Traditionally, many financial advisers have found themselves in a self-employed role and then developed their businesses almost by accident.
They were great at being advisers, but often struggled to keep up-to-date with client needs and do the research required to grow their companies.
It can also be difficult to move things forward when you are so close to working with clients.
This is where a fully qualified paraplanner can come into their own. Advisers can entrust the important research and range of advice recommendations to a paraplanner and allow more time for the business to flourish as a result.
Most financial advisers now rely heavily on paraplanners to undertake the detailed research and analysis required to meet the increasingly complex needs of their clients.
And, by having an expert available to do the groundwork, it frees up the adviser to manage their customer relationships and do the core function of their job – giving advice – well.
So the role of the paraplanner has evolved and changed significantly; it has become more complex and technical than in the past.
Today’s paraplanners are required to make increasingly complicated recommendations for clients and have the responsibility of preparing reports and recommendations during the review process.
And, while some people may still move on from a paraplanning role to a more customer-facing advice role, there are many people who now see paraplanning as a career in its own right.
Paraplanning qualifications need to not only reflect this evolution but also ensure they are designed to help prepare students for the growing demands and challenges that today’s paraplanners face.
In our view, qualifications should focus as much on the practical as the theoretical.
That means the need to have a mix of assignments and exams; not just testing knowledge but also testing understanding and how that knowledge is applied.
They should also be based around challenging case studies that really test students in terms of understanding the different risk appetites of clients and that there may be more than one answer to the financial puzzle they are facing.
So exams need to cover all the bases, and also give budding paraplanners the confidence that they have the knowledge they need – and the skills and enough experience to apply that knowledge well.
Everyone wanting a role in the sector needs to understand the broader context and how their role fits in.
That starts with how the UK financial services industry works, in the UK as well as in the European and global context.
Of course, with Brexit that is going to change and all paraplanners need to keep on top of what those changes might mean for their role. The Financial Conduct Authority will be a critical element of how that develops.