Talented, quality paraplanners have been hard to come by recently. The apparent shortage could be as a result of higher demand, with the increased regulatory burden on advisers creating more administrative requirements. As paraplanning has become a career in itself, advisers have recognised the value of having someone to assist in ensuring the smooth and compliant running of their business.
Paraplanners ultimately take some of the workload off advisers, allowing them to focus more on their priorities. As their right hand man or woman, an adviser can call upon the expertise of their paraplanner, whose work can be integral to a firm’s success.
Each firm will differ in its definition of what paraplanning duties are key. It may sound obvious but, when hiring a paraplanner, it is important to outline in the job description exactly what is required. This will lead questions in the interview stage and makes clear where the adviser’s role ends and the paraplanner’s begins.
One of the key qualities a paraplanner must be able to show is the flexibility to adapt to the role’s varied duties. The most vital attribute is being highly organised and efficient, so it is important you test a potential employee’s skills with some form of technical or competency test.
However, it is not just about technical ability. Sometimes potential recruits have fallen at the last hurdle – their personality. It is important to hire a paraplanner not only with the right skills but with a personality that will fit with the culture of the firm.
Real ambition for the role can be seen in how the candidate talks about things, not just what they say. Watch closely their enthusiasm for the role and its duties. Reactions and passions for certain things will portray more with regards to the candidate’s fit into the culture, rather than extensive knowledge of the firm.
This involves talking about both the most and least interesting parts of the job. Asking the potential recruit what they might find the best and worst parts of the role will help identify their fit. Assessing how integral to the job these responsibilities are to the candidate can help assess their suitability.
Meanwhile, asking whether “giving direct advice” is something they are willing (or want) to consider will help you assess their career plan. It is not always the case that a paraplanner’s aim is to become an adviser. This was evidenced in the most recent Institute of Financial Planning’s annual paraplanner survey, published in July, where around two-thirds of respondents said they were committed to remaining as a paraplanner rather than seeing it as a route to becoming a financial adviser. Finding out the candidate’s long-term plans and timescales on achieving them can help you explore whether this is something your firm can cater for.
Indeed, some paraplanners are expanding their skills by taking higher-level qualifications that allow them to give advice. We have recognised a trend whereby more are registering as CF30, which covers the functions of dealing with customers. Around 25 per cent of paraplanners are currently authorised. This could signal intention on future career plans but it also shows ambition to maximise their value.
Outsourced paraplanning is a potential option for firms not keen on bringing more staff onto the payroll. While it can be cost efficient and offer access to broader expertise and insight, a more collaborative approach to working with clients can be achieved through having an in-house paraplanner. For example, trusted paraplanners can step in to help when advisers are not there.
Whichever route is taken, bringing on paraplanning expertise can help maximise the productivity of a business. The flexibility of the role means recruits can be chosen that meet a firm’s particular needs and future plans.
Stephen Hagues is founder of Retiring IFA