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Paraplanner Pointers: Client meetings

30 January 2018

This Paraplanner Pointers reports on a discussion amongst paraplanners regarding their involvement in client meetings and what impact it has on the way they work.

One of the ongoing debates in financial planning firms is whether paraplanners should be part of client meetings. While some firms see paraplanner involvement as essential to delivering a quality service to clients – seeing benefits in the paraplanner being present, taking minutes, presenting cashflow models, and being a key point of contact for the client when the adviser is unavailable, among others – other firms see the client meeting as very much the domain of the adviser. For paraplanners in pooled operations, often geographically distanced from the adviser, of course, it is rarely or never an option.

In the Powwow discussion on which we report (held under Chatham House rules), a number of paraplanners were directly involved in client meetings and explained how it affected their work.

One senior paraplanner said that it was the policy of her firm that paraplanners are integrated in the client meeting process and that it was seen as an essential part of the financial planning process. “It does impact on your workload because of time out of the office but it means you work differently. It requires organisation but we feel the pay off in other aspects justifies that,” she said.

There was a clearly defined role for the paraplanner in the meetings as well as in the pre and post meeting work. “You work more directly with the client, which gives you greater insight into them as people and what they want.”

While the preparation for the meeting becomes a greater part of the paraplanner’s workload, which has to be factored in, she added, “the benefits are that the post meeting discussion with the adviser goes far more smoothly, because you have both been in the room with the client and listened to what they have to say.”

Another participant said her firm had recently started bringing paraplanners into client meetings and she was finding it a positive experience. “The biggest benefit is being able to see the facial expressions and reactions of the clients,” she said. “There was one meeting where I could see that the client wasn’t fully following what the adviser was saying as he went through the plan, so when I came to write the report I made sure I expanded on certain points and explained things in a more straightforward way. I wouldn’t have known to do that just from the written minutes of the meeting – so it benefited me tremendously being there.”

She concurred that participation in the client meeting “makes the debriefing after the client meeting so much easier. It makes the process more seamless, because there is less need to mind read the adviser and try to draw out from them what happened.”

However, perhaps the major benefit, she said, which drew agreement from others in the room, was that being in the meeting “helps me learn more about the client. I find I remember more because I’ve spoken to the client and they are real to me, not just someone in a document.”

Pooled experience

Paraplanners whose advisers are spread around the country, meaning they physically are not able to attend meetings, said having the adviser record the conversation helped them get a better feel for what was talked about and the nuances of the meeting with the client.

“You can’t see their facial expression but you can hear how they say something and that can be insightful,” one said. “For example, often you can hear when a client is not sure about a point from the tone of their voice.

“Also, we all hear something different in a meeting, so having the recording is a good way to confirm that what the adviser has put down on the factfind properly reflects what the client has said.”

Another benefit of recording the meeting was that it stayed on the client file as back up, so from a compliance point of view everything is on record.

Paraplanners reported that no clients had ever objected to the meeting being recorded and it meant the client could have a copy of the recording if they wanted.