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Rebecca Tuck – Stepping out

30 October 2018

Rebecca Tuck, paraplanner with Magenta Financial Planning, is this year’s CISI Paraplanner of the Year. She spoke to Rob Kingsbury about why she entered the award and how her role at Magenta Financial Planning has evolved since the firm launched two years ago

The first question for Rebecca is why she entered the CISI award. Taking that step is not for everybody after all and requires a lot of work outside of the daily paraplanning routine.

“I felt that I was at the stage when I genuinely could enter. Early in my career I was told I wouldn’t make it as a paraplanner and having proven myself after that, I felt I had turned the corner in terms of my confidence and ability as a paraplanner, and that motivated me to enter the award. Winning the award is validation that I can do it.”

What has helped build her confidence in particular this year, she says, is getting involved in the wider paraplanning community. She is now a member of the CISI Paraplanner Interest Group as well as the PFS Paraplanning Panel and she has also been involved in the Powwows.

“Getting involved in the community in this way, as well as doing my usual paraplanning job and taking exams, has given me a wider perspective on things than I had before,” she says.

The CISI Paraplanner of the Year Award process required submission of an existing piece of paraplanning work as an initial entry, from which the short-list was compiled. Shortlisted candidates were then given a case study and had to attend a face-to-face interview where they were questioned on their solution to the case study, and their contribution to the paraplanning profession. “I knew it was going to be tough,” Rebecca says, “and it did mean I spent a few weekends in the office making sure I had done my best with the case study. I’m thrilled the hard work paid off.”

Working for a small firm

Magenta Financial Planning has just past its second birthday, having launched on 1 September 2016. Rebecca says she has noticed that a lot more firms have seen the benefits of taking the financial planning route in recent years, which means, as a small firm of just six (soon to be seven) people, Magenta has to stand out. “With every client we try to look at their overall circumstances, the bigger picture and what it is they are really trying to achieve and to figure out the best way to help them get there. I think we are quite heavily invested emotionally with our clients and a lot of the satisfaction comes from helping people achieve things they never thought they could.”

The Magenta team is all female and, Rebecca says, “an accidental by-product” of that and the firm’s approach to financial planning is that the firm has largely (but not wholly) attracted women as clients. “Specifically younger women in their 30s and 40s who have had a big life event or are planning towards one and they want to know if they can do it. I think that is because of our branding, which is colourful and friendly and which has also helped attract people who wouldn’t have considered advice before, perhaps seeing it as stuffy and male orientated. I think because we come across as open and friendly people can relate to us a little bit more.”

Rebecca was our cover star in May 2017. At the time she spoke about how much she enjoyed working for a small, dynamic firm, which allowed her not just to do the paraplanning – as the sole paraplanner at the time – but also to get more involved in the business itself.

Since then, Magenta has grown substantially, she says – “we’ve had a lot more new clients than we had anticipated at this stage of the company’s growth” – so that it has recently recruited two new paraplanners – Carly and Diana (joining soon).

“It’s a seismic shift from being on my own as the sole paraplanner to now being a team of three,” Rebecca says. “And having taken on two more paraplanners means I will be able to do more for the business than I have done before.”

This initially will be fielding advice-related phone calls and emails while the two financial planners, Julie Lord and Gretchen Betts, are out of the office. “In that situation, if a client phones we want to be giving them the best service and getting them the answers they need as quickly as we can and I can fill that gap,” Rebecca explains.

“It also helps to build trust with the client if they know they can talk to someone when they need to and not necessarily just the planner; that there is a team working for them.”

Ultimately, this may lead to Rebecca being authorised to give face-to face advice. “But at the moment I’m looking forward to the additional responsibilities and challenges that being a team manager will bring.”

To that end she is signed to a career development programme with Chwarae Teg (an initiative to help women in Wales achieve and prosper), which is for women who are moving into their first managerial position. She starts the programme in January.

In preparation for the larger team coming on board, Rebecca has had to put an operational manual together on the firm’s processes, to ensure everyone is on the same page. “For example, I set up a number of templates when we first started the business and those have evolved over time, so I had to look at them and make sure anyone could pick them up and start using them, not just me.”

She says she’s also started using Process Street, a free-to-use process and workflow system, to help set out the operational steps that need to be followed, and provide a transparent and easy to follow process and progress tracker on each type of case.

Professional development

As if these challenges were not enough, Rebecca has her sights set on gaining more qualifications too. Having passed the CISI Level 6 Pension exam earlier this year, she is aiming for the Certified Financial Planner qualification. “It’s a big challenge but if I could get it by the end of this year I’d be thrilled.”

And, as mentioned, she is a member of both of the professional bodies’ paraplanner panels.  “I would love to get to the point where when I’m asked what I do people wouldn’t stare at me blankly when I say I am a paraplanner,” she says. “I think that may be a long way off but it’s important that as paraplanners we do get involved and do try to raise the profile of the profession, if only so more people know about it and may aspire to become paraplanners.

“I think this role will appeal to those who have an analytical mind as well as those who get a huge buzz out of helping people, both of which attributes are part of the paraplanner role.”

Getting out and talking to potential paraplanners is one way she hopes to help the profession grow. Recently, she and Gretchen Betts presented a session on careers in finance at a local college in Bridgend. “It’s about getting in front of people to show them that they don’t have to become accountants or work in a bank to be in financial services.”

Likewise, along with other members of the PFS panel, she has been heavily involved in developing a Pathways booklet and video (“which we’re really proud of”) aimed at school leavers and university students, extolling the benefits of the paraplanning profession.

The panels are also focussed on helping to build the profession from within. Rebecca has been involved in coming up with ideas for the events run by both bodies and the relaunch by the CISI of the APP, the Accredited Paraplanner designation, “to help make paraplanning a profession people would aspire to join”.

Paraplanners should get involved

Rebecca says she’d like to see more paraplanners getting involved in raising the profile of paraplanning as it will be beneficial all round.

“I think there is a genuine desire among paraplanners to help one another and work together to raise the profile of paraplanning and the more of us there are out there shouting about how great it is to be a paraplanner, then the more people we can encourage to come into the profession,” she says.

“I think there is a growing recognition generally about the role and that paraplanners do a lot of the work to keep the clients happy and get the best solutions for them. The more kudos and gravitas around the role, the more likely it is that people will want to be paraplanners.

“Also, people will want to stay in paraplanning, rather than move on into giving advice. And if we are retaining good people as paraplanners then that has got to benefit all financial planning practices and all of their clients.”

 

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