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5 minutes with… Lucy Talbot, PFS Paraplanner of the Year

9 January 2020

Lucy Talbot has worked for the same firm, HB&O Financial Services in Royal Leamington Spa, for over 10 years, first as an administrator and now as paraplanner. In November 2019 she was named the Personal Finance Society Paraplanner of the Year. Rob Kingsbury spoke to her about her career and winning the award.

RK: How did you become a paraplanner?

LT: When I left school after sixth firm, I saw an advert for a trainee role at HB&O and got the job. I was an administrator for nearly six years and then in September 2015 I became the firm’s financial planning analyst, mainly working for the managing director Jason Strain.

RK: 10 years is a long time with one firm…

LT: It’s such a lovely atmosphere to work in and everyone is really supportive of one another. You can talk to anybody. Everyone has a niche or specialism so if you have a question you can go and ask them what you need to know. It’s an open door policy and you know that there’s no such thing as a stupid question if you are learning from it. It’s been a really safe environment in which to learn and to grow as a paraplanner. And the more my knowledge has grown the more I have been able to give back by being able to do a better job.

I’m fortunate that the firm nurtures its staff in their development. It pays for our study materials and to take the exams. They’ve also mentored me through the more difficult exams. When I was struggling with the exam technique they paid for me to take a course that helped me nail the technique I needed and after I got through that first difficult exam it became a bit of a domino effect with exam taking. They have allowed me to grow and develop and work my way up to Chartered.

RK: Do you think starting off as an administrator has helped you be a better paraplanner?

LT: I think it has given me a firm foundation, learning about the industry and how it works, and a better understanding of how everything fits together and what the admin team does that can help me in my job. I think it is worthwhile for anyone wanting to be a paraplanner to be an administrator first.

Also I think people can underestimate how good their administrators are and how much knowledge they have and how much they do for a firm. I think there is a lot more a financial services administrator has to know and to do than maybe in other roles with the same title.

RK: Your official title is financial planning analyst, so what is your day-to-day role?

LT: I’m working mainly for the MD who deals with HNW clients. I will go with him to see clients and I will add value where I can, such as talking through the cashflow model or a technical element and breaking it down so the client can better understand it. After a meeting we’ll have a debrief to see how we can add value, which might be further research towards a recommendation, further cashflow modelling, technical calculations – the annual allowance, for example – or putting a pack together to show how the client’s objectives can be achieved. Clients can come to me if they have any technical queries and the adviser isn’t available.

I’ve set up templates to help me in whatever I’m doing, for research, technical aspects, review packs and so on. I will research into inheritance tax positions and tax efficient investing in a lot of detail. We have a report writing team that writes the suitability reports and I will check them before they go out to the client.

Another part of my role is on the business side, looking at procedures and software and making sure we have the right tools for the job.

RK: What do you enjoy about your role?

LT: I really like the technical side of things, being able to come up with solutions for clients that maybe we haven’t thought of before and to see that I’ve helped us make a difference to that client and what they can do with their life. I like the fact that I can help and that through what we do we can help them achieve what they want or to stop worrying about their finances. It’s them knowing they can trust us to do the best for them and that we are there to help if they have any worries or questions.

I see a lot of my job as puzzle solving. The client comes to us with all the bits around their finances and we sort through it and put it all together in a solution. Every client gives us a different challenge.

RK: How do you feel having won PFS Paraplanner of the Year?

LT: It is really nice to have the recognition of all the hard work you put in both in the job and for the awards. It was the first time I had entered an award and it was after I became Chartered that some of the advisers kept saying I should enter so I thought I would but not really expecting to win. As a candidate you had to submit a form, this told the PFS about yourself, what value you’ve added to the role and for clients, what you are giving back to the profession and the next generation of paraplanners and why you think you should win the award. If you get through to the next stage they send you a case study to work on and put together a recommendation. Then three of us were short-listed and invited to the awards ceremony.

RK: Would you encourage other paraplanners to enter awards?

LT: Definitely. I think it gives you a push and to challenge yourself. I spoke to Gemma Siddle who won the Paraplanner award in the past and this year won the Chartered Financial Planner award and she said this was the third time she had entered that award and that it pays to persevere.

Winning the award has given me greater confidence in what I do and that I’m doing it right. The firm likes it – the award is on display in our reception.

RK: What does the future hold for you?

LT: I’m a career paraplanner. I don’t see myself becoming a financial adviser. So my plan is to keep developing as a paraplanner, building on my technical knowledge and my experience so I can keep on coming up with the right solutions for clients.

I’m signing up to the PFS mentoring programme so I can give back to PFS members and I set aside time every week to help my colleagues here with their exams.

I’d also like to get involved with going into schools and helping raise the profile of paraplanning as a career. Outside of financial planning I don’t think people know this is an option and career path and we need to change that.

Also, we are growing as a business and I’m sure we will be bringing on more paraplanners as we grow, so I want to be there to help and support anyone coming into the firm and I’ll probably be able to learn from their skills sets as well – we’re all different and our experiences will be different too.

I think there is going to be lots to keep me busy.

Pictured: Jacqueline Wilkins of Just, Lucy Talbot, Jo Caulfield, actress and writer and presenter for the evening.

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