I started my financial services career in the customer services department of an insurance company, where I obtained the old certificate in financial planning and picked up some basic product and industry knowledge. After working there for five years, and with future prospects for the company looking uncertain, in 2010 I decided to start exploring other avenues.
I was keen to stay in the financial services industry and use my qualifications but without going down the financial adviser route as I found the idea of advising clients face-to-face and having the pressure of finding new business quite daunting.
I’d never heard of paraplanning before but after doing a bit of research online I thought it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I’ve always been a bit of a geek at heart and I was attracted to the technical nature and variety of the role. I also liked the idea of working for a smaller, local business after several years working for a large company.
I decided to be proactive and start emailing IFAs with my CV and eventually I was lucky enough to be offered a role as a trainee paraplanner by a local IFA where I stayed for six years. I’ve now been paraplanning for more than nine years and in my current role since February 2018.
'The learning is never-ending'
Over the years I’ve increased my qualifications, firstly by achieving the diploma in financial planning and I’m currently working towards the advanced diploma. I’ve also taken additional exams such as the CII’s discretionary investment management exam and I’m FCA authorised. Studying in my spare time can be difficult and going back to studying for exams as an adult can definitely be challenging – when I started out on this career path, I don’t think I truly appreciated that the learning would be never-ending!
For people who are just starting out or early in their careers, I would say that achieving the diploma in financial planning is hugely important, as many companies specify this as a minimum requirement. That said, exams aren’t everything – industry experience, attention to detail and a willingness to adapt, keep learning and deal with ever-changing regulations also help.
I believe that it’s also important to understand the company you want to work for and the nature of the role. I’ve noticed that paraplanner roles vary hugely. At some firms paraplanners simply write suitability reports from templates, while at others they work more closely with the advisers, attend client meetings and have much greater input to the advice process and product research.
Although in my experience people outside of the industry often still don’t understand what a paraplanner is, I believe that the role has evolved over the last few years and is increasingly being seen as a career path in its own right rather than a stepping-stone to an adviser role.
Going forward, I would like to see paraplanning become a recognised profession to inspire more people to consider it as a career. I think we’re definitely on the right track!