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Paraplanner comment: Joining the PFS panel and setting goals

10 February 2020

As well as setting up her firm Unity Paraplanning, in late 2019 Kat Mock joined the PFS Paraplanner Panel. Here, she talks about why and her goals for 2020.

This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

As the newest member of the PFS Paraplanner Panel and a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions, I thought I would share why I felt it was important to join and my work goals for the coming year.

I’ve been a paraplanner for nearly 10 years. I started working for a provider in IFA sales support (a technical role not sales!) then despite lack of interest from recruitment companies, set out to secure a role with an IFA firm, where, luckily, my first paraplanning manager recognised that the raw skills were there, and the rest could be taught.

The first few months were a steep learning curve. I had some technical knowledge but no real-life practical application. I relied very heavily on the team around me and this helped me to learn the ropes. It was challenging and difficult at times but exactly the type of work I enjoyed.

I still love paraplanning.

Which is why being invited to join the PFS Paraplanner panel was an honour and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Whilst not a comfortable public speaker, I believe strongly in sharing knowledge and best practice. No single person can be amazing at everything so collaborating and being open to new ideas is an important part of my values. The industry is constantly changing so it’s important for us to be flexible enough to change and flex with it, to stay on top of our game.

To that end, I thought I would share what I’m focussing on for the coming year:

Understanding the client

Planners know their clients. I’m not just thinking about fact find information here, I’m more referring to their personality, their preferences and how they are likely to feel about the options available to them. On top of this, they understand the client’s style and how they might respond to specific forms of communication. Planners are a goldmine of useful information so taking the time to ask questions and understand the background can only make the reports better.

Working on my writing style

A big learning point for me this year was tact. I always thought of myself as a fairly sensitive person but occasionally this can get lost in recalling the facts of the case as I see them. The last thing any of us would like to do is offend or upset a client on the first page of the report! This year I will be focussing not only on being clear and concise but also softening my tone a little to communicate the valuable advice more effectively.

To do this I will be enlisting the help of my team and listening to feedback from the planners I work with. Proofing reports and having your own work proofed is incredibly beneficial. It helps to challenge and improve your own writing style and how to structure ideas and concepts. In the past, this has helped me move from writing paragraph on paragraph, to being much more concise – using simple language to explain things in a client-friendly way.

CPD CPD CPD!

Keeping up to date with technical skills, calculations and legislation has been challenging for me over the years. In particular, since setting up Unity, I’ve struggled with balancing the need to get the work done well and on time, with keeping on top of self-development. As a paraplanner, it is monumentally important to keep your knowledge sharp and relevant so this will be a focus for me in the coming year.

To do this, I will be attending several great events, the PFS Purely Paraplanning conferences among them.

Taking time out

As a paraplanner there is always more you could be doing. There are reports to write, templates to update, clients and planners to look after. However, the quality of these things can suffer without an adequate amount of down time. This year I will be aiming to bring some balance, enjoying my time out of the office so that I can be refreshed and productive in my work.

Making goals and achieving them are entirely different things, I know. But taking stock, being honest with ourselves and making plans to improve are vital to both personal and professional progress. Also, happily, it’s a great excuse to make a list.

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