Reece Edwards, Hampshire Hill

11 March 2021

Reece Edwards, Technical and Research Manager at Hampshire Hill, tells Rob Kingsbury about the succession plans that will see him and a colleague take the helm at the firm.

Within the next five years Reece Edwards, Technical and Research Manager at Hampshire Hill and his colleague, Dale Bowler, Adviser Team Manager, will be looking to take over the reins of the business from current owners, Richard and Sue Hampshire.

Whether that will be a management buy-out or the owners remaining majority stakeholders but taking a big step back from the business has yet to be determined but the succession plans are in place, with a view to maintaining the ethos of the practice and continuity for staff and clients, Reece says.

“Richard has always said that the business isn’t for sale and never will be. He wants to do everything right by the staff and clients and look after everyone’s interests. As long term members of the business, Dale and I will become Hampshire Hill.”

To that effect, both Reece and Dale now are shareholders in the business and, Reece explains, “since 2018 when the plans were put in place, we have been taking on a lot more of the responsibility and decision-making in the business. Richard has been mentoring us on the running of the business, the areas which Dale as a financial adviser and me as a paraplanner wouldn’t have necessarily experienced.

“Dale has taken on more responsibility for the adviser side, and I have been taking on more responsibility for paraplanning, processing, compliance, operations and administration within the business. Over time, I will take on the compliance officer role and be less hands-on as a paraplanner, taking on a more managerial role.”

On the current schedule, Reece will be in his early thirties when the plan comes to fruition. “To have the confidence of Richard and Sue to take forward the business they have built is massive,” he says, “and a really exciting development for me.”

It is a development we could well see reflected in other businesses around the country.

Nottinghamshire-based Hampshire Hill covers the full range of financial planning, including investments, pensions, protection and mortgages, and will look at clients’ circumstances in the round. For this reason, Reece explains, they view themselves as lifestyle planners for their clients.

Every client, personal as well as ‘corporate’ business owners and board members – receives a cashflow plan on which the advice is based. “Using cashflow, rather than just giving financial advice, makes the planning more real to the client. It helps the client to better see where the benefit would come from our advice and recommendations.” Reece says.

“Also, lifestyle planning is not just about the financial side. If a client has an issue we will try to help out where we can. It’s about the long-term relationship and being more than just. financial advisers.”

Adviser to paraplanner…

Reece cut his teeth in financial services following up on leads for a financial advice firm. His job was to contact the lead and take down fact find information to enable the firm to pursue pension business with the client. Not every lead was as warm as he had been led to believe, making the period “an education,” he says.

As the business changed from non-advised pension reviews to a full advice service, so his role changed. He qualified to Level 4 and seeing the paraplanner role, decided that was the route he wanted to follow. However, he was moved into an advisory role, spending around a year as an adviser. In 2015 the firm made redundancies and Reece took the opportunity to look for a role as a paraplanner.

“I had offers on the table to go back into advising but the advice role never sat well with me. I was authorised and had a decent conversion rate but I can’t say I enjoyed it.”

Instead, he looked around for a firm that would take him on as a paraplanner. Eschewing recruitment agents “because of bad experiences in the past”, he looked for firms recruiting direct. Hampshire Hill was one of them. “I contacted Richard Hampshire, the owner of the business and told him what I wanted to do.”

Hampshire Hill didn’t have a paraplanning function at the time. “Richard offered me the opportunity to come into the business as a paraplanner and build a paraplanning proposition.  As a 23-year-old that was a massive opportunity. I jumped at it and I’ve never looked back.”

… to manager

Reece is beginning to build the paraplanning function in the business. In 2020, he took on an apprentice – “Jack came for a two-week work placement from college and he was such a good fit we took him on as an apprentice” – and has plans to further recruit a paraplanner and another apprentice in the near future.

On a day-to-day basis, currently Reece will write or monitor all the suitability reports, as well as conduct the annual reviews. “But by the end of 2021 I expect Jack will be doing most of the report writing and mainly I will be monitoring.”

In addition, he conducts all the due diligence on funds, portfolios or new products the firm is advising on or is looking to add to the advice process. He is co-chair and lead researcher for the Investment Committee, for the firm’s in-house portfolios and any investments and products the advisers would like to use, in line with the firm’s investment philosophy.

He built and monitors the training programme for the 13 members of staff, alongside CPD monitoring and currently assists Richard Hampshire with the compliance function of the firm, as well as advice oversight, with a view to taking over the compliance role in due course.

Industry role

Reece sees paraplanners becoming ever more influential within financial planning firms, particularly in respect of advice decisions and recommendations. This could include paraplanners taking on areas of technical specialism.

He explains: “I think we will see a change in roles, where the advisers become focussed on the client relationship and presenting the advice and recommendations to the client, while the paraplanners will take the responsibility for conducting the technical aspects and helping the adviser explain everything to the client in plain English, so the client can better understand what is being advised.

“To do that I think you are going to need multiple paraplanners working behind the scenes, who can look at the client’s circumstances and then do the research from the goal, tax and investment/product perspectives.”

He doesn’t see, as some have suggested, advisers working simply as sales reps of companies but rather the adviser/paraplanner working relationship being more of a synergy and efficient use of respective skills.

That will be an evolution within the industry, he says. “I’ve been lucky in that I’ve come into the business Level 4 qualified and I’ve always been able to give my opinion on a case. Not everyone has that degree of freedom and responsibility in their firm at the moment  but I think within the industry the days of the adviser saying to the paraplanner ‘here’s what I want to do, make it fit’, are coming to an end.

“It will be down to the business owners to see where the value lies with their paraplanners and for advisers to have the confidence that they have qualified, trained and trusted paraplanners supporting them. Paraplanners may not be directly bringing in business but given greater responsibility, this can free up advisers and you could end up with more new business than you imagine.”

Level 4 paraplanners

As a natural part of this, Reece believes to take the industry forward, it should be a regulatory requirement that all paraplanners are Level 4 qualified and are made accountable for what they do. “I think if we are to see paraplanners become more involved in the decision making, then they have to be accountable in the same way that an adviser would be. That will help drive paraplanning in the right direction and make them more valued within firms.”

Part of this process is to question whether the current exam route for paraplanners, “which is to follow the exams being taken by advisers”, is the right one for paraplanners, he says.

This was partly the reason Reece became involved in the Paraplanning Standard from Standards International. Both Reece and Richard Hampshire were members of the advisory body that helped formulate the Standard and Reece then undertook and was the first candidate to gain the accreditation.

“As a paraplanner you can take the technical exams but there is a lot more to paraplanning than knowing the technical information. Having a framework that assesses you on the quality of your everyday work and your processes can be more useful than gaining credits for any given examining body.

“For example, one of the pieces of feedback from my first assessment was that while I knew what I was doing, none of it was written down for the business, so if something happened to me, no-one could just pick up the manual and know where and how to carry on. It’s now second nature for me that where we introduce change to put things down in the operations manual.

“It’s a change of mindset from the way people are assessed in the industry but as paraplanners become more and more important to their businesses, I think we will see a move towards this type of assessment, alongside gaining the technical knowledge.”

My best friend is my calculator

It is a standing joke within the company, Reece explains, that when he joined the firm he brought a scientific calculator with him and whenever anyone wanted to speak with him he would be found “furiously punching numbers into my calculator”.

“There was an instance when I lost my calculator and I might have overreacted,” he adds. “So it became known that my best friend was my calculator and that has stuck.”

The Paraplanner Club

Reece is a volunteer mentor with the newly launched mentoring initiative The Paraplanner Club. Find out more here.

Professional Paraplanner