of a referral to us, the initial step was to have a meeting with the adviser to establish their needs, requirements and circumstances.  The adviser wanted me to complete the factfind based on the conversation he was having with the clients, and also go through the risk profiling questionnaire with them.  A proper introduction was done by the adviser so the clients knew who I was, why I was in the meeting and what my wider role was.  We have found that clients appreciate this.  They feel more at home, relaxed and valued having two people in the meeting showing that you are dedicating extra resources to their needs.  It also gives the adviser some additional technical support should any tricky questions come up that even they may not immediately know the answer too.

Overall this allows the adviser to have a free flowing conversation with the clients whilst we complete the factfind and chip in every now and again for missing information.  One major benefit to this is the Know Your Customer (KYC) element.  You are in the meeting and are party to what is getting discussed.  How many times as Paraplanners have you been passed a basic fact find and you have thought, I can’t write this report because I don’t know what was said in the meeting?  Or it is missing some key information I need to piece the advice together.  Being in the meeting and making notes, you know you are getting a good factfind with all the information needed.  You are making sure it is filled in with all the information required to move onto the next phase of the advice process.  It has to be said that the adviser has the final say on the factfind, and post meeting will review the completed document along with any notes that I have made and maybe add to it where they see fit,  making this a duel exercise.

This also has major benefits when it comes to report writing.  Having been in the meeting you can create something bespoke and personal to the client which is something we pride ourselves on at Robertson Baxter.  Having been in front of the client, you have got a feel for them and their current circumstances.  I have always found this the hardest section of a report to write, but this has now become so much easier and free flowing following being in the client meeting.  This also applies to the advice itself, as you can understand and relate to how the client feels about what they want to achieve out of all this, and where their emotions lay in terms of their objectives.

It is also nice for the client knowing that they have now met you, put a face to a name and understand that it is you that will be going away with all this information and putting the advice together in conjunction with the adviser.  Finally, I have also found that should you come cross any information you may have missed or had an afterthought about, it is so much easier to pick the phone up to the client to ask for this post meeting.  They are more than willing to comply due to the fact that you have already met and built a rapport with them.

I challenge you to put this forward in your firms if this is a practice that doesn’t currently happen.  The benefits to both you as a Paraplanner and the Adviser in terms of paperwork completion and post meeting actions are clear to see.  I appreciate advisers suddenly putting in you in front of clients is a big change and some clients may not immediately take to this, but it may work better in practice at first with new clients rather than existing.

I personally aspire to become an adviser myself one day, and so I thrive on this client interaction as I feel it will stand me in good stead for a transition into this role when the time comes.  This is also something to bear in mind for those of you reading this have the same aspirations.


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