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All in the planning

Momentum is building around the role of the paraplanner and its importance for financial planning.

In 2010, the Institute of Financial Planning defined the role and the com-petences required. IFP worked with the Financial Services Skills Council to create the national occupational standards for paraplanners and is now investigating the options around apprenticeship and other support mechanisms.

The first candidates sat the certificate in paraplanning at the end of 2010 and these will be recognised with the accredited paraplanners at the first UK Paraplanner Conference on May 25. The event will be exclusive to paraplanners and more than 100 are expected to attend. For full details go to

Many businesses have found it difficult to make direct contact with paraplanners, who typically are not registered individuals or members of professional bodies. Organisations such as Threesixty have offered support and understanding of the value of the role and the benefits of joining the community.

In 2011, the IFP will celebrate 25 years of the financial planning profession in the UK. With the roles of paraplanner and financial planner now clearly defined, this is the time to focus on the financial planning business itself in readiness for the retail distribution review.

As Aifa wrestles with its constituency and what this might look like after 2012, the financial planning business is developing more consistency.

The IFA market will fragment and there must be greater discussion around independent and restricted advice models. There remains too much uncertainty and several businesses have not yet declared their hands.

There is too great a focus on the range of financial products available rather than the quality or nature of the experience and service that customers receive or expect.

It is all very well hiding behind titles but for the RDR to deliver any real consumer benefits, clarity around the actual service and business delivered is what will get more people to engage with financial planning.

There is much talk about independence being the gold standard but the characteristics we want to highlight are different from whole-of-market access.

To engage more effectively with clients it is vital they have strong trust in the adviser. They want their adviser to be on the same side as them and help them plan strategies that will make a difference to their lives. They want to feel part of the process and be able to review progress.

Consumers do not necessarily want to be educated but need to be confident that the individuals and the businesses they deal with are putting their interests first.

Financial planners are able to deliver these outcomes and now is the time to start sharing some of these business traits and processes so that stakeholders in financial services can make better decisions.

It is a fundamental understanding of clients’ needs and the shape of their business proposition that is allowing financial planning businesses to improve.

However, it is difficult to deliver this effectively without the use of the paraplanner so planners can maximise their time and value-generating client work.

Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning


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