Tips from the Paraplanner Assembly annual unconference
11 October 2020
This year’s Paraplanner Assembly annual unconference took place virtually, with the theme of a Big Day Out at a Mediterranean resort.
Paraplanners raised questions and discussed issues across several topics, including regulation, tax, compliance, suitability and others.
Below are four areas touched on following one stream through the day.
Annual reviews assessment: Buddy method
One way to double check whether your firm’s annual review documents are hitting the mark full on in terms of clear understanding for the client and compliance it was suggested, could be peer review, ‘buddying’ with another financial planning firm you respect and having them review a range of files on a regular basis; on a reciprocal basis. This would provide an expert external review of the advice given.
An alternative would be to have an outsourced paraplanning firm undertake the reviews. More outsourced firms are providing this service and working across many different firms, outsourced paraplanners have both a good view of trends and standards in the industry. Also, this would negate any internal adviser around passing files to potential competitor firms.
With 3.9 million people set to retire in the next five years, this is a potentially lucrative market for advice firms. However, financial planning for this group will be more complex than in the past, as there are likely to be mixtures of Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution pots in a household and wealth split between couples.
Having a financial plan based on the linear outputs of cashflow planning tools can provide misleading results, it was argued, and what is needed is more stochastic modelling and the type of work carried out by institutional actuaries, who have to create numerous forecasts to obtain a more realistic picture. It was suggested that actuaries may well move into the financial planning space to offer their services.
What is also required for proper financial planning is a household risk assessment. Without the full picture a household’s income and expenses, advice firms could be exposing themselves to risk, it was suggested.
Hand -in-hand with this is the need for soft facts. “You need to nudge advisers to relentless search for the soft facts,” paraplanners were urged.
Finally, blindly taking ONS data as the basis for longevity was misleading, paraplanners were told. “Financial plans need to take into account the effective difference in longevity between affluent and poorer households, because it is stark.
One of the biggest issues compliance reviewers come across, paraplanners were told, is inconsistency in the file. “Where inconsistencies exist, you can’t justify the advice,” attendees were warned.
An example was given of a file full of hard and soft facts but a client goal was highlighted in the suitability report that wasn’t mentioned anywhere else in the file.
Another example was a pension switching case where the savings of £23,000 for the client had been highlighted in bold at the front of the report but only much later in the document was it noted that £20,000 would be taken in the adviser’s charges – and not in bold. This needed to be together so the client had a clear and honest picture.
One way to help achieve consistency and compliance approval, was to record client meetings. These can then be transcribed so they are on the file. Otter.ai was suggested as a useful digital transcription service.
Then, not only will there be a readable version but through the recording, the paraplanner (and any reviewer/complaint handler) can hear what the client actually said, they can hear they way it was said, any inflections in the voice.
During the Covid crisis where meetings are being held virtually, it has been easier to record the meetings and this should be continued when face-to-face resume, it was advised.
This is becoming a greater threat to financial planning companies and their clients, paraplanners were told. A platform representative flagged that they had seen both client and advisers’ email addresses “compromised”, where requests for funds transfer were being made to fraudulent bank accounts.
Advice firms need to be wary of the information they are sending out by unsecured email – withdrawal forms and account details. Even internal emails should be queried where something doesn’t seem right. “Approach with scepticism until you know it’s genuine,” was the advice.
Also, it is important to review systems and set ups on a regular basis. It pays to check the rules set up on email accounts to ensure there are no hidden ones that have been added which send or share emails with an unknown account.
Where people are working from home are they using a secure WiFi at home and are they sometimes working from a coffee shop using unsecured WiFi? Use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is recommended.
Where sending bank details or confidential information then that is best done via a secure portal or encrypted email. Where a paraplanner does not have access to either, then passing details by phone is an alternative.
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