The rise and rise of the paraplanner

Technical Assistant, Dan Willers, recently took part in a Q&A article for Brooks Macdonald. Read the full article here:

Demand for paraplanners keeps on growing, not least because advisers are under increasing time pressure, but what makes a good paraplanner? Jen Hill speaks to leading paraplanners about where the industry’s headed next.

The role of the paraplanner has evolved from administrator to technical professional that many advisers would struggle without.

Professional bodies have formally recognised the role recently, providing dedicated training programmes and resources – giving credence to it as a career choice. How has this evolution affected those working within the industry?

“My job is learning to work with clients with all their foibles, which is challenging and enjoyable,” said Samantha Secomb, a director of Kent-based Pentins Financial Planning. “The technical side requires a completely different skill set.”

Paraplanners main skillset

Secomb believes paraplanners need to be analytical with good report writing ability. Ensuring tasks are seen through to completion (to enable fee-earning advisers to spend more time with clients) and questioning an adviser’s actions (to ensure the client receives the best advice) are also invaluable qualities, according to Adam Wareing, head of paraplanning at Cheshire-based Clarion Wealth Planning.

For Dan Willers, technical assistant at Robertson Baxter in Huddersfield, the main qualities are technical knowledge and attention to detail.

“Analysing a client’s circumstances, forming recommendations and then putting all that into an advice report requires these two qualities in abundance,” he said.

Indeed, paraplanning is becoming increasingly technical, as industry standards increase, the role becomes more clearly defined and the profession transitions from product-led to planning-led.

That has seen some highly-qualified advisers, like Wareing, a chartered and certified financial planner, step back from client-facing and business development work to focus on paraplanning.

In high demand

A firm with paraplanners can allow their staff to specialise. For example, one of Pentins Financial Planning’s corporate clients is a school and Secomb’s paraplanner (and son) Oliver Secomb is currently getting to grips with the nuances of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

“This makes a paraplanner potentially indispensable if they can provide specialist knowledge over and above that of the adviser,” he said.

With good paraplanners in high demand, firms are adopting different strategies to recruit and train them – something that is growing in importance as training by life offices becomes a path less trodden.

Wareing designed a paraplanning training programme that Clarion’s two trainees are currently undertaking. It formed a large part of the entry that saw him named CISI Paraplanner of the Year 2015.

“We are currently on the lookout for a senior paraplanner and finding someone with the right combination of technical knowledge, real-world experience and communication skills hasn’t been particularly easy,” he said. “Many practices, like ours, are beginning to train paraplanners in-house.”

Pentins Financial Planning has taken on an apprentice paraplanner and is working with Kent University to attract placement students in the hope they will find the job attractive.

Bright future

The future has never been brighter for paraplanners who want to progress, according to Wareing.

At the more experienced end, salaries are starting to reflect the growing importance of paraplanning and the wage gap between advisers and paraplanners is narrowing.

“Salary and benefit packages for paraplanners have increased no end over the last few years because of supply and demand issues so you can now be rewarded quite well,” said Willers.

While some see paraplanning as a career in its own right, others still regard it as a stepping stone to becoming an adviser.

Oliver Secomb, who falls into the latter camp, said: “You either aspire to go that extra step or are happy working in your current role, a lot like an analyst at a fund house or paralegal” he said.

“I see paraplanners as the potential future of advising. When you consider the age demographic of advisers, someone must fill that void and paraplanners are perfectly positioned to.”

The information in this document does not constitute advice or a recommendation and investment decisions should not be made on the basis of it. This document is intended for professional advisers only and should not be relied upon by any persons who do not have professional experience in matters relating to investments.



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