Paraplanner Team of the Year: Holden and Partners

9 August 2021

PP Editor Rob Kingsbury spoke with Aram Kupelian, paraplanning manager, about how the Holden & Partner’s paraplanning team had been restructured to make better use of its talents and winning this Year’s Paraplanner Team of the Year Award.  [Extended article]

Holden and Partners recently reviewed its paraplanning team and is increasing its number from six to eight, restructuring the team to make better use of the talent within it.

Aram Kupelian, who heads up the team explains: “We took a good look at who we had doing what and realised there was a better way to do things. We had three paraplanners with some 30+ years of experience of paraplanning between them and high levels of qualification as well as people within the administration team who wanted to progress. But we were all working in a traditional style of paraplanners to advisers, working one-to-one yet with no real regard to the type of work that may be crossing their desks.

“So we restructured to make better use of the talent in the team and so we can bring in new people ambitious to become paraplanners.”

The team structure now consists of three layers:

  • Financial Planning Associates (FPA), experienced senior paraplanners who work with individual advisers (partners in the firm), undertaking the more complex client work and who are more actively involved in the financial planning from start to finish.
  • Paraplanners, undertaking typical paraplanning work.
  • Paraplanning Associates, who are training to become paraplanners and are mentored by the FPAs.

Structuring in this way, Aram says, “makes better use of the experience and the qualifications that we have in the team, while also freeing up more of the partners’ time for prospecting and building client relationships.”

The firm actively encourages its staff to want to progress in their careers, whether through exams or moving around in the company. Two of the new Paraplanning Associates are coming from the administration department, as an example. “We recognised that we had qualified and experienced administrators who wanted to be paraplanners and this now provides a mechanism to progress good people within the business.

“It brings new blood into the paraplanning team, and the profession, and is good for the culture of the business as it gives people the opportunity to progress.”

One of the operational fundamentals the team has put in place is clarity of process, Aram explains. “It is important to promote a clear and consistent way of working. When businesses evolve and expectations around the role change, a team needs to adapt quickly.

“The process of change can be where weaknesses develop, so clear communication and maintenance of process guides is crucial. This makes it easier for changes and improvements to be formalised, communicated, and understood.”

During the pandemic, where the team was working from home, team communication has been essential. “Microsoft Teams has been a life saver in that respect. We have weekly virtual team catch ups and now we can go back into the office, every two weeks we meet as a team in the office to discuss workloads and other areas.”

The firm doesn’t set performance targets for the team, “as it is difficult to ascertain how long set pieces of work will take,” Aram says, “but every month I produce a report on the output of the team, which we use over three to six months to spot trends and if there are any issues we can sit down together to look to address.”

Team members are also encouraged to become involved in other areas of the business or in specific projects. “We find it provides a break from the job you do every day, stretches you a bit and gives you added impetus when you come back to the day job.” Examples are paraplanners working with marketing, helping to produce client guides, being involved in the firm’s application to become a B-Corp, and setting up the firm’s charity team.

“Having a voice in the various groups within the firm helps pull everyone together.”

Winning the Professional Paraplanner award, Aram says, “is recognition that we are doing things well. We are by no means perfect and we are always looking to improve, which is what our restructuring is about, but it is nice to have the validation of our performance as a team.”

Professional Paraplanner