I've been a paraplanner for 18 years – probably since before the job title was created. My boss at a very small wealth management firm was a forward-thinker and one of the very first advisers to grace the cover of New Model Adviser magazine.
Although all the firm's clients belonged to him, he expected me to manage the client relationship when he wasn't available. He demanded high standards and got them, because the long-term client relationship was the single most important thing to him. He used to say to me: ‘Without our clients we have no business.’
Many years on, I remain true to that mantra. I have had many debates over the years trying to pin down what a paraplanner is and what they might be expected to do.
Every firm has its specific requirements. Some are happy with report writers who can also do some technical research. What all paraplanners have in common is that they develop their skills as they gain experience and use these to support their advisers.
The best adviser/paraplanner relationship is one of equality. We have different skill sets - the adviser bears the ultimate responsibility for the advice, whereas the paraplanner has the responsibility for the delivery of that advice to the adviser and for creating and maintaining a fully compliant client file.
We are equal, but different. Both share equally in maintaining the client relationship into the future.
I have had several very successful and rewarding working relationships with the advisers I’ve supported. It really is true that two heads are better than one. I have found that where one of us has felt a little weak technically in a certain advice area, the other has been stronger and we work together to improve our knowledge to deliver best advice for the client.
I like to attend as many client meetings as possible with my current adviser, Chris Fenton, and this adds a real benefit for the client. They can see there is a team of people looking after their interests.
The adviser doesn't need to worry about making sure they have all the paperwork that might be needed or writing meeting notes – I do all that, and I’m there listening and picking up on points the adviser may have missed.
I contribute to the meeting as much as is necessary, especially on any technical points. I present cashflow reports and financial plans and do all the follow up with the adviser. I’m looking to cement the relationship the adviser has worked so hard to get in the first place.
This doesn’t necessarily work in every advisory firm, but I believe it should be the gold standard. The best advisory firms have recognised this for some time. There is a very large and increasing number of Chartered paraplanners and quite a few Fellows commanding very high salaries, some on par with advisers.
The paraplanning community is a robust, diverse and incredibly dedicated group. We consider ourselves professionals and integral to the advice process.
The collaborative nature of a paraplanner and the willingness to share best practice among ourselves has resulted in having our own dedicated magazine (Professional Paraplanner), awards, forums, Powwow seminars and our own Paraplanning Standard, all developed by paraplanners for paraplanners with support from some truly excellent advisers and providers.