IFAs may have a more high-profile position in most advice firms but Gill Perry, who is client relationship and technical support manager at Monahans Financial Planning, is emphatic that a support role is the one for her.
“I am not a salesperson so I did not want to move into the IFA side of things – and I still don’t. What I enjoy is the nitty gritty and detail of it all.
“I trained as a bilingual secretary. I loved languages and maths at school but decided to go down the languages route. I went to Bristol Polytechnic to take a modern languages degree but after I started it I saw a secretarial course. I switched to that and learned things such as French shorthand.”
Perry’s first job was in the financial services arm of the London School of Business. “Funnily enough, I was there when futures and options were big news and the professors were lecturing on them. I have just done RO2 and that covers similar ground. I wanted to say, I was there at the start of all this.”
After two years, Perry took on a role at computer leasing company Park Limited. She says it was a pressurised sales role with long hours and when the company was reduced by 50 per cent and made her redundant, she was not too upset. It was pretty good timing as I was expecting my first son.”
After a career break of seven years to look after her two sons, she returned to work after taking a typing course at her local college but got more than she bargained for. Her husband, Roger Perry, is a director of Monahans and suggested she could help out at the business. “I thought that when I returned to work I would be doing a job I did not really have to use my brain for. When my husband asked me to come in because they were short of typists, I thought that would be it.”
However, when Perry’s office manager suggested she take the paraplanning exams in 2004, she jumped at the chance. “Monahans is a fantastic employer. It really fitted round me in terms of school holidays, so I wanted to stay there. The maths side of paraplanning also appealed to me.”
Today, Monahans has a team of six paraplanners, headed by Perry, and she thinks they are an invaluable asset to the company. “Eight years ago, we did not even have paraplanners. The other day, I asked one of the directors, ’How did you cope?’ He said he used to work every night and all weekend.”
Perry was recently promoted to client relationship and technical support manager. “I will still be doing paraplanning but I will be integrating the administration side more. The work we do will be the same but it will be more regimented and structured.”
She gets involved in all aspects of the support service. “I am not too proud to chase an annuity through. As a paraplanner, you know not just what forms you are meant to have received but also why and when. You know to keep chasing.”
The paraplanning team takes a synergetic approach. “We do not have one paraplanner working for one adviser, we might try to follow a case through but we do not get possessive about it. It is quite collaborative.”
Technology has been a huge help, says Perry. “We use the Standard Life wrap, which makes my life a lot easier because I do not have to look at all the underlying funds every day. We do not have to pick up the phone all the time, which is good because insurance companies are not always geared up to deal with information requests.”
Gaining qualifications has helped her in the role. “I got my diploma a few years ago. After I took it, I said I would never take an exam again but I did RO2 last week. I am working towards the CII certificate in paraplanning now. I think it is good to take exams and keep yourself refreshed – they make you look at things in a different way.”
But Perry is not a believer in exams for exams’ sake. “The job is not about being qualified up to your eyeballs and not using it. Any exam we do we want to be practical for Monahans. I took the long-term care exam so I could really know what I was doing when I got a long-term care case.”
Perry believes good qualifications work well from both sides of the adviser- paraplanner relationship. “The IFAs do rely on us for the technical detail but because all our advisers are chartered, it also means we can rely on the information they are giving us.”
She thinks the adviser-paraplanner relationship will be a lasting one and that the retail distribution review will only make it more important.
“Advisers want paraplanners to talk things through with. I think we will always be behind the IFAs, smoothing the road for them to have more face- to-face time with clients.
“I do wonder how some IFAs will cope once the RDR comes in. Some of them will not have enough hours in the day if they do not use paraplanners.”
But Perry is unsure about some parts of the RDR. “I cannot get my head around what will happen with trail commission but it is not worth thinking is this good or bad because we all have issues with the FSA and where its focus is. If the FSA did not do things like this, would we lapse a bit? It keeps us on our toes.”
Perry predicts the next 12 months will be challenging for paraplanners. “We will have to get processes working more smoothly and I might have to make some changes on the admin side but we just have to get on with it.”
Born: Northolt, Wiltshire, 1965
Lives: Trowbridge, Wiltshire, with husband and two sons
Education: Cheltenham Grammar School for Girls and Little Heath Comprehensive, Reading
Career: 2000-present: from part-time typist to client relationship and technical support manager, Monahans Financial Planning; 1987-93: computer sales consultant, Park Limited; 1985-87: administrator/PA at the London Business School
Likes: Running, Pilates and the cinema
Drives: A Citroen C1 but my sons are learning to drive in it at the moment
Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Film: Pretty Woman
Album: Diamond Life by Sade
Career ambition: I am happy doing what I am doing now, although I have always wanted to work back in London
Life ambition: To bring up a happy family
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…A fitness instructor