Never in the history of financial planning has such excitement and anticipation built up as it has in the last 12 months for a new breed of professional – the paraplanner.
In the past, when asking many traditional financial advisers what a paraplanner is or how they can be of use to their business we usually faced responses such as “technical support” or “glorified administrators”.
We are not saying that all these people were ignorant of, or oblivious to, the fundamental value and importance of a paraplanner. Nor should it need to be said that every role in the business, from administrator to financial planner, is of equal importance.
What we are saying is that this gem of a profession has been criminally overlooked, undervalued and misconceived for far too long. Finally, the time has come for the profession to start waking up and taking notice.
We have often asked why it has taken so long for this skilled group of individuals to be accepted by the wider financial community. If we take the law profession as an example, the use of a paralegal or a person with specialised training who assists lawyers is second nature to those within and outside of the profession, so it is interesting to see why it has taken so long for this to be mirrored in our profession when ultimately we are striving for the same outcome, treating our clients fairly.
At Bluefin Wealth Management, we took the decision from day one to make paraplanners a core part of our client proposition. Not only because we recognise their importance in our overall mission to help clients create and enjoy a lifetime of financial security and freedom but also because we believe a paraplanner can offer a great deal of value to the overall client experience.
In our experience, paraplanners offer a high level of support not only to financial planners but also to clients themselves and this has resulted in greater levels of fee generation and profitability by leveraging the financial planners’ time to allow them to engage in what they do best, talking to and helping our clients. Clients also feel secure knowing they are dealing with a team of professionals rather than a one-man band who may become ill one day. Armed with a high level of technical exper- tise and well rounded softer communication skills, clients feel assured they can get the non-advice answers they want, when they want.
It is Bluefin’s mission for every one of our paraplanners to achieve the highest level of qualifications whether this is becoming a certified or chartered financial planner. This is not merely a number-crunching exercise for the glossies and financial press but because this high level of expectation has helped further the career aspirations of some of our paraplanners who want to become tomorrow’s elite financial planners. This has also raised the profile of our career paraplanners who have no desire to become client-facing but will continue to be a pivotal part of our modern business.
It is our view that financial planners who have a background in paraplanning encompass a wide range of skills and technical awareness that will stay with them for life.
As for the development of the role, we have been privileged to have been instrumental in conceiving, designing and testing the new level four paraplanning qualification from the Institute of Financial Planning and our paraplanners have been among the first to achieve this high accolade. We are now clear about what a paraplanner should be doing on a day-to-day basis and why this is so valuable to our financial planning business.
We can confidently say to our clients, whether they are dealing with the financial planners themselves or the paraplanning team, that they will receive a consistently high level of expertise and client care.
What does the future hold for these highly professional, technically astute, qualification- driven individuals that have been pivotal to date in driving the Bluefin client proposition forward? The sky is the limit in our view. For those of you who do not have a paraplanner yet or are still to be convinced on the merits of their skills and exper- tise, my advice is go out and find one quickly before it is too late.
Eve Wheeler is a paraplanner at Bluefin Wealth Management