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5 minutes on… the new LIBF Level 4 Diploma in Paraplanning

13 January 2020

This week the London Institute of Banking and Finance launched its level 4 Diploma in Paraplanning (DipPP). Rob Kingsbury spoke to John Somerville, Relationship Director – Corporate & Professional Learning, LIBF, about the new qualification and how it works.

RK: What is the new qualification and how does it help paraplanners?

JS: The Diploma in Paraplanning (DipPP) is Level 4 and is of equal measure to the Level 4 Diploma for Financial Advisers, other than the fact that it does not enable them to practice financial advice. It is very much bespoke to the paraplanning community who want a qualification that reflects the role that they do, not a mirror of someone else’s role.

Also, this is not about a three-hour paper. The paraplanner role is largely about preparation behind the scenes, and the way we have designed the coursework reflects this.

Paraplanners will need to take the Financial Services Regulation and Ethics paper, which is a 100 multi-choice question paper, but the second unit is assessed as two sets of coursework, each undertaken over a three-month period.

As a maximum, we see the paraplanners being able to attain the qualification in a nine month period. 

RK: How did you go about developing the qualification?

JS: The paraplanner role has become ever more complicated and responsible over the past few years and we developed the qualification to take into account the fact that paraplanners are not only making a thorough recommendation for a client but also the intricacies of the review process. It’s a far more senior role and that needs to be addressed for the industry. 

In researching the needs of paraplanners for a new qualification, we spoke to numerous people in the industry, including paraplanners, financial planners, networks and other agencies – amongst which the Professional Paraplanner Rise of the Paraplanner report was extremely informative – all of which confirmed the need for a qualification which recognised that paraplanner is an individual role which requires a high level of expertise and that the qualification was not just a badge to say they had sat an exam but reflected a significant skill set.  

RK: How is the course delivered?

JS: The course materials are online (written texts are also available); there will be online support as well as direct communications with the tutors. The course materials will be more interactive than in the past. We’re adopting a blended learning approach, which includes written text, video, audio and case studies as well as tutoring (for a small extra cost). 

The qualification is session based, so there will be a release and a sitting four times a year. Coursework will change four times a year. The first three months will cover Financial Services Regulation and Ethics and this is followed by a three months set of coursework covering paraplanning. 

RK: Why are you launching into a market where there are other level 4 courses already established?

JS: We see an opportunity to service the paraplanning community with a qualification which is appropriate to the role. We feel we are very well placed to deliver that with our level of knowledge and expertise in the financial planning world. Also, we are well known within the industry forbuilding qualifications to meet the needs of the individual. Hence, we developed the qualification with significant consideration of what people in the industry were asking for.

Our Level 3 qualification has been very successful, and the Level 4 Diploma now supersedes the qualification. We are also looking, in due course, to ensure it meets the apprenticeship standards, so the people can apply to take the qualification via the apprenticeship route.

RK: Can you give an example of the practical nature of the coursework? 

JS: Without giving too much away, part of the coursework will be around an inbox exercise for a paraplanner. The idea is there will be a scenario where a financial adviser will hand a file to a paraplanner and the task will be to assess the case, ensure they have the details they need, ask further questions where they don’t, and forward from that, make recommendations, which may be more testing than they first appear as there may be more than one solution. Then they will prepare a full report. So it is very much about giving them credible client information to work with, a practical emphasis rather than memorising facts to get them down on a piece of paper in an exam. 

Course details

The Level 4 Diploma in Paraplanning (DipPP) will cover:

• the UK financial services industry, in its European and global context

• the FCA’s responsibilities and approach to regulation

• different types of risk and how they relate to institutions and individuals

• ethical, legal and vulnerability considerations

• impact of taxation on investments and other recommended solutions

• skills required to produce a suitability report that meets your customer’s needs and aspirations.

Unit 1 – Financial Services Regulation and Ethics (FSRE) looks at financial institutions and services, the nature of risk and the FCA’s approach to ethical behaviour in financial advice.

Unit 2 – Paraplanner (PARA) will help students relate the broader market to the role of a paraplanner, along with helping students to understand the influencing factors for client recommendations and how to demonstrate the required research to produce a suitability report to a high standard. It takes a practical and blended learning approach, including case studies.

LIBF will be joining Professional Paraplanner at a selection of our Technical Insight Seminars later this year. 

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