November 2018
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Paraplanning has come a long, long way

11 July 2018

One of paraplanner pioneers, Martin Vaughan of Clear Capital Management LLP, reflects on how paraplanning is now being more widely recognised for its value to the financial planning profession.

I had the pleasure of attending the CISI Paraplanner conference held at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire recently. I had not been able to go to the last 2 or 3 and so was looking forward to seeing what was important to paraplanners and what challenges paraplanners were facing in the current financial and regulatory environment.

Having been involved in the evolution of paraplanning in the very early days I was curious to see how far the ‘profession’ had come since my small level of involvement many years ago.

As with many early paraplanners my career has taken a different route, but I still retain a great fondness and appreciation for the role of the paralanner. Whilst I accept that not every financial adviser, or perhaps more importantly financial planner, requires or needs a paraplanner, the role a paraplanner  plays in supporting the difficult job the financial planner has is immeasurable and certainly a good paraplanner is worth their salt every time.

One of the typical questions paraplanners encountered 11-12 years ago, was ‘a para what?’ and it was necessary to respond by trying to explain what a paraplanner was and what they did. This is still incredibly difficult to define as the role of the paraplanner can vary enormously from firm to firm however it was brilliant to see that everyone attending the conference had a good understanding of generally what a paraplanner was and what they did.

Another challenge all those years ago was finding firms who were prepared to take a risk and sponsor an event for paraplanners. Bearing in mind most people didn’t know what a paraplanner was or what they did, it was hardly surprising that firms did not want to provide any sort of sponsorship for events or websites or awards aimed solely at paraplanners. There were however a few companies and individuals who were forward thinking enough to see that this was the way that the financial services industry was moving.

What was pleasing at the conference this time was to see the number of companies willing to provide sponsorship and speakers at an event solely for paraplanners. Having a wide range of sponsors means that the content of the conference sessions and the types of conversations you can have at the conference are many and varied and this is certainly a good thing.

Talking of content, the sessions were very different to the types of sessions that were held in the original conferences and meetings. At this years CISI Paraplanner conference there were very few ‘technical’ sessions and many more ‘development sessions’. There are now a number of companies and other conferences which provide technical sessions aimed at paraplanners so if a paraplanner wanted to access a technical session it is entirely possible to do so at events other than this paraplanner conference. In addition, the method of accessing this knowledge has changed so much over the years. There is much more use of the technology with access to the internet and also within the CISI CPD portal it is possible to watch a number of technical sessions from the comfort of your desk, so it is not a surprise that these were vastly reduced compared to the first few paraplanning events.

Finally, however there was one part of the conference that I was pleased to see had not changed at all. For me the most important part of any conference but particularly the paraplanner conference, has always been the ability to talk to other paraplanners. Having time to sit and talk about your role, how you do things, what tools you use, where you get your information or just to ask if another paraplanner has come across a problem you may be having has always been and always will be the most important part. Pleasingly there was plenty of time to meet other paraplanners and spend time with them.

So, we’ve come a long, long way together, and its pleasing to see paraplanners being celebrated like they should!