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Where are they now? Blake Ellis

26 November 2020

Rob Kingsbury caught up with Blake Ellis, PP cover star in October 2018 and now director and technical paraplanner at outsourced firm Prudent Paraplanning

Prudent Paraplanning celebrated its first anniversary on 6 November 2020. “I’m very glad that I set up the company ahead of the Coronavirus crisis and Lockdown, says director Blake Ellis. “I’d known for some time that I wanted to establish an outsourced business but I think it would have been harder starting off when everyone was coming to terms with new ways of working.”

Ironically, he feels the crisis may have made outsourcing a more comfortable choice for financial advice firms going forward. “With most in-house paraplanners now operating remotely, like an outsourced paraplanner does, firms are seeing that it is possible and productive to operate paraplanning on a virtual basis. They are also looking at costs of the business, for example, whether they need the same amount of office space. Outsourced paraplanning services can offer cost benefits as firms only pay for the service they use, so they have no office overheads, salary, national insurance and pension payments, etc. I think firms will keep in-house paraplanners but more and more firms are coming around to the idea of outsourcing, bringing in outsourced skills and knowledge accumulated from supporting multiple financial advice firms, especially for additional, or specific help.

“I see outsourced firms being disruptors in the market, making people think about how they do things.”

In its first year Blake says the company has picked up a number of new clients, including from the Top 100 financial advice companies. “When I started I literally had zero clients. It really was a test of my entrepreneurial spirit. So I got on the phone and started ringing around and talking to advisers.

“ Some want regular work and some use us on an ad hoc basis, some need a full paraplanning service while others want us to undertake specific projects or for cashflow modelling.”

While pensions and investment planning is the bread and butter of the business at present, Prudent Paraplanning works across the paraplanning spectrum, from report writing and technical research and analysis to annual reviews and more.

A specialism is cashflow planning – an essential to financial planning that Blake has advocated for years (see previous profile: Cashflow is King).

“Building a proper cashflow forecast, especially a more complex one, can take time and you need to know what you are doing. Inputting the wrong assumptions, for example, can lead to an overly optimistic or pessimistic outlook for the client. Financial advisers often don’t have the time to get to know how to use the system or how to make the most of it, which is where it can make sense to outsource to a firm like us to put a forecast together. We can work with all the tools in the market.”

Building the business

Blake says starting with a clean sheet of paper he could build the company as he envisioned. “I want Prudent Paraplanning to be seen as providing a great service in the most efficient way possible, one that adds value to adviser businesses. Our motto is: ‘Let us add value to your business, so you can add value to your clients.’ We also charge fixed fees for our services so advice firms know what they are paying.”

It’s a strategy that is clearly working as Blake says he has seen enquiries increase throughout the year, despite Covid, and new business is coming from referrals as well as his marketing campaigns.

“Working across all paraplanning services and a range of advice firms, it means when we get a new client we can hit the ground running,” he says.

Blake recently became a member of the CISI’s Paraplanner Interest Group. “As paraplanning becomes ever more important in the industry, we have to not only bring in more people to meet demand for paraplanners but also, we need to have in place a benchmark as to what a paraplanner is and should be capable of doing. I think that’s the only way we’re going to be able to build a real profession and that needs some guidance from a body like the CISI.”

Just a year into the business, Blake says he hasn’t set a five-year plan as yet but he is clear about one thing: “I want to grow the business but it’s important to me that we retain the personal service. I think that is what the kind of firms I want to work with both want and appreciate.”

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