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Technical Insight Seminars 2018 – Q&A, Paul Squirrell

8 March 2018

In this quickfire Q&A, Paul Squirrell, national pension sales manager at Fidelity FundsNetwork tells Rob Kingsbury how the company is supporting paraplanning and what he likes best when presenting to paraplanners.

1. How do you see the role of paraplanners in the financial planning market and going forward?

Paraplanning has really risen to the fore following the introduction of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) in 2012. Since then, there has been a growing level of qualification and professionalism within advisory firms generally and I think paraplanners sit at the centre of that development. It is hard to see how the advisory market could have survived without the growth of the paraplanning role post RDR. Bearing in mind the changes that have occurred in the market, from the regulatory, legislative and technical perspectives, advisers have needed paraplanners to help their firms keep abreast of the changes. They are the engines in the advisory firms allowing advisers to do what they do best, see the clients and nurture those relationships.
To my mind, paraplanning increasingly has become integral to the running of the advisory market and I can only see that continuing.

2. What do you see paraplanners delivering for clients?

What paraplanners deliver to clients is, in effect, what paraplanners deliver to the advisory firm. As we know, it can vary from firm to firm, depending on what the firm wants of its paraplanners. It could be they are very involved in the client relationship, attending meetings and being a secondary point of contact for the client if the adviser isn’t available, or it could be they are the technical and report writing hub of the business, without any client contact. Whatever role they do, it is the client that benefits from it.

3. Why is it important to FundsNetwork to get involved and to support paraplanners?

It is crucial for us to get in front of and provide support to paraplanners because in many cases they are the engine rooms of financial planning firms. We have a wealth of technical knowledge that we feel we can impart to advisers and paraplanners alike, and the most effective way for us to find out what the market needs in terms of products and services is to talk to the people doing the job. After all, we all want the same thing, which is to do our best for the end client and ensure they get the best outcome we can deliver.
As the people doing the research and analysis on products, paraplanners sit at the heart of the advice process, so from our point of view it’s essential that we meet with them and listen to what they have to say, so all our thoughts are aligned – as well as providing some value in terms of our technical know-how along the way. By engaging with paraplanners we will learn what firms need now and in the future.

4. What else is FundsNetwork doing to support paraplanners?

We have been putting a lot of work into our website over the past couple of years and there really is a wealth of good quality information on it now. The developments have come from listening to advisers and paraplanners and we have a range of material available, from two types of fact sheets, one aimed at the adviser and one at the end customer, through to video explanations of some of the more technical aspects of financial services. The client facing fact sheets we’ve designed to help when explaining things to clients, putting them in easy to understand language, which I would see paraplanners using either within their reports or giving to clients as supporting documents. We also have 36 “Exam” focussed videos at present with more being added in the future. Each video covers learning outcomes for the latest exam syllabuses and are designed to help people improve their knowledge or to prepare for forthcoming exams. We are constantly travelling the country presenting at conferences and to adviser firms, and Paul Kennedy, Director of Tax and Trusts will be hosting a number of tax seminars in June and July. We also offer a number of exam training days too.
The information and videos can be found in the Technical Matters area of the website: www.fundsnetwork.co.uk

5. You’ve supported the Professional Paraplanner Technical Insight Seminars for the past three years? Have the questions and interaction of paraplanners changed over that time?

I think what I’ve noticed is that I’m getting a lot more questions, the sessions are a lot more interactive and the questions are getting more challenging every year too. That is probably the result of us being at the events every year, and people feel more comfortable with raising their hands and asking what they want to know. Also, the fact that the level of qualification and technical knowledge amongst paraplanners is increasing every year, is leading to those more probing questions.

6. What do you look forward to most in the sessions?

Most definitely, it’s meeting the people and the interaction I get in the sessions. Every year there have been new and returning paraplanners and it’s being able to talk with them and listen to the issues they have and hopefully, give them the information they need to deal with those issues. I particularly like the case studies, where people come with a specific scenario in mind and we talk about it. That’s the side of the events I really enjoy.

7. There are 11 events this year – is that a daunting prospect?

I’ve recently finished presenting at 18 events around the country in just six weeks, so in terms of the number of events, the simple answer to that is ‘No’. Actually, I’m quite excited by the fact that Professional Paraplanner is taking the Technical Insight Seminars to more places round the country this year, as it means the number of delegates is going to be bigger than ever and we will get to meet many more people. FundsNetwork has committed to all eleven events because, as I’ve said earlier, we realise the important role that paraplanners now play in the advisory market.

8. What topics will you be covering at this year’s seminars?

I spend a lot of my time travelling around the country talking to advisers and paraplanners, listening to the issues they are dealing with and helping them with technical information and explanations, in what seems to be an ever more complex regulatory and legislative landscape. In consequence, I have a good idea of what is topical at any given time. At the moment, I’m getting a lot of questions around annual allowance, as might be expected in the run up to the end of the tax year. We want our sessions at the Seminars, which start in May, to be topical, so at this stage, I wouldn’t want to say categorically what I might be talking about. We’ve been told that we will get the results of the FCA Consultation on Defined Benefit transfers in the first quarter, so depending on what’s in the paper, that could be a very relevant talking point. Whatever, we talk about it’s important to me that they are technical and relevant. And I always try to build time into my sessions so that I can take questions from paraplanners and if someone wants to raise a technical issue they can.

9. Is there anything you’d like paraplanners to do before they come to your session?

The main thing is, be ready to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to ask them. For me, there’s no such thing as a silly question. And that goes for all the sessions at the Seminars – get involved and get the most from your day.

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