Sharon Hamilton, head of Paraplanning at Chase de Vere, considers the development of the paraplanning team within the national financial advice company and how this affected her own career progression
The role of the Paraplanner at Chase de Vere has gone through transformational change over the past decade. Once perceived as an additional resource to be utilised by a select number of advisers, the paraplanner team now plays a key role in the business, providing invaluable support to all of the company’s advisers, which in turn allows them to spend more time on client relationships and the delivery of a highly personalised advice service.
The company itself has been on a progressive journey since the appointment of Stephen Kavanagh as chief executive in 2010. He has orchestrated a longer-term strategy, with a focus on enhancing the client proposition, delivering truly independent financial advice and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in the place to provide the company with a more robust and sustainable future.
This included a re-evaluation of the role of the paraplanner. The results of this approach are self-evident, with the company producing best-ever business performance figures and attaining exceptional client feedback.
In the past
In 2012, Chase de Vere had just 10 paraplanners, and they were assigned to a limited number of advisers, typically those with larger and more affluent client banks.
The paraplanners in the business reported into Adviser Managers, who perhaps didn’t have the best understanding of the paraplanner role, other than considering it as a simple add-on to the financial planning process.
By 2016, Chase de Vere had 48 paraplanners and introduced Regional Paraplanner Managers. These managers had a much better understanding of the paraplanner role and the benefits it can provide for a business.
I joined Chase de Vere as Regional Paraplanner Manager for the North in 2016, and I managed the paraplanners across seven of the company’s offices. While the introduction of these roles was a big step forward, my fellow Regional Paraplanner Managers and I still reported into Adviser Managers.
This changed in April 2020, when I was promoted into a newly created role as Head of Paraplanning. Since then, our paraplanners have reported into our Regional Paraplanner Managers and our Regional Paraplanner Managers have reported into me. I report directly into our Executive team.
The key purpose of my role is to manage, motivate and develop my team to ensure that our paraplanners deliver consistent high quality written advice and provide technical research services to the company’s 200 private client advisers, to assist them in providing exceptional levels of advice and service to our clients.
Becoming one team
When I was promoted into the Head of Paraplanning role, our three regional paraplanning teams all worked differently to each other and weren’t operating effectively as one team.
I established a Paraplanner Business Standards Group, in which I am joined by my Regional Paraplanner Managers and nine senior paraplanners from around our offices. We are focused on promoting consistency across our business and this has really brought everybody together, working as one team with one consistent approach.
This was demonstrated during lockdown when our paraplanners were able to support advisers who were based in different regions. We showed that, by all working in the same way, with consistency of reporting and greater transparency, we can support advisers no matter where they are based. This means we can allocate our paraplanners to wherever they are most needed. For example, we’ve had paraplanners in Glasgow supporting advisers in Bath.
I’ve also set up a Senior Paraplanners Forum, which allows our senior paraplanners to discuss and share best practice and to bring ideas with one voice to the Paraplanner Business Standards Group. This has given the opportunity for them to step forwards and make a real input into how we deliver our service to our advisers and ultimately our clients.
The result has been increased efficiency, improved business quality numbers, better productivity and more of our paraplanners progressing their careers within our business.
I wanted to do more to support the personal development of our paraplanners. I’ve developed and implemented systems to identify and understand their individual training needs and work closely with our Professional Development & Training team to develop training courses for new joiners and provide targeted technical training for existing paraplanners. We’ve now taken this a step further by recruiting a Paraplanner Development Manager to provide dedicated training, coaching and development for our paraplanners.
I’m a big believer in working with and mentoring and developing my team members. I’ve done this with many colleagues including Adele Egan, who was recently promoted into my previous Regional Paraplanner Manager role, Cheryl Manson who is a wonderful senior paraplanner and Sophie Butterworth who is developing into a fantastic financial adviser.
I’m also trialling a two-year Apprenticeship Programme using an external training provider. The candidates have on the job training while taking their professional examinations and benefiting from external mentors. The first two candidates are progressing really well and will be fully qualified paraplanners and potentially budding advisers of the future. My intention is to roll out the programme to colleges and universities to attract new talent into the industry.
Supporting experienced paraplanners
I am determined that we continue to support our paraplanners, helping them to develop their knowledge and skills and giving them a voice in terms of how we work. We’ve also reviewed and updated our benefits package, including introducing hybrid working, to make sure it’s competitive in the market.
As a business, we’re very keen to provide career development opportunities for our employees, and that’s no different amongst our paraplanner ranks. While we have many ‘career’ paraplanners who we want to retain and support, we have other paraplanners who are keen to gain further experience and qualifications before moving into an adviser or management role.
We are able to facilitate this at Chase de Vere and, in the two years of my tenure as Head of Paraplanning, six paraplanners have become advisers, with more following shortly, and two have moved into management roles.
The results of our progress are very pleasing. The fantastic work that our paraplanners undertake is hugely valued by our senior management and advisers alike. They’re playing a key role in helping the business to become more efficient and provide a high-quality service to our clients. This is reflected in the performance of the business, the productivity of our advisers and the feedback from our clients. We have ‘Excellent’ ratings on Trustpilot and an exceptional Net Promoter Score of more than 70.
We are not standing still. We now have 85 paraplanners in our business and are actively recruiting 10 more experienced paraplanners across our Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle offices.
Chase de Vere has exciting plans to grow further, both organically and through acquisition. Our paraplanner team is recognised as having played a key part in our success to date and, with the giant strides that we’ve made, will have an integral role to play in the company’s successes in the future.
Photo: Sharon Hamilton