Outsourced paraplanning firm Eparaplan is putting its entire team through the Paraplanning StandardTM. Rob Kingsbury spoke to the firm’s MD Michelle Wilson-Stimson about the decision and the process of undertaking the Standard
Eparaplan committed last year to put its entire team through the Paraplanning StandardTM. Two of its technical analysts (paraplanners) having already achieved certification and a further 11 staff are going through the process.
The Paraplanning StandardTM was established by Standards International, the accreditation body for ISO and BS in the financial advice market, in April 2018 and the first candidate graduated in July 2019.
Eparaplan managing director Michelle Wilson-Stimson said she has embraced the Standard as a means of developing her team and because it is important for businesses to have a means to assess what is a true paraplanner. “I know that the people who I put through the Standard will come out the other end as accredited paraplanners, assessed by an independent body, rather than me as business owner saying they are paraplanners.
“That’s good for the individual paraplanner, it’s good for my business and its good for the industry as well,” she says.
Another benefit, she adds, is that within the Standard there is a guideline to salaries for different levels of paraplanners. “It means as a business I can make sure our business has pay scales that are competitive in the market, that I’m not over paying or under paying.”
Adopting the Standard across the whole team also has provided consistency in internal training within the business, she says.
To facilitate buy-in from the Eparaplan team, Wilson-Stimson arranged a briefing, when the idea was laid out for everyone. “Standards International MD Michelle Hoskin also came and gave a talk about the Paraplanning StandardTM and what it meant and how it would help us.
“We agreed as team it would be good for the business and for everyone involved. We have an internal training plan and we are redesigning that to run alongside the Standard. Also several of the team are part of the Paraplanning Apprenticeship so they also receive external training and assessment.
The Paraplanning StandardTM has five levels of assessment for paraplanners with a set of attributes, knowledge and skills sets required at each level:
1) Technical knowledge
2) Applied knowledge and demonstrated understanding
3) Skills, abilities and experience
4) Essential attributes
5) Principles and behaviours.
Wilson-Stimson said that as an outsourced operation, Eparaplan had to adapt their adoption of the Standard to better suit the way they work. “Our working practices as an outsourced firm are different to an internal paraplanning operation, as we’re dealing with a variety of adviser firms who all have different working practices, so we had to work with Standards International to devise a training process which could match the Standard for everyone who is going through it,’ she explains.
“It’s an intense process. You need to show a lot of evidence against the standard. It’s not a quick thing to go through. In order to become certified, our two technical analysts had to first understand it and then provide evidence against everything in the Standard. This was followed by an interview which lasted for pretty much a full day. It is tough but then again it has to be.”
Market benefit and top tips
Wilson-Stimson believes the Standard is an important step forward for the paraplanning profession.