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Career management

26 April 2019

Tom Lloyd-Read, head of Advice at Thomas Miller Investment, talks to Rob Kingsbury about the benefits of a centralised paraplanning approach and offers advice for paraplanners considering the move into management

Tom Lloyd-Read, head of Advice at Thomas Miller Investment, manages a team of three paraplanners, who work with 13 financial advisers, called consultants by the firm, located in three offices: London, Birmingham and Southampton.

Cases are dealt with on a centralised basis, which Tom believes not only best serves the advisers but will be the way many more firms structure their teams in the years ahead.

The centralised team approach has a technical benefit, he says, “because we all get to work on almost every aspect of financial planning, from vanilla investments to complex IHT planning and use of EIS and VCT, for example. Everyone gets to work on something different and I think that is good for keeping the job interesting and the paraplanners engaged with what they do.”

The advantage for the firm, he adds, is that “you don’t get Orwell’s 1984 ‘group think’, where the adviser and the paraplanner have been working for so long together that the ideas they have become the same ideas.

“Here, the adviser submits a case and we can independently view it as to what needs to be done, where the gaps are, what solutions will best fit and then we present that proposal to the adviser. We have that autonomy.”

Also important, he adds, is that the paraplanning reporting line is to the managing director of the company, by-passing the advisers. “There is a deliberate separation between the advisers and the paraplanners. We sit in a different office from the advisers in London.

“I think that is important in terms of control and compliance. We are seen not just as the technical experts but also as an internal control, as all the financial advice has to go through the paraplanning team.”

There is a further quality check on the work, specifically for new money and more high risk cases, by third party compliance company TCC.

“We know the centralised process is having an effect on the quality of our work because we have the compliance scores going back to 2013, and we can see there has been a marked improvement over time, which is down to the advisers and paraplanners working together in this way.”

Tom believes the centralised system will become more prevalent within the market, not least because of the lack of paraplanners compared to the number of available paraplanning positions in the market and the rising cost of paraplanning. “It means as a business you can’t have one-to-one adviser to paraplanner working, firms are going to have to change their processes. I think firms will be looking at more cost effective and efficient ways of delivering advice, particularly as firms start to grow.”

Head of Advice role

Tom explains that the head of Advice role has developed from what was the paraplanning manager role, to encompass a wider set of responsibilities but it is not overseeing the financial advisers.

“There are four aspects to the role. The first is managing the paraplanning team and the workflow within the department, ensuring that we are meeting deadlines and the overall quality of the work. That includes the usual managerial tasks such as overseeing what the team is doing, and the annual appraisals, sickness holiday and so on.

“The second element is the technical side, which includes providing one-to-one advice, putting together product panels, maintaining relationships with our providers, providing the technical resource within the firm, as well as dealing with things like the impact of MiFID II.

“I also chair the specialist investment committee, which covers off areas like EIS and VCT, inheritance tax schemes and anything that doesn’t fit under standard investments.”

The third element of the role, he says, oversees part of the training and development of the teams, including looking for CPD opportunities for paraplanners and the advisers, helping to co-ordinate the quarterly consultants’ day, bringing in the right people to speak.

“I’ll also work on projects for the department. When we implemented Intelligent Office, for example, we needed to look at our processes, so I was involved in that project. I’ll also get involved in rewriting documents, such as our risk and technical documents. I also write a quarterly article for What Investment.

Finally, alongside managing the team, Tom remains hands-on in terms of the paraplanning work. “It’s never less than 50% of my day-to-day role and when we are really busy, like now in March, I’ll spend 80% of my time writing reports.”

Changing face of paraplanning

Rugby was the driving factor in how Tom became a paraplanner. His first job was with Moss Bros, running the hire department in a local store but being retail he had to work Saturdays, which meant he couldn’t play or watch rugby. So he quickly moved to a job with the Woolwich Equitable Building Society as it was then. With a degree in Business Administration and Marketing under his belt, he joined the Woolwich IFA graduate training scheme. The technical training he received on that scheme he says has stood him in good stead as he has built his career, working first for Barclays Financial Planning and then four financial planning firms, before he joined Thomas Miller Investments in 2014 as senior paraplanner.

In October 2016, when his then boss, Jade Connolly (Professional Paraplanner cover star of October 2015), left the role, he became head of Advice.

If he has seen a change in paraplanning in his 16 years as a paraplanner, he says it is that paraplanning has become more recognised as a role in its own right, not just as a stepping stone to being an adviser, and there is an increasing demand for the role now.

“What we’ve also seen is the creation of roles like mine, where paraplanners are overseeing teams of paraplanners, rather than being managed by the advisers.

“Also, there are now resources just for paraplanners, such as Professional Paraplannerand the Powwows, which simply weren’t around when I started in 2003.

Another very positive change, he says “is the fantastic camaraderie between paraplanners, who have come together as a group of people. I didn’t know any other paraplanners back when I started and now we’re all able to connect and share ideas.”

Growing influence of paraplanners

(Continued over page)

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