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Setting the Standard: Reece Edwards, Hampshire Hill Group

29 August 2019

Reece Edwards, the first person to pass The Paraplanner StandardTM from Standards International, talked to Fiona Bond about promoting the importance of paraplanning as a career and why firms need to throw their support behind paraplanners.

Reece Edwards, paraplanner at Hampshire Hill Group, recently became the first person to pass Standards International The Paraplanner StandardTM, an accolade he describes as an “honour” and one he hopes will inspire other paraplanners to follow suit.

“It was an honour to become the first person to go through the process. I’ve seen the hard work that has gone into creating The Paraplanner StandardTMand the passion and drive behind it, so to pass was a proud moment,” says Reece.

Launched in April 2018, the new Standard was designed to “recognise and celebrate the pivotal role paraplanning plays in the financial planning business of the future”, according to Standards International founder Michelle Hoskins. Through its framework, The Paraplanner StandardTMoffers applicants an evaluation of the specific set of skills, principles and behaviours needed to excel in the role.

For Reece, the decision to go through the process was partly inspired by the culture of training and development fostered at Nottingham-based Hampshire Hill. Managing director Richard Hampshire and all of the firm’s investment advisers have been awarded Standards International ISO 22222 standard.

Reece explains: “Working at Hampshire Hill made me very aware of the benefits standards offer and piqued my interest in the process as a whole. As the only paraplanner in the business, it was especially important for me to receive that external guidance, insight and knowledge.”

Prior to going through the process, Reece volunteered to become part of the Standard’s sector committee made up of business owners, employers, financial professionals, practice managers, compliance managers, technical and client administrators and other paraplanners.

Reece says: “Seeing the fantastic work that Standards International do first-hand made me realise how beneficial The Paraplanner StandardTMis for our industry. The term paraplanning is so vague and open to interpretation, there is often a misconception that it is just a stepping stone to advice. I’m already Level 4, but I have chosen this as a career because this is where I truly believe I can add value.”

Support network

For Reece, achieving the Standard is not only testament to his commitment to industry best practice, but has provided him with a benchmark to return to, reassess and ensure he is improving. He says the support of Hampshire Hill throughout the entire process, particularly from boss Richard Hampshire, has proved invaluable.

While the first year’s fees were offered with compliments of Standards International in return for the role Reece played on the committee, from next year on the Standard will be funded by Hampshire Hill.

Reece says: “I am very lucky that I work for a firm that fully supports personal development and there was never a question about who would pay for the process. The whole team has been incredibly supportive and I believe that support and encouragement is vital for paraplanners in general if we are to highlight and promote the importance of paraplanning.”

Reece’s involvement in the creation of the Standard as part of the committee meant he was immersed in the various different aspects for a while, but says it took two months of “dedicated, hard work” to achieve the Standard.

There is no set timeline for those who choose to go through the process and according to Reece, the time required will vary from person to person. Paraplanners from firms who have some experience of assessments and have the backing of their wider team will naturally be quicker than those for whom the process is alien, he says.

The bigger picture

The Standard is currently divided into two parts; soft skills and technical. The former is very much a personal assessment, exploring how the paraplanner fits into the firm, their thoughts on their role and what exams they would like to do.

For Reece, the experience of drilling down to his personal traits, skills and views was an eye-opening experience.

“I have a tendency to go with a very broad view on things and the industry as a whole and I felt that Michelle wanted me to focus more on where I personally fit into that picture. However, she is great at putting you at ease and encouraging you to talk about yourself,” he says.

In contrast, the technical assessment takes a more structured form, with applicants expected to work through the Standard point-by-point with the assessor. Reece was asked to show evidence of his work in the form of four client files which were thoroughly examined.

“If you put the groundwork in, the whole process is fairly straightforward and it was easier than I had expected,” he notes. “The most difficult part would be applying for the Standard starting from scratch. It’s taken me five years of building up knowledge and experience to get to the point where I was in a position to pass.”

Reece is a staunch advocate of the Standard and would highly recommend it to other paraplanners regardless of their experience.

“I don’t believe there is currently enough for paraplanners to aspire to and work towards or a benchmark in place which encourages them to continuously improve. A lot of the exams available are geared towards financial advice,” he explains. “For those who want to be paraplanners not advisers, the Standard is one of the only things out there that celebrates and promotes paraplanning.”

Reece describes the whole process from start to finish as “uplifting” and believes more advisers should encourage their paraplanners to apply, which he says will go a long way to building an industry of robust, knowledgeable and dedicated paraplanners.

“If paraplanners have the support and backing of their firm, they can add a hell of a lot of value to the business and I think it is time this was recognised,” he adds.

Michelle Hoskin, managing director, Standards International, comments:

Reece is an amazing example of what a true professional paraplanner is. His hard work, creative thinking and professional approach to his role is outstanding.

As a key influencer in the design of The Paraplanner Standard™ it was a personal pleasure to assess Reece against the professional benchmark of excellence.

We are excited to see how he grows to add further value to the profession as he becomes instrumental in changing an industry into a true profession.

First published in the September 2019 issue of Professional Paraplanner

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