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Viewpoint: Working together

2 July 2019

Sometimes we need to step back from the job we do and take in the bigger picture, says Dan Atkinson, head of Technical, EQ Investors.

(First published in the July/August issue of Professional Paraplanner)

What is the purpose of paraplanners in a business? We do lots of things, but why are we part of the team? Why do we even have financial planning businesses in the first place? Forgive me if these are too obvious, but sometimes it’s wise to step back and consider them. So, bear with me. Let’s think about them in reverse order.

Why do the businesses we work for exist? Whilst we might have a snappy vision and/or mission statement there are two things that are in common across financial planning businesses. I think they have equal weight, but more in a 100% and 100% sense rather than 50:50.

One core reason for being is to help our clients achieve their financial goals. It’s 100% about our clients’ best interests whether you formally hold yourself out as a fiduciary or not – just look up COBS 2.1. The best planners I’ve spoken to have a deep care for their clients and a strong relationship with them.

The other is what businesses are designed to do – make profit. 100% of businesses that consistently lose money will eventually fail. This means clients won’t be served, owners will lose money, and employees will lose jobs. Business owners amongst the paraplanning community will be acutely aware of this. However, those of us who are employees can get side-tracked from this. Our responsibility is to do our best for clients efficiently to ensure that our businesses are sustainable – profits are necessary for the future of any business. So, we need to be cognisant of our time and how we deploy it for the businesses of which we are part.

Let me be clear at this point. These are not the only purposes of a business, but without the two we won’t be in business for long. EQ Investors is a Certified B Corp*. Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving of a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good.

So, what is our part in the businesses we work for? Clearly this varies between firms, but we have an important part in the team. Planners bear responsibility for finding and engaging clients. They have regulatory responsibility for the advice and often will have made a substantial financial investment in the business. Administrators make things happen. They ensure that what is agreed to actually happens – and hold providers to account when they don’t deliver. Paraplanners provide technical support, undertake research, analysis, report writing and more. We take direction from our advisers and refine this into a functional, compliant experience for the clients.

These are different parts of a functioning team or partnership. I’m not saying, ‘know your place’ but rather understand your part in the jigsaw and be the best that you can at that. Understand how the other parts link together for the purpose of the business – serve clients and make money. We have an important part to play, but the position of most importance needs to be the client.

This leads me to an uncomfortable observation. Sometimes, especially where we are more technically qualified than our advisers, we can become arrogant. It’s possible that we know best from a technical point of view, but that doesn’t mean we should have an attitude of ‘I want to get my adviser to…’ and a desire to manipulate them into best practices. We are working together with them, so approach differences as partners not adversaries. We might not be right, and indeed unless we know the client as well as the adviser does we won’t understand how they tick. We can both learn from each other, so let’s do this from a position of respect.

Likewise, with our administrators, treat them with respect as partners in the purpose. It sickens me to hear of people talking down to them as ‘just an administrator’. They have a key role and without them nothing would happen. The financial plans that get built are pointless unless implemented.

Each part of the business jigsaw has an important part to play and a different perspective which is valuable. We are in it together as partners for clients and profit. Let’s remember, respect and acknowledge our differences of skill sets and experiences and get on with the job at hand. Let’s work as a team.

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