A Newbie's View of the Profession

by Steffan Knight on 06·08·2019

Steffan joined us in the support team around 6 months ago. His goal is to become chartered and join the paraplanning team.

Being young, and having only worked in the industry for a couple of years, we thought it would be interesting to ask him what his views of paraplanning are in the context of the wider financial planning business.

A fresh set of eyes can land their focus on unexpected areas, so see if these views are beneficial to your business.

“My first two years in the industry has shown me that there is a real mix out there, in terms of what a Paraplanner is and does.

There are established Paraplanners who have, at large, learned through experience.  This is mainly because they are career Paraplanners that have been in the role since before RDR.  As such, the exams and qualifications were only for those with an active interest rather than being a regulatory requirement.

There are also younger people who are coming into the role at a time when qualifications are starting to be taken a lot more seriously.  A minimum benchmark for qualification really helps us as career Paraplanners so that we can map our futures out.

As the benchmark qualification has already risen to level four for financial advisers, is it likely to rise in the future?

Has this made it more important for Paraplanners to be equally well qualified? How valuable is a highly qualified Paraplanner to the firm and subsequently, how does the firm measure the Paraplanner’s value?

When looking at our clients, it strikes me that for a firm to achieve the best value from a Paraplanner, it is important they identify what ‘type’ of firm they are.

Different financial planners have different needs and ultimately the Paraplanner is there to free up as much time as possible and provide support either technical, administrative or both. It could be argued that the relevance of exams is therefore largely down to the ‘type’ of Paraplanner, and the type of work they are required to carry out.

If a firm is more sales orientated, perhaps they might need someone who can produce highly technical reports and put regulatory requirements to the test.  In this case, exams and experience are likely to be important. However, if a firm has a hardcore of qualified staff, perhaps they might require someone to pick up more administrative and data processing duties.

Some firms may require a mix of both which may create a division of labour.

Whichever way you look at it, there are certainly many attributes to a Paraplanner’s role which are not necessarily learnt through passing exams – a high level of accuracy, diary and time management, organisation and attention to detail being first and foremost. However, if a Paraplanner has experience as well as a few qualifications under their belt, they can only add value to a firm.

As an outsider coming in, it is clear that with ever-increasing complexities and regulatory requirements within the industry, it is becoming more and more requisite for advisers to benefit from technical support.

Although I feel that experience really is key to a lot of the work carried out in this industry, the more technical knowledge you have, the more work you can undertake which is why I feel exams are becoming more of a requirement to Paraplanners than they once used to be.

I am currently working alongside a very select and mixed team of Paraplanners at The Timebank. As a company, this enables us to fulfil a wide range of support requirements to all types of advisers. It is also a great place to learn as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to tap into.

I also think that the industry is a rewarding place to build a career, as the relationships with clients are built on foundations of trust.”