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Evolution of Paraplanners – Caroline Stuart of the PFS Paraplanner Panel

  • By Jason Stockwell

Paraplanning is a profession which is really on the move says Caroline Stuart, a member of the PFS Paraplanner Panel. So what is going on?

Over the last few years, the paraplanning profession has grown strongly. Grown in numbers, in its position in the financial planning profession and in the value it can bring to businesses and clients alike.

This growth is largely down to paraplanners being a tenacious bunch, having a real thirst to learn and share what they know with their peers, determined for the profession to flourish and above all being dedicated to giving the best possible service to their clients.

Over the last fifteen years, the paraplanner role has evolved from what was seen by many as simply an administrative function into a recognised profession within financial planning. With this evolution, the respect for paraplanners and the acknowledgement of the value that they can bring to a business has increased exponentially. This is a profession that is on the move, driven from within by the people and the dynamic paraplanning community it has created.

Paraplanners at the Personal Finance Society

It wasn’t that long ago when an event which was put on just for paraplanners would have been virtually unheard of. However now we have our own conferences, forums, websites and magazine. The fantastic thing about these is they are, more often than not, put together and run by paraplanners themselves.

Take the Personal Finance Society Paraplanner Panel for example. We were set up in 2015 following Cathi Harrison’s appointment as the Society’s first Paraplanner Board Member, to help them have a more tailored offering for their growing paraplanner membership.

A number of paraplanners volunteered for the panel – including me – and we met for the first time in March 2015. We were made up of both in-house and outsourced paraplanners, in a range of roles with varying levels of experience and qualifications. We were a really mixed bag meaning that pretty much most parts of paraplanning were represented.

We had a very productive session, tons of ideas were generated, plans were made and loads of coffee and sandwiches consumed. Before long, we had arranged the first round of Purely Paraplanning Conferences.

These were a great success with lots of paraplanners attending three sessions spread over the country. These are now run twice a year, have been to various different locations around the UK, reaching hundreds of paraplanners and have all been great successes.

Three years later and after a short break, the Paraplanner Panel is back. Our line up has changed a little; our members are now Tom O’Hara from Warwick Financial Solutions, Alan Gow from Argonaut Paraplanning, Martin Green of Chadney Bulgin, Caroline Stuart of DB Wood, Becca Tuck of Magenta Financial Planning and Robert Harper. We are all ably herded and wrangled by Lee Travis, Partnerships and Member Engagement Director of the Personal Finance Society.

Coming back after our break, we have been working very hard this year and are really excited with what we’ve already got done and what we have on the horizon.

We are working hard on producing some really useful stuff to give paraplanners practical help with doing the day job, enable them to meet with other paraplanners, and help move their career on in the direction they want.

Purely paraplanning roadshows

At the moment, we are arranging this year’s second round of Purely Paraplanning Conferences. The roadshows are visiting Glasgow and Birmingham, with the Personal Finance Society London headquarters being home for the final conference of the year. For those unable to make any of the dates, we’re also repeating the very popular Livestream that we trialled at the London session earlier this year. Full details of the sessions and tickets can be found here:

As a profession, we have come a long way in a short space of time. It’s no longer seen as an administration role or a stop on the route to becoming a financial planner

The panel on social media

To make ourselves more accessible to paraplanners we have created our Facebook page

We’re now also on Twitter

We are using these tools to let paraplanners know about any events we are putting on, news we have and let them know the things we are working on.

These are proving to be a really popular way both to speak to paraplanners and to get their thoughts and feedback, making it a real two way street, which is something we’re really pleased about. Please do check them and out and join in.

Reaching out

But our activities are not just limited to events and social media; we’ve also been working on material to attract more people into the profession as well as helping those who are new or recently joined and are still not quite sure what paraplanning is all about. We’re trying to help to build the profession from grass roots level and inspire enthusiastic new entrants to discover what a fulfilling and rewarding career is open to them through paraplanning.

One example of this is our Paraplanning Pathways mini movie. This gives details on what paraplanning is and routes into it. This can be found on the Facebook Page.

We’re also working on a career pathways document giving a roadmap of the skills, qualifications and attributes someone may need to become a paraplanner, and the range of possible options a career in paraplanning could offer. We’re hoping to have this ready to release in the very near future. It’s all very exciting stuff.

Where next for us?

As a profession, we have come a long way in a short space of time. It’s no longer seen as an administration role or a stop on the route to becoming a financial planner. Paraplanning has now become a recognised career in itself that adds value to the financial planning business and, most importantly of course, to the client’s experience.

However, the key issue for us is that as recognised and valued as we are, there are simply not enough of us. When it comes to paraplanners, demand outstrips supply. Those employers who value a good paraplanner are making sure they look after them and keep them, thereby reducing the pool for new roles even more.

Some firms ‘grow their own’ which takes time and commitment but is usually well worth the effort. The home-grown paraplanners will be trained to that firm’s specification and needs. They are less likely to move on if they have been nurtured from a paraplanner seedling and feel valued by the team around them.

The Panel are keen to help here. If we can show more people outside of financial services what a great career this is, attracting more new individuals in, we will continue to grow and flourish and have an even brighter future for this fantastic profession of ours.

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