Kim Bendall – Go Paraplanning
29 October 2020
Kim Bendall’s new company offers paraplanning, practice management, training and consultancy, she tells Rob Kingsbury
“There’s no right or wrong time to start your own business, it’s like investing in the markets, there is no optimal time to invest, you’ve just got to go for it,” says Kim Bendall of her newly launched outsourced paraplanning firm.
And that is what everyone told Kim and her business and life partner Ralph Sanders about their idea to launch their own company: ‘Go for it!’. Hence the name of the business: Go Paraplanning. The robin on the logo is a different story – more of that later.
She may only be a few weeks into the new business but Kim says she is thoroughly enjoying it. “It feels completely right. It was like a path I was always meant to tread and that I have been preparing for all my working life. It’s the next logical step from co-running a business to be fully at the helm.”
Having spent nine years as an outsourced paraplanner, including as co-director of an outsourced company, meant Kim knew exactly what was needed to establish her own firm and she could hit the ground running. She also had half a dozen established clients immediately join the firm. “That has helped immensely but there is still a lot of hard work involved in starting and running a business.”
Kim is focused on the paraplanning side of the business while Ralph brings experience and knowledge of co-owning an IFA firm, where he specialised in practice management, corporate admin and compliance. They have a clearly defined view of what they want their business to be and the kind of clients they wants to work with:
“Our approach is very much one of a partnership with the financial planning firms we work with. We know our established clients very well and they know us.”
That partnership approach is why, when first glancing at the Go Paraplanning website, it seems the firm is offering an expansive range of services, including paraplanning, practice management, administration, training and consultancy, aimed not just at financial planning businesses but also life and investment companies as well as software houses.
Kim explains: “Outsourced paraplanning services can offer a lot more than just paraplanning and administration, including specific project work and helping firms improve practice management, processes and efficiencies and the outcomes for the end clients. I don’t think that breadth of help we can give is always realised by financial advice firms and life and investment companies.
“Ralph and I have been doing these kinds of things for years, so what we wanted to do is articulate the full range of services we can provide so people can see the kind of overall package we can bring to the table as and when needed, and that what we offer is more of a partnership and business consultancy.
“We want to attract people who will value our experience, knowledge and skills, and who will treat us in the way they would want to be treated by their clients.”
One area Kim would like to build on is working with advisers in client meetings. “As an outsourced paraplanner you don’t naturally get to meet the end client. Sometimes you don’t even meet the adviser you’re working with. But I’ve found that when you do get to see the end client it can make a massive difference to the way that you write reports.
“It can also help to have a paraplanner there to field technical questions, provide support and/or minute the meeting as another pair of ears.
“So where an adviser has a big client meeting coming up or is dealing with a complex case and needs some technical support in the meeting, that is where I can see us being more involved.
“I see adviser firms increasingly realising that outsourced paraplanners can be an asset in this respect.”
In terms of a five-year business plan, Kim says Go Paraplanning was started “not with the idea of growing an outsourced paraplanning empire” but rather “to be a deliberately small and beautiful firm that does thing really, really well for a relatively select number of financial advice firms over a long period of time.”
She envisages the firm taking on a paraplanner a year over the first two years and likes the idea of taking on someone who can be “developed and nurtured” through training and exams, to fit with the Go Paraplanning way of working.
“At the moment I can’t see us growing much bigger than that – I think four or five people is about the right size given the personalised nature of that we want to deliver for clients.”
“We also want to be enjoying what we are doing in five years’ time. You have to know what makes you happy and right now we are happy doing what we are doing – we’re not biting off more than we can chew.”
Kim believes the industry will have changed when we come out of the Covid-19 crisis, “but it won’t be too different”.
“I think it will continue to be a more remotely operated industry, with many advice firms continuing to see clients via video calls. I think we’ll also see firms building complete propositions around a digital service that they can operate at lower cost alongside a bespoke and more expensive service that has face-to-face meetings like they have now.
“Hopefully, life and investments companies will quickly follow suit and adapt to the way the industry is going.
“But I think also that post the crisis people will want a period of consolidation and stability, so change may not be as rapid as some people are predicting.”
Demand for outsourced paraplanning and related services she sees continuing to grow, particularly as firms have seen that remote working works. “From firms’ point of view only paying for services when you need them makes sense.”
But she also sees a resurgence of firms recruiting in-house support staff. “As much as remote working has proved to work, there are advantages and a familiarity for people when working in close proximity in an office.”
From an outsourced perspective, one of the key positives to come out of the Coronavirus crisis to date, she says, has been that adviser firms have now all had to experience remote working with their in-house teams. “I no longer feel one step removed from their businesses because I now work in much the same way as their in-house teams. For me that’s pretty special; it means we can offer an outsourced service with much more of an in-house feel to it. The whole thing feels like it’s working better than ever before.”
The robin motif for the firm, Kim explains, comes from a regular visitor to the couple’s garden in the Kentish countryside. “We nicknamed him Bob the Robin which over time got shortened to Bobin. When I’m out in the garden turning over the earth, Bobin is there eating the worms I uncover and at the same time keeping the midges off me. So it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. And it got me thinking about the relationship between advisers and paraplanners; we are both working on our part of the financial planning process with our particular skills but we’re also working together and looking after one another for the benefit of the end client. So when we came to set up the firm we adopted Bobin as our mascot.”
In the same way, the firm’s website shows a personal side to Kim and Ralph, with photos from them in the grounds of Scotney Castle in Kent and on the deck of a cruise ship in the Bay of Biscay. “Both instances were very personal to us and very happy times. And that reflects the ethos of our business, which is about positive, happy relationships and doing what you love.”
The Go Paraplanning website can be found HERE.