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Putting paraplanning on the career choice radar

21 August 2018

What needs to be done to create greater awareness of paraplanning as a career choice? Fiona Bond took the results of our recent parameters survey and discussed the issue with paraplanners keen to see the profession grow

A lack of awareness around paraplanning has been well documented of late, with the advice industry bemoaning a lack of skilled paraplanners. Compared to some of the other more well-known roles within financial services, paraplanning still flies under the radar.

Rebecca Tuck, accredited financial planner at Magenta Financial Planning, explains: “The biggest issue preventing new paraplanners entering the profession is simply a lack of awareness that the role actually exists – I’ve yet to meet anybody outside of financial services who knows what a paraplanner is.”

It’s a challenge The Personal Finance Society has sought to overcome with its recently-launched “paraplanner pathway” video, designed to offer a simple introduction to paraplanning as a career.

Alan Gow, member of the PFS Paraplanning Panel and director of Argonaut Paraplanning, says of the initiative: “The team on the PFS Paraplanning Panel has been working on material to promote the role in schools and colleges to raise awareness of what makes paraplanning such a great career and where it could lead.”

Undoubtedly one of the greatest barriers to attracting new blood to the profession is a lack of understanding about what the role actuallyentails. There’s often the misconception that paraplanning is an administrative role or stepping stone to an advisory role, rather than a career choice in its own right.

In a survey carried out by Professional Paraplanner earlier this year, 71% of respondents agreed that firms should be doing more to promote paraplanning as a profession, while 72% said paraplanners should be doing more to help put paraplanning on the map.

Aram Kupelian, paraplanning manager at Holden and Partners, says: “I would like to see paraplanning have more of an identity as a career choice. Whilst a great deal of progress has been made to generate awareness within the industry, outside of the industry it still isn’t recognised enough. I think establishing this identity and growing awareness is key to attracting new blood.”

Flying the flag

The hurdle the industry faces is how to position the role of paraplanner to school leavers, graduates and those interested in financial services. Paraplanners are agreed that it’s not so much a perception that the role isn’t interesting, but a lack of understanding that it’s a viable and lucrative career path. To this end, respondents to our survey called for paraplanning to feature more in the wider press, not just industry-specific media.

Unlike many other professional roles, paraplanning has no formal entry or degree requirements. The relevant qualifications are largely gained during employment with experience developed along the way – in sharp contrast to how many other professions such as accountancy and law work.

For Kupelian, a vital first step would be for paraplanners to attend career fairs and give presentations at schools and colleges.

He points out: “You could present to a room of 100 A level students, of whom only 3 or 4 might know what a paraplanner is. By the time you’ve spent 30 minutes talking to them, you have 100 A level students who know what a paraplanner is.”

It’s an approach shared by Tuck, who says: “As a rule, paraplanners love what they do, so it would be great to see more people fly the flag and head to their local schools or colleges in person to spread the word about the opportunities available – particularly at this time of year, with many young people considering what their future looks like.”

However, if the industry is going to successfully entice school leavers into the role of paraplanner, misconceptions around what kind of person makes a good paraplanner also needs to change.

For Gow, it is important that students in particular, understand that it doesn’t require a math genius to fulfill the role. Rather, that becoming a paraplanner is about the right mindset. Gow hopes the new PFS Paraplanner HQ Facebook page will help paraplanning reach a wider audience and break down any misconceptions people might have about the role.

Several paraplanners surveyed by Professional Paraplanner were also in favour of introducing paraplanning courses to get people interested. One commented: “There needs to be specific courses at A-Level and university that specifically focus on financial planning, like accounting and law.”

Grow your own

But with a shortage of candidates vying for roles, for many firms it makes sense to look internally and “grow their own.”

Kupelian says that where colleagues are showing an interest in paraplanning, firms should seize the opportunity by mentoring them with less technical letters and instead give them a ‘flavour’ of what the role entails.

Holden and Partners refers to these employees as “padmins”; administrators who write the simpler letters such as portfolio rebalances or ISA top up recommendations.

He explains: “This allows the firm to recruit internally, which is a route we favour. It increases morale in the office to see people promoted and from the firm’s perspective, we can have greater confidence in that person to succeed.”

Tuck adds: “Encouraging new paraplanners is likely to take a bit of effort on the part of existing ones, but I’m hopeful that our enthusiasm will be sufficiently contagious to help build our numbers, which can only be a good thing for paraplanning as a profession.”

Thanks to Martin Green of Chadney Bulgin for the image. 

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