Martin Vaughan has been an influential figure in the development of paraplanning in the UK. Rob Kingsbury spoke to him about his career and how much he’d seen the profession change over the years.
Martin Vaughan has been a leading figure in the development of the paraplanning profession over the past decade and, although he has now set up his own wealth management firm and is a practicing financial planner, he remains involved in the paraplanning community. In fact, we arrange our interview having met at the Powwow in the Middle in March.
Martin’s route into paraplanning was via working for life insurers and a major bank back in the 1980s/1990s. He started his career in financial services as a ‘Man from the Pru’ going door to door as an agent for the Prudential, then took a similar role with Liverpool Victoria, and finally spent four years as a tied agent for HSBC bank. At the bank an increasing emphasis on selling rather than financial planning, which is where he wanted to be, made the decision for him that it was time to leave and he turned to the IFA market.
“I went to work as an administrator, as it was termed then, at an IFA in Nottingham. It meant taking a pay cut but I wanted to learn how an independent financial advice firm worked from the ground up,” he says. He had FPC and he began taking the higher level qualifications – he now has both Chartered and Certified Financial Planner status and is an Associate of the Personal Finance Society. “I found I really liked the role, so much so that I spent the next eight years working for a number of firms, during which time I saw what was deemed an administration job evolve into paraplanning.”
In 2008, he took the decision to set up his own outsourced paraplanning firm, establishing Paragon Paraplanning, which he ran until September 2013.
Then one of his clients asked him to go in-house, which he did, becoming a director of the main company, a stockbroker and discretionary investment manager, and also managing director of the firm’s wealth management arm.
The role allowed Martin to use his core paraplanning skills and expand upon them, through the capital markets side of the company, learning how a DFM and stockbroker worked. “It was a superb experience,” he says. “I now understand all the outsourced discretionary propositions.”
In addition, and dating back to his time at Paragon, he has been working as a consultant, advising and helping adviser clients to make the best use of their paraplanners, as well as consulting on business efficiencies and improvements within financial planning firms.
This experience, he says, has led naturally to the next stage in his career, setting up his own financial planning practice, Hamilton Rose Wealth Management and working as a financial planner.
“Having spent several years telling people how they should do it, now I’m walking the walk as well,” he says.
Raising the paraplanning profile
The incentives for Martin to establish Paragon Paraplanning, he says, were “a desire to work for myself, a need for some variety in the work I was doing, and a wish to become involved in other things.”
Those ‘other things’ have been instrumental in raising the profile of paraplanning. With Richard Allum he set up TheParaplanner.com a resource website which was designed, maintained and updated by paraplanners for paraplanners.
“TheParaplanner.com was our idea to provide a resource for paraplanners and allow people to talk to one another and share knowledge and experiences,” he explains. It comes as no surprise, he adds, that the online Forum, where people can log on and asks questions and learn from other paraplanners, has been the most successful part of the website.
He was also heavily involved in the developing the IFP’s Level 4 Certificate in Paraplanning, working with the Financial Services Skills Council.
“The work on the qualification was interesting as there were so many interpretations of the paraplanner role. So before we created the exam we had to define what a paraplanner is, and write a job specification within the FSSC and then go back and do the work with the IFP on the qualification,” Martin explains.
The question is, of course, whether there is a need for a specific paraplanning qualification given that many paraplanners are headed for Level 6 qualifications. To this he replies: “It depends on the kind of paraplanner you want, or want to be. If you want a person who is highly technical then they may be best served by just taking the more technical exams from the CII. But if you want someone who understands paraplanning in its entirety, then the paraplanning qualification will fulfill that.
“There is still a wide interpretation of what a paraplanner is – anyone who has advertised for a paraplanner will know how broad a range of experience and knowledge falls within that term. The qualification, therefore, sets a benchmark and helps employers know exactly what skills and knowledge a candidate should have.”
But at the same time it’s a stepping stone to Certified or Chartered Financial Planner status, he adds, “because why would a paraplanner not want to be Level 6 qualified?”