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Broader skills means better client service

Sue Whitbread

The answer to this question is yes. I see it as a logical development in a rapidly growing, dynamic group in the financial planning profession. In fact, it is already happening.

It was interesting to note that in the Institute of Financial Planning’s recent paraplanner survey, two-thirds of respondents said they were committed to remaining as a paraplanner, rather than seeing it as a route to becoming an adviser or financial planner.

Before we look ahead, let us reflect on where we have come from. Years ago the term “paraplanner” was often used loosely to describe anyone working in a support role in an advisory business.

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While some people were clearly operating even then in what we now recognise as a paraplanner role, others were providing more of an administrative support role.

Clarity

There is greater clarity now thanks to National Occupational Standards and work done by many organisations to specifically define the role.

So what is changing? At its most basic, paraplanning requires different skills to those for an advice role. The activities in which paraplanners tend to be more dominant could be said to be more “left side of the brain” orientated – logical, analytical and focused on detail.

These are skills well suited to due diligence, building financial plans, generating client reports and carrying out reviews, all of which are associated with the paraplanner role.

That more and more firms are seeing business benefits from introducing a paraplanning function means that demand for experienced, well-qualified paraplanners is on the rise.

This in turn means that, in the short term, the supply of paraplanners is unlikely to keep up, leading to pricing pressure.

Longer term, the increased respect and recognition that paraplanning is getting and deserves will lead to more highly skilled new entrants seeking a rewarding career as a paraplanner.

Salaries to attract high-calibre candidates are already increasing. This reflects the fact that paraplanners are often qualified not just to level four but to level six and beyond.

Paraplanners are also demonstrating their professionalism by using titles such as “accredited paraplanner”, which show peers and clients that they have the skills and knowledge that matter.

Regulation

Although there is no requirement to do so, many paraplanners, albeit a minority, are registered individuals with the FCA and, as such, are regulated.

Whether regulated or not – and who knows what the future holds by way of changes in regulation? – paraplanners take their professionalism extremely seriously. Continuing professional development is welcomed and seen as essential to their career.

We should not forget the part played by the many excellent outsourced paraplanning firms, offering a high-quality, flexible service to firms that, for whatever reason, have decided not to bring the paraplanning function in house.

Getting access to expertise that is kept up to date and available as required means more and more advisers and planners can get the support they need; whether they employ paraplanners in house or not is their choice.