Taking the initiative
4 July 2019
New Paraplanner of the Year award winner Alana Quinn tells how since joining Murphy Wealth she has been encouraged to use her initiative and take responsibility for key projects within the firm alongside her paraplanning duties.
Alana Quinn of Glasgow-based Murphy Wealth is not afraid to put forward ideas to deliver better service for clients and help build the business. She also doesn’t shy away from taking responsibility for implementing those ideas. It’s one of the reasons she scooped the New Paraplanner of the Year accolade at this year’s Professional Paraplanner Awards.
She is helped by the fact that the firm encourages its staff to use their initiative and to take responsibility for putting their ideas into action. This has lead Alana and fellow paraplanners Ciaran Stark and Ceara McGrory, to become deeply involved in key projects for the firm.
Murphy Wealth is a small family-run business with a 42-year history, which started in Ayr and moved to Glasgow in 2012. It has two advisers and around 300 active clients, mainly entrepreneurs and high net wealth individuals. It now has its sights firmly set on growth – recently doubling its office space and taking on five new staff including an intern and a graduate trainee. It’s an exciting time to be apart of the company, Alana says.
“They are more than happy for us to come up with ideas and if they like them they will allow us to put them into practice.”
The ratio of advisers to paraplanners at the firm is 1:2. But the paraplanners are termed client managers. The reason for this, Alana explains, is that the paraplanner role sits squarely within the firm’s client relationship building process.
“As the client manager I’m actively involved in every case from start to finish and attend all the client meetings with the adviser. We work as a team and discuss the client’s needs before the meeting and make decisions collectively about what we’re going to talk about.
“I will prepare the documents, produce the cashflow models and I will also take notes within the meeting, so the adviser can focus his attention on the client.”
The client managers are also the firm’s first point of contact for clients in the daily run of things, she explains. “We communicate with the clients and send them their documents and they will come to us in the first instance if they have any questions.”
This way of working, supported by the ratio of paraplanners to advisers, she adds, “allows the advisers the space to concentrate on the advising.”
To help with discussions of client cases, the firm has installed white boards in the office. “If, for example, we are dealing with a complex case, such as tax planning where there are trusts and business relief involved, we’ll put all the facts up on a white board so we can go through everything and find the right solution for the client.”
She says she has found this hands-on way of working, including attending client meetings, “very useful for my development because we’re getting to see everything that goes on and to put into practice what we have read in text books. It’s also been great for building my confidence.”
Alana studied Investment Finance and Risk at Glasgow Caledonian University, writing her dissertation on behavioural finance and whether individuals needed more of a push than a nudge to engage in the right way with their finances. On leaving university she spent a year travelling – “just me and my backpack” – in South East Asia before joining Murphy Wealth in May 2017.
“I knew Ciaran because he was on the same course as me at University. He had been an intern while at college and was already working here. I joined as part of an unofficial graduate scheme, starting in admin for six months before moving into paraplanning,” she says.
As part of its growth plans, the firm decided it wanted to bring on both more interns and graduate trainees, looking to take on one of each per year. Alana suggested that having been through the process, she and Ciaran could work on ideas for a more structured graduate scheme.
“We wanted to have a two-year graduate programme with an offer of a permanent role as a paraplanner at the end. It made sense for someone who had been through the process to help shape what it would look like.
“We thought it was important for graduates to get a real feel for the whole business, starting in the admin department, where they can get to understand the back office and due diligence process and so on, and gradually introduce them to the paraplanner role, including attending client meetings, so they can get to see what the advisers do on a day-to-day basis too.
“We also set up a buddy system where Ciaran, Ceara and I are buddies for the graduate trainees, being there to help guide and answer any questions they may have as they work through the programme.”
Hand-in-hand with the graduate programme, Alana has been heavily involved in encouraging interest in the firms’ internship opportunities. She explains: “We did this by running a competition with Glasgow Caledonian University, the prize for which was an internship with Murphy Wealth.
“I co-ordinated with the President of the University’s Risk and Finance Society and we organised a kind of speed-dating event at the office, which people could get on to by writing a 500-word submission on the future and challenges of financial planning. We advertised the competition in the university and through social media and I went in and talked to students about it too. The students came in and spoke to the admin staff, the paraplanners and the advisers about the role. Then we judged the entries and the winner got the internship. She was one of the five people who started with the firm a few weeks ago.”
Client experience programme
It was while working as an administrator that Alana thought she could see a way to improve the client experience. “We do it well but there are always ways we can get better at things and I thought there were ways we could enhance our client contact,” she says.
The team, under the stewardship of operations director, Fiona Frew, is designing the client experience programme, which maps the journey from the client perspective from initial contact through the onboarding process.
A team of four is working on the programme. “We determine what we need to do from a client facing perspective, to identify any gaps or improvements we can make to ensure the client journey is as smooth as possible,” Alana explains. “For example, ensuring they are kept informed of progress throughout onboarding, which can be quite a lengthy process if you’re waiting for information from providers. This way the client doesn’t lose sight of what we are doing for them and the value they’re getting from us. It also includes marking things like birthdays. It’s about making the client feel they are valued.”
The firm has also launched the Murphy Wealth App. This, says Alana, gives clients a consolidated view of their assets, as well as a secure messaging facility. The firm can update client information and the client can put in additional information from their end and choose whether or not to share it with the adviser.
“It’s providing the best possible service to clients when we take them on and through their time with us,” Alana says.
Spreading the word
While the profile of paraplanning has increased within financial services in recent years, Alana believes it remains largely unknown as a career and she wants to help encourage more people to become paraplanners. This is one reason she was keen to get involved with the graduate and intern programmes, which she sees as a means both to bring in new paraplanners and spread the word about paraplanning in general.
“I’m not sure many people at university know what a paraplanning role is and I think now we have this closer link with Glasgow Caledonian, Ciaran and I have the opportunity to talk about it as a career option.
“I really enjoy what I do. Every day is different because it is such a varied role. What’s best about the job, for me, is the client interaction and knowing you’ve empowered people to make life-changing decisions. It’s really rewarding when the client is able to go and live the life they have been speaking about in meetings, and when they send photos of themselves doing what they dreamed of doing, to show they appreciate the work that you’ve done for them.
“I think if more people could see what paraplanning can do for people, a lot more people would want to be paraplanners.”
Winning the award
Talking about winning the New Paraplanner of the Year award, Alana says: “I think it’s great that there are awards for paraplanners as a standalone role. I’d seen the previous years’ awards in Professional Paraplanner, so when I saw that this year there was a New Paraplanner of the Yearaward, for people who’d been a paraplanner for less than two years, I thought maybe I would give it a shot. Writing the entry and then going through the interview process was a good experience. I wasn’t expecting to win at all.
“It’s been great for my confidence and had an effect already. We put it out on social media and since then I’ve been in five client meetings and all the clients have mentioned it.
It’s great recognition for me and for the firm too.”
Picture: Alana is presented with the award by Parmenion’s head of Strategic Partnerships Patrick Ingram