Paraplanning is a well-known route to becoming a financial adviser, but it can also lead to other career options and hone essential skills
There is more to paraplanning than being a stepping stone to advice. In recent years, it has become a career in its own right. It can also take people in other directions within financial services.
Paraplanning involves technical and analytical skills, among many others.
“Some paraplanners will be more client-facing, whereas some will spend more time doing research and report writing. For me, paraplanning has offered the chance to take advantage of what I consider my main skills: writing and problem solving,” says outsourced paraplanning firm Para-Sols head of paraplanning Grant Callaghan.
As he points out, the ability to communicate confidently and effectively with providers, advisers and clients can be helpful when paraplanners move into leadership or mentoring roles.
“The soft skills developed through paraplanning, such as communication, organisation and managerial skills, allow paraplanners to be natural leaders,” adds Heat Recruitment managing consultant for financial services Alex Russon.
“This opens the opportunity for progression, particularly in firms that will offer comprehensive and continuous training.”
Springboard to other roles
For those who want to move on from paraplanning into other roles, the options are seemingly endless.
“While the natural next step is often to the role of a financial planner, other career routes such as compliance and general management roles are an excellent fit for the skills of a paraplanner,” says KIS Finance HR and business consultant Sue Andrews.
“Excellent organisational and problem-solving skills, self direction, time management and report-writing skills will set any candidate in good stead for a variety of roles.”
Russon is seeing more paraplanners move to compliance roles or investment committees. “They prefer roles where they can aid clients or avoid the sales elements linked to many in finance. A large amount of paraplanners are put off by stringent business targets and prefer a softer approach,” he says.
When EQ Investors head of technical Dan Atkinson moved from administration to paraplanning, he began to see how the role could lead to various possibilities.
“You can move into financial advice but there are different aspects, such as compliance, training and marketing. Paraplanning can give you the skills you need,” he says.
Atkinson moved from paraplanning into his current role in 2016. “I have had leadership roles before, so it was a natural progression from paraplanning. As my line manager had moved into advice, I was taking on a bit more responsibility,” he says.
For Callaghan – who was Para-Sols’ first intern back in 2014 – the role of day-to-day paraplanner has developed into helping train the firm’s intake of university graduates and lead a team working with a number of advisers remotely.
“I didn’t expect this progression when I started, so the branching-off options are certainly a bonus in this field,” he says.
The case for career paraplanning
The prospects are good for career paraplanners, given demand is exceeding supply. Russon says the earning potential tends to be a strong incentive for paraplanners to grow internally, with top firms opting to pay salaries of up to £50,000 a year.
“Although still a relatively new profession in the UK, the increasing technical and legislative complexities of financial planning mean that a growing number of firms are recognising the value of investing in the role,” says Andrews.
“As financial planners struggle to keep abreast of all relevant changes, while still finding the time to devote to their clients, an effective paraplanner can really help to relieve some of the burden.”
Andrews adds that in many ways, the role of a paraplanner is still being defined.
“It is something that may give them more freedom and flexibility than they would enjoy in a more established position,” she says.
Atkinson says paraplanning involves a lot more potential for personal development than some roles.
“In other industries, people say ‘I must get to the next level’. In paraplanning, there is a lot of knowledge, understanding and personal development, so the way you progress is not necessarily through getting a promotion,” he notes.
Commentators point out that there are huge benefits to being a career paraplanner. Edward Reed Recruitment managing director Chris Stappard says: “Paraplanning is a candidate-driven market, with a high demand for skilled workers, so you will benefit from fantastic job security. Wherever you want to work in the UK, there are always likely to be opportunities available to you.”