At the IFP paraplanner conference earlier this year, someone asked a simple question: “What is the future for paraplanners?”
The professional development of the paraplanning role is one that is evolving quickly within our industry.
That evolution comes naturally with the increased level of qualifications required to do the job but ultimately I believe it will lead to the need for a professional register, something that recognises consistency in our profession.
Like financial planners and advisers, I believe paraplanners should have accountability for their work.
This, of course, means that we should work to a required standard and competency and that we should maintain this standard through continued professional development.
At the moment, anyone can call themselves a paraplanner although we are in good company as apparently anyone can call themselves a surgeon too!
A few years ago, when describing a paraplanner to someone out of the industry there was a standard response, “kind of like a paralegal but in the financial sector”. Not very enlightening.
We have come a long way since then but I do think we can learn from paralegals as to how they define their professionalism.
They have a specific code of conduct, licences are available and there is an Institute of Paralegals. There is no question about what level of qualification they have and like paraplanners they are covered under ‘firm-based regulation’.
But I think we could go further; if financial planners and advisers have to apply for a statement of professional standing, why shouldn’t paraplanners too?
After taking time to produce specific paraplanner qualifications, it would surely be simple for accredited bodies to introduce these as a minimum to maintaining one’s ‘bona fide’ paraplanner status.
One other possible solution would be having a specific paraplanner controlled function on the FSA register. Paraplanners could be authorised as a CF31 perhaps? There is nothing to stop us being any other controlled function we want too but I really feel this is something the FSA should consider.
Allowing anyone to call themselves a paraplanner ultimately leads to confusion and leaves the door open to exploitation from anyone who knows the influence a paraplanner’ could have without having the accountability.
It seems obvious that any firm that works with or employs authorised or registered paraplanners demonstrates their commitment to the future of our profession as a whole.
Claire Goodwin is paraplanner at Taylor Oliver