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Better paraplanning – practitioner tips

29 September 2015

Paraplanners are keen sharers of knowledge and information and the Better Paraplanning session at the recent PFS Purely Paraplanning conference in Bristol brought together three paraplanners to talk to and discuss key issues for paraplanners no matter what size of firm they worked for and where in the country. 

Cathi Harrison chaired the session and posed a number of questions to the panel looking for pragmatic views from the coalface. On the panel were: Damian Davies, director, The Time Bank; Jon Cofield, paraplanning manager, Sanlam Wealth Planning; and Kat Mock, senior paraplanner at The Paraplanners.

Opening the session, Damian Davies said that in terms of a career the opportunities in paraplanning were “massive”. People who want to be paraplanners have opportunities that range from straightforward report writing to being a technical specialist in a particular area. “The benefit of the profession and the fact that it is growing, mean that you can pretty much follow whatever path you want,” he said.

Asked to flag a mistake he had made in his career that others could learn from, he said: “The biggest mistake I made was believing compliance know everything. We’re here to help our advisers ensure they are giving suitable advice and compliance is all about suitability, it’s not just about protecting the firm’s back. Having confidence to challenge compliance departments earlier on was the biggest mistake I made.”

In terms of best practice and a top tip he’d offer paraplanners, Davies said: “The one thing I’d encourage paraplanners to do is not to take work from an adviser without defined client objectives as part of what you receive. It’s very easy to get caught up in the thrust of the working office where you’ve got to get cases out but at the end of the day if you don’t have succinct objective to which you can link the work that you’re doing, it’s going to end up as an empty product you are producing for your advisers. There usually is an objective but sometimes advisers aren’t very good at documenting it.”

His top tip was: “Make yourself fully accountable for what you’re doing – so in terms of the productivity and the quality of the work that you do. Mark yourself on what you do and ask your advisers to mark you too. If you are building a career in paraplanning that is going to give you invaluable information to help you move forward.”

Value yourself and your time

Kat Mock said that as a full-time practitioner when she was coming up with a top tip she was “trying to look at the question from the point of what would help me in doing my daily job, from the perspective of being effective, getting the work done and enjoying the job at the same time”.

“The biggest thing for me, and my top tip, is to be very protective of your time. That is easy to say but it is very difficult to put into practice. Think about the rest of your week as you go along.

As paraplanners we are a very helpful bunch – we are helpful to each other not just to advisers and clients. But the flip side of that is often we give away too much of our time and don’t think about what we need so we can get things done for ourselves. Mock’s suggestions were:

  1. Don’t get swept up in other people’s priorities.
  2. Plan your time scales as accurately as possible
  3. Build into that the fact you will get phone calls and other interruptions that you weren’t expecting.
  4. Take regular breaks.

Mock said: “Taking control of your time and being very selfish of your time will actually help you to do a good job. If you’re not focused on your own time then your quality will suffer because you will be rushing things.”

In a similar vein, she urged paraplanners to build in time for CPD and keeping up to date with the industry and the market. “That will help you write reports and when you’re talking to advisers. If you build it into your time you’ll have the knowledge or the answers to hand as well, which will save you time in the future.”

“If you protect and manage your time, you’ll have less stress and you’ll enjoy your job more.”

Organisation is key

Drawing on 20 years experience in financial planning and his current role managing 23 paraplanners, Jon Cofield of Sanlam Wealth Planning said that first and foremost, organisation was crucial. “You can’t do this job unless you are organised – how you do that will be different for different people.” He agreed with Kat Mock about protecting your time, “that is absolutely paramount”.

Cofield said that the people in his team had their work scoped out for between three and five days ahead.

Second, he said, was the interaction between the paraplanner and the adviser. With all advisers working differently, paraplanners had to have the confidence when the objectives were missing or the file or the adviser’s notes were insufficient to do the job. “It’s how you put that without being confrontational so you get the information you need.” As such, he said, paraplanners need to hone their personal skills, relationship skills and relationship building, “so you can take what can sometimes be quite raw material and ensure when it goes out to the client that it is polished.”

That goes hand-in-hand with the organisation, he suggested, “because if you are organised you can spend more time on relationship building.”

As someone who recruits into the business, Cofield added that when interviewing a candidate he would expect them to have the necessary qualifications and what he would be looking for is the candidate’s ability to interact and “have those relationship skills.”




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