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CISI conference delivers range of topics to engage audience

14 June 2018

For its annual Paraplanner Conference 2018, the Chartered Institute of Securities and investments (CISI) put together, in the words of Dan Atkinson, head of Technical at EQ Investors, and a member of the CISI Paraplanner Interest Group, “a great mixture of sessions that equipped paraplanners to rise to the challenge of enabling top quality advice.”

Dan and Farida Hassanali (main picture) opened the conference on behalf of the Interest Group. As well as technical sessions on Estate Planning and Financial Planning after divorce, the conference provided insight into soft skills, helping to interpret body language (useful for paraplanners who attend client meetings as well as for working with advisers), approaches for gaining more from meetings, including understanding of different personality types.

“Having a better handle on identifying these styles will enable us to communicate better in general, but also to build better relationships with the advisers we look after,” Atkinson said.

Alongside workshops on pensions and divorce, risk and uncertainty and protection, in the main room, delegates heard from a number of speakers.

Martin Lines, business development director at JUST (below) related the FCA’s Future approach to consumerspaper to behavioural biases and where they might present themselves in the advice process.

Citing numerous examples of how biases can affect a client’s decision-making process – such as

herding bias, where clients want to follow a course of action because everyone else is doing it (DB pension transfer is a case in point); scarcity bias, where people are concerned an opportunity might be short term making for a snap decision; authority bias – e.g. because it was in the media; and availability bias, judgement based on examples people can immediately bring to mind – Lines showed how people could be unintentionally (and intentionally) affected.

“At the end of the day, what people want is reassurance they are doing the right thing,” Lines said. While the FCA wants consumers, in its words, “to be equipped and ready to make informed decisions.”

The role of financial planners and paraplanner was to help people to see beyond their biases and make the right decision for them.

That came down to a decision-making formula which, in simplistic terms, included three things: the ability to Accessinformation about choices; Assessthe offers in a reasoned way; andActto purchase the best solution.

Schroders’ Phil Robotham provided a market overview. What Schroders’ was seeing, he said, was that expectations for 2018 had risen and there was over optimism in the market as valuations were stretched. Nevertheless, Schroders prediction was for markets to keep rising this year but around mid 2019 they would meet with “a banana skin”. Most likely, that would be US fiscal policy as, he pointed out, while the Fed was anticipating a rise in interest rates to 3.5%, the market had priced in a rise to 2.5%. “That 1% discrepancy creates uncertainty” he said and could affect US economic growth.

What’s a paraplanner?

The conference also heard from paraplanners about their roles and experiences and how they work with their financial planners.

The latter was the theme of the presentation by paraplanner Michelle Meredith and her financial planner Martin Ruskin from Paradigm Norton. They provided some practical insights into the way they operate together and how they have worked on their professional relationship over four years to develop a level of trust and communication that makes for a great financial planning team.

Paraplanner Aleksandra (Alex) Sasin, chief paraplanner at Navigatus (above), also took to the stage, for the first time in her life, and presented a very personal account of her journey as a paraplanner. She described how she ‘fell into” financial services and then discovered paraplanning. She told how she developed herself and took the opportunities offered to her to move away from the role she found she had grown to dislike and take on new skills and responsibilities, working up to middle management level in a large financial advice firm. It was personal family wake-up call that then made her realise the job was not for her – it was not why she had become a paraplanner.

So, she quit her job and used her experience to start her own outsourced company, which gives her the satisfaction of “making a difference to people’s lives” while better balancing home and work in her own life.

Paraplanning, she said, was a combination of so many roles and skills that paraplanners should not be restricted by the job they are in. She urged paraplanners to choose from the long list of “paraplanning super powers” which they are called to use on a day-to-day basis and build their “dream paraplanning job”.

Dan Atkinson described Alex’s presentation as a personal highlight of the conference and many will agree with him. He said: “Paraplanning is a more powerful profession than we sometimes give credit to, so it was a personal highlight to hear Alex Sasin share how paraplanning had changed her life and the role it has in helping her ‘look forward to Mondays’. Despite being her first time speaking on stage (and being nervous when she arrived the day before) she delivered one of the most confident, engaging talks that I have ever seen given.”

The conference closed with conference compere, Dr Ed Coats, sharing the lessons of teamwork that he picked up racing to the South Pole with James Cracknell and Ben Fogle.

Summing up the event, Farida Hassanali added: “It was great to see so many Paraplanners at the conference this year and our aim was to really empower Paraplanners to challenge both themselves and others.

“We started with a pre-conference workshop with Bob Malloney that helped us identify our personality style and how to adapt to others and interpret their body language. The dinner provided the chance to both catching up with old friends and meet new attendees ahead of the main conference.

“Some of the highlights from the main conference include a session by JUST detailing how the FCA expects us to be mindful of behavioural bias and Aleksandra Sasin reminding us just how many roles paraplanners can play on any given day. The stream sessions included Gerald Ashley teaching us to view risk differently and provided technical updates on dealing with pensions in divorce and estate planning options.

“The chair for the day, Ed Coats, then talked us through just how far out of his comfort zone his race to the south pole pushed him and encouraged us to explore what we can all achieve if we Rise to the Challenge.

“Thank you all for joining us for another inspiring conference. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and we’re already excitedly planning what we’ll do next year!”


Professional Paraplanner