At the Institute of Financial Planning conference earlier this month, the organisation declared its intention to be the professional body of choice for paraplanners.
The IFP also unveiled the new additions to its board and the election of Richard Allum, managing director of Paraplan Plus, marks the first time a paraplanner has held a board position.
Allum says this shows how much the role has progressed from even 10 years ago when paraplanning barely existed. But long before the RDR, he says financial advice firms began to build a momentum behind professional standards and a more rigorous approach to the advice process slowly increasing the popularity and standing of paraplanners.
“Ten years on, many advisers recognise that, with their growing presence in the analysis and evaluation of financial plans, the professional standards of paraplanners could be a significant factor in their business’s reputation among clients,” says Allum.
IFP chief executive Nick Cann says professionalism among paraplanners has become a hot topic now because businesses have realised that to survive, be successful and grow, the six-stage process of financial planning is better delivered when split between planners and paraplanners.
Cann says: “In simple terms, it takes risk out of the business, allows the planner to spend more time with clients and to increase productivity and revenue generation, and ensures that people are doing roles that they enjoy and can perform well in.”
Taylor Oliver paraplanner Claire Goodwin feels it is natural development that makes paraplanners push forward as a profession.
Goodwin says: “We are all part of the bigger financial services picture that is going through RDR and I see it as a real positive that one of the knock-on effects of this is the development of the paraplanning role.
“For a lot of people RDR has been about study and qualifications and while this is a very important part of being a paraplanner, it’s still not compulsory to hold a minimum qualification.”
Goodwin thinks the best way for paraplanners to maintain a minimum standard would be through a Statement of Professional Standing.
She says: “That way, CPD and ongoing development would be taken into account. A lot of paraplanners I know took their diploma a long time ago and I feel it’s important to be able to demonstrate that your knowledge is up to date.”
The role of the paraplanner covers a range of skills from the more administrative report generation to specialists in long-term care, equity release or pension transfers. Allum feels that because of this, professionalism is perhaps less a question of setting minimum standards and more of achieving clarity over what professional standards a paraplanner needs to work on a client case.
Allum says: “I think that kind of clarity would make advisers’ lives easier and professional development for paraplanners clearer. I see my role as encouraging the bigger conversation about clarity in professional standards for paraplanning. The IFP is well positioned to play its part in this by contributing to a meeting of minds between advisers, paraplanners and other organisations.
“Whether there’s a need to raise professional standards among paraplanners, I don’t know. But I do think that achieving consensus on standards would be an important milestone. As adviser confidence rises, due to common paraplanning professional standards, I expect the idea of paraplanners working side by side with advisers on the generation of financial plans and advice to become much more common.”
Goodwin says: “Ultimately I would like to see paraplanning as a controlled function. I think we will see a lot more paraplanners becoming regulated individuals in the near future, but probably through the CF30 qualification. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but giving advice is not the same as paraplanning and I feel it would be more appropriate to have a specific function for our role.”