I never planned to be a paraplanner.
But having outgrown my previous job role of admin person / office manager / sometimes-paraplanner in a small but successful financial planning practice, I was excited as I started work with Richard three weeks ago to finally be able to call myself a ‘proper’ paraplanner.
I was also interested to see what life would be like “on the other side of the fence”, as Richard puts it. I was used to the client facing environment; familiar with the majority of my practice’s clients, having spoken to them on the telephone, greeted them at the office, written them letters, slaved over their reports, and had a hand in their financial strategies.
Week one was a whirlwind of information. New systems, processes, research tools, report styles.
Week two, things fell into place somewhat, and I felt confident about starting to write my own reports rather than just do the preparation as I had the first week.
Now in the middle of week three, I feel my feet have barely touched the ground since Monday, and the volume of work I’m getting through is astonishing me!
It has suddenly fallen into place for me just how much sense outsourced paraplanning makes. In my previous job; a small practice, as mentioned earlier, a client report could take us a week to complete. I would have a number of cases on the go at once, all with totally different objectives, requirements, and recommendations, and each would need a different sort of research process, a bespoke recommendation, and a carefully crafted personal report. The process took hours and hours, not just of my time, but of the adviser’s, who wanted to scrutinise every step of the process; every word of the report.
On “the other side of the fence”, though, the process is much more efficient, streamlined and slick.
This doesn’t for a moment mean that our reports aren’t personalised. Providing our IFA provides a reasonable summary of their client’s personal situation and objectives, each case is worked around the individual scenario.
However, it’s considerably more efficient to write, say, ten reports recommending a risk-appropriate portfolio of mutual funds held via a wrap, than it is to write just one, even if each client’s attitude to risk is slightly different, appropriate wrap provider is different, and portfolio of funds is different. Our technical knowledge is up to date, the software and research processes are familiar, and while the reports are worked around what the adviser wants to provide to their client, the basic structure of each report is similar. Hey presto, many more reports can be written in the time it originally took me to write one or two!
Do I think, though, that the individual financial planning practices are losing that personal touch in their reports; that by going through a process, their clients are somehow losing out?
Quite the opposite; I feel that if providing a robust and repeatable process is one of the fundamental principles of TCF, then putting each client through a paraplanning process carried out by a paraplanning specialist, rather than an overstretched adviser or administrator who hasn’t used such-a-piece of software for a month, is a great leap towards this.
And the amount of adviser time that is freed up by the outsourcing of the paraplanning can be used to focus on more face-to-face client projects, which, as numerous studies will tell us, is what the clients value most.
It sounds like a win-win to me.