Nathan Fryer set up outsourced paraplanning firm Plan Works in 2014. He’s now looking to expand the operation.
Nathan Fryer, director and paraplanner at outsourced paraplanning firm Plan Works, began his working life within the sales side of asset management houses dealing with the intermediary market. Over 10 years he says he met with many thousands of advisers and it was one of his IFA clients who turned him on to paraplanning. During a meeting, the adviser outlined the role of the paraplanner and the issues firms were having trying to recruit good paraplanners. “He said he thought there was a huge opportunity within the outsourced paraplanning space,” says Fryer. “We sat down and talked through what the space looked like, what the competition looked like and how we might structure a business to benefit from the clearly growing need for outsourced paraplanners.”
Fryer was fortunate enough to be in a position to take six months out and spend it in an adviser firm where he started learning the ropes of paraplanning. “The particular firm is an award winning, ISO 22222, British Standard financial planning firm and my six months with them gave me the direction and the confidence to want to be a truly great paraplanner.”
Moving directly into paraplanning was a steep learning curve, Fryer admits. “But throughout my career I’ve always challenged myself to go beyond my comfort zone. When I started at Fidelity I didn’t even know what an ISA was. I was thrown in the deep end and had to start swimming.” However, his asset management background did provide a lot of transferable knowledge and skills that he could bring to the paraplanning, he says. Given his background in asset management sales the obvious question is why he chose to become a paraplanner rather than an IFA? Fryer says: “The answer lies in the reason that I set up an outsourced paraplanning service rather than go in-house. Within an adviser firm the obvious career progression would be to become an adviser but the roles have very different skill sets. The paraplanner is very technical and analytical, whereas a large part of what an adviser does is the customer-facing element of the business. I really enjoy the technical and analytical elements. It’s something I’m good at. But I don’t want to be a paraplanner in just one company, I want to run my own business.”
Also, having liaised with financial advisers every day and seen the good and the bad practices, “I’ve had valuable insight into adviser processes and procedures and that is something extra I can bring to the table,” he says.
Currently Fryer holds the Certified PFS Discretionary Manager and is working to become Diploma qualified. “I’m going through the exam process because I recognise that it is a competitive industry that we’re operating in and qualifications provide a distinction in the market but qualifications aren’t everything. I am open and honest with my clients about what I have and haven’t got while I’m working towards Diploma. I offer to do the first report free of charge so that they can see the quality of the work and the way that I work, and also so I can see the way they work to make sure we are a right fit.”
Setting up Plan Works
Plan Works was established in January 2014 and has grown to the size where Fryer is looking to take on another paraplanner in the firm on a freelance basis. “I’m at that tipping point where I have a lot of work sitting on my desk,” he says. “I don’t want the quality to be affected because I’m busy so I need to have someone there I can rely on to give work to which will allow me to build the business.
“I’ve spoken to other paraplanner business owners and they say that this is the difficult point, when you have to bring someone in and not only ensure they work in the way that you want them to but you have to commit to paying that person on ongoing basis. It’s a nice problem to have but also a nerve wracking one and a huge commitment.”
So when he set up Plan Works, was there a masterplan as to how he would build the business? “I was quite fortunate that my first client was the adviser firm I spent my six months training with. So I didn’t have that launch fear of going to market without having a client. My plan for the first year was to get up to 4-5 clients who were using us on a regular basis (he currently serves 8 adviser firms). The three-year plan is to have another member of staff and to be up to around 15 firms using us. Also, I’m looking to integrate software into the business to make us more efficient while retaining the quality and bespoke nature of what we do.”
Plan Works offers a full paraplanning, as well as administration and consultancy services, which draw on Fryer’s career in financial services. “We look to offer a bespoke service, which means we can be as involved in a business as the adviser wants,” he says. “On the administration side, we can take on writing out to the various providers, requesting the information and documenting and filing that according to how the adviser operates. What we try to do is not add additional processes to the adviser’s business; we want to fit in with the way the adviser is working. So, for example, if they use drop box for filing, we’ll integrate with that; if they want operate on email we’ll do that; or if they want to give us access to their PC remotely we’ll do that. We want to make the outsourcing of any piece of work as easy as possible.”