Paraplanners are being urged to improve their soft skills to support financial planners in face-to-face meetings with clients, with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment identifying a lack of experience in this area as one of the biggest challenges facing the role.
The position of a paraplanner has traditionally been one of a technical nature, responsible for preparing plans for financial planners and managing a firm's software with minimal client interaction.
But Jacqueline Lockie, head of financial planning at the CISI, has signalled a shift away from a sole focus on technicalities and the need for paraplanners to develop skills which will serve in face-to-face client meetings, which she said paraplanners are becoming increasingly involved with.
Speaking with FTAdviser at The Paraplanner Conference hosted by the CISI in Stratford-Upon-Avon on Tuesday (June 18), Ms Lockie said: "There’s a balance. In the past a lot of paraplanners have become very technical, with lots of technical exams, but the challenges I’m now seeing are that paraplanners are starting to develop extra soft skills to be able to interact with their planner and also with clients, because more and more of them are going to client meetings."
Ms Lockie said five years ago most paraplanners would not accompany financial planners in client meetings, instead they would receive the information separately and run the reports in "isolation".
She added: "But now it’s much more about a collaborative approach, so there are a lot of paraplanners that still need to improve those soft skills.
"There was always a strive with paraplanners technically to stay up to date, and that’s a given, but I think it’s these extra bits that are a bigger challenge now."
Having previously worked as a paraplanner herself, Ms Lockie said these soft skills must include learning how to "speak up and put your point across" and suggesting changes in process to improve a firm's business.
Ms Lockie added: "One set of ears isn’t going to pick up everything in a client meeting...so at the end of the day [if a paraplanner joins the meeting] there are better outcomes for clients because all of that goes into the financial planning report."
Last year the CISI reported "significant" growth in its financial planning community, crediting the increase to its "very successful" paraplanner, accredited financial planning and financial planning conferences which take place throughout the calendar year.
CISI had taken over the financial planning body the Institute of Financial Planning in 2015.
In March of this year the CISI raised the bar for its members to become Certified Financial Planners, with the changes making the professional body's level seven diploma the highest level financial planning qualification in the UK.
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