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What advisers are saying: Getting the most out of paraplanners

Pat Rice was Arsenal’s assistant manager for six years before being replaced at the start of the season by (uncle) Steve(y) Bould.

To be fair to Pat, it seems his role was fairly limited – Frank McLintock recently said: “I think Pat Rice was possibly held back, that might be a strong statement, but I don’t think they emphasised defensive play at all over the last few years with Arsène Wenger.”

You’re not kidding, Frank!

Yet, according to several sources, and to the surprise of some, Arsène has given Bouldy the freedom to work with the defence as he sees fit. And it’s paying dividends (at the time of writing, Arsenal’s defensive record is 13 goals better than this time last season). Same job title, very different remit.

For many advisory businesses, it is a similar story with the paraplanning function.

Just a few years ago, paraplanning was considered an administrative function or a stepping stone on the ladder towards financial adviser jobs.But as the RDR puts the onus on financial advisers to complete more client-facing work and carry out more client reviews, paraplanners are playing an increasingly important role.

Part of this is driven from the belief that advice propositions based on ongoing investment advice are likely to come under further pressure, with business models founded on financial planning (and relationships) less vulnerable to price sensitivity.

Many have already undergone serious business restructuring, doing much to formalise the review processes in order to both a) increase operational efficiency and b) maximise the adviser/client relationship (that which is of highest value in the advisory chain).

Businesses are seeking to provide a higher level of service to a smaller group of wealthier clients with more sophisticated needs. The process of re-engineering business to deliver this while simultaneously stripping out cost, has helped re-enforce the notion that ‘face time is fee time’. As such, many are outsourcing and in-sourcing non core activities with paraplanners increasingly becoming the main influence in provider selection.

While our latest research shows 65 per cent of paraplanners are still used in more of an advisory support capacity there is evidence of a clear shift towards their deployment as a more technically capable planning unit, able to research the market and make active recommendations on providers and solutions.

As IFA businesses look to institutionalise clients and ensure the relationship is with the company, not just one single adviser, paraplanners are also having more client contact, reflected in their growing responsibility for case management.

Phil Wickenden is the founder of So Here’s the Plan

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