Growth plan: Nathan Fryer and Siân Davies Cole, Plan Works
25 September 2020
In early September 2020, outsourced paraplanning firm Plan Works relaunched following founder Nathan Fryer being joined by experienced paraplanner Siân Davies Cole. Rob Kingsbury spoke to them about partnering up, what they will be offering financial planning businesses and their plans to grow the business over the next few years.
RK: How did your partnership come about?
NF: I had got to the stage with the business where I was happy with it as it was and needed a fresh pair of eyes and added stimulus to help take it to the next level. So I advertised for an equity partner and was very pleased when Siân responded, as she brings a wealth of experience and expertise not just as a paraplanner but in running teams and in business operations and procedures implementation.
SDC: When Nathan put out the advert in June, I was already thinking about potentially setting up an outsourced paraplanner firm and speaking with other paraplanners about it. I knew that ideally I wanted to partner with someone and it was clear Nathan wanted a partner rather than an employee, so I sent him an email to see if he wanted to chat.
We then had a few Zoom calls to see how we might progress things. There were important things to find out, such as whether our personalities would work together, how we would like to work, what Plan Works offered and what else we might want to do, and so on. We followed up those Zoom meetings with further calls and discussed case strategy to see if we thought along the same lines in terms of outcomes and quality for clients.
Once we were certain we could make it work, we got down to the nitty gritty in terms of legal documents and so forth and set our launch date.
RK: How will it work operationally?
NF: We recently moved to new offices in Nutfield, Surrey, but Siân will work remotely from Bristol. We’ll offer the range of services we always have, so suitability report writing, technical and financial planning advice, platform due diligence and working with advice firms on their central investment propositions but alongside that we will now be able to increase capacity in specialist paraplanning on tax vehicles such as EIS and VCTs and other more complex tax planning. We’ll also be focussing more on offering consultancy services to financial planning firms, using Siân’s experience.
SDC: In my previous role as head of Paraplanning, I was responsible for forming the paraplanning team, which included the administration support team, overseeing them, coaching junior members and providing technical support to financial planners. I was also charged with putting together processes and procedures for the firm covering the advice and the paraplanning areas. This included being involved in the implementation of Intelliflo’s Intelligent Office (IO) within the firm.
What’s clear is that IO isn’t used to anywhere near its capability by many advice firms and that is an area where we can definitely help firms map out their processes and then get the best from the software, and so improve their efficiencies and costs.
NF: We’ll also be bringing in a non-executive director to help with the decision making, questioning us and helping to make sure we’re taking the business in the right direction.
RK: Who will you be targeting as clients?
NF: Plan Works has been built on quality and integrity, working with advice firms that have the client very firmly at the centre of everything they do. It is that quality of firm that we will continue to work with. It’s important for us that there is good fit between Plan Works and the advice firms with which we work.
RK: What will partnering in the business give each of you as individuals?
SDC: For me it’s about sharing the responsibility of running the business, something I’ve not done before but which I know can be draining when you are also doing the paraplanning – and particularly when you are expanding the business. Also, it’s about working with someone who has the same values that you can bounce ideas off, and you can work with together to drive the business forward.
NF: For me it was having someone who can look at the business with a fresh pair of eyes and ask questions about how we do things and whether they could be done in a better way? Also, someone who could invigorate the business and help take it forward to the next level. That’s often the hard thing to do when you’re working on your own. It’s the reason I wanted a partner not an employee.
RK: What are your plans for the business?
SDC: Initially, I will come in and learn everything that Nathan does on a daily basis and look at everything with that fresh pair of eyes to see where we can improve or enhance things.
We’ll then look to grow the business, as quickly as we can but organically. We intend to grow through referrals, which tend to generate the right kind of business for a firm of our size.
We’ll look to get us to the level where we are both comfortably busy. We want to reduce Nathan’s workload from what it is at the moment while also growing the business, so we’re working in a balanced way. That will allow us time to spend looking at how we can develop the firm; which is likely to include employing staff. That will be organic growth also, one member of staff at a time, probably starting with a senior administrator as support for Nathan and me as the paraplanners.
RK: What are your views on the future of outsourced paraplanning?
SDC: We think that outsourcing can only grow and that firms will want to avail themselves of experience and expertise like ours to help them grow. Firms are reviewing the way they work and many are taking on new clients.
Outsourced paraplanning firms I’ve been speaking to over recent months have reported they are very busy and we’re also hearing more about advisers leaving networks or firms to start their own businesses. So the opportunities are definitely there.
NF: What we may also see is firms use in-house paraplanners for the day-to-day paraplanning but then outsource the more specialist work which the in-house team don’t deal with regularly and does need specialist knowledge – such as VCTs and EIS, as well as platform due diligence, and efficiency of processes and procedures.
ESG investing is another area where we can help. From March next year advisers are going to have to have conversations around ESG and if, as paraplanners, we can provide an ESG solution, I think that is a huge opportunity.
Also, I think we’ll begin to see more paraplanners come together to form partnerships or new companies.
Plan Works directors’ backgrounds
Nathan established Plan Works in December 2013. Prior to that he worked in sales for UBS Global Asset Management and Fidelity International. It was an IFA client who spotlighted the growing need for and influence of paraplanning in the market, which saw Nathan start an outsourced paraplanning company.
Siân joined Plan Works from Bristol IFA Aspirations, where she was head of Paraplanning. Prior to that she was senior paraplanner at The Citimark Partnership and Chartered Paraplanner at Attivo Group. She started her career with HSBC, working for the bank for nearly 9 years.