For those internal administrators out there on the verge of pulling your hair out, look no further… we have the answers for you!

Let’s face it, we all know how painfully time-consuming chasing insurance companies can be! Unfortunately, we can’t create any miracles here – however, we may just have some handy hints and tips to ease your stress levels when sending off a Letter of Authority (LOA).

Letter headed paper

To begin with, we would always recommend your LOAs are printed on letter headed paper. You may slip through the net on occasion without a letter headed LOA, but the chances are slim these days. There’s an hour of your life you won’t get back sitting on hold, waiting to find out it’s been declined! If your letterhead doesn’t include the firms’ company address and FCA number, we would recommend that this is to be included within the main body of the letter. This is always required by insurance providers so shouldn’t be avoided.

Info, info, info!

No doubt you will have come across a situation where the adviser has met with a client and the client has no idea what type of plans they have, just a few annual statements stored away from previous years. Our advice to you would be to find out as much information you can from any documents the client has such as, what type of plan this is & plan numbers etc.

You should then have enough information to confirm with the provider which department to send the LOA to, how they would prefer to receive this and whether they require a wet signature, or are happy with a scanned copy. The more groundwork that is done at this stage, the easier it should be once the LOA has been sent off, as you should have a specific department to chase and confirm turnaround times etc. Otherwise, the LOA could disappear into the depths of Aviva, never to be found again.

Most providers will only implement LOAs for a certain period of time. Therefore, if your firm is looking to retain ongoing servicing for the client until requested otherwise, it’s worth including a brief sentence stating this.

What else?

Other points we would recommend to include in your LOAs would be the following;

Clients’ Name

Clients’ D.O.B

Clients’ Address

Clients’ NI Number (required for Final Salary schemes, not generally necessary for money purchase & investments)

Clients’ Signature

Plan Type/s

Plan Number/s

We hope this provides you with some guidance – good luck!
Recently, our Director of Culture and Engagement, Natalie Bell, wrote an article for Nucleus’ Illuminate, on adapting learning styles to suit your team – catch up below…

Advisers, financial planners and their teams have to deal with an ever-evolving backdrop as they go about their day-to-day roles of serving clients.

This means continuous learning and development is crucial at all levels of the business in order to stay well informed and working at the top of your game.

But this requirement can present a number of challenges for employers and managers wanting to design training programmes and initiatives for their diverse employees.

We’re all different. But when it comes to personal development and growth, we all broadly slot into three categories of approaches to learning, or ‘learning styles’. These are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

Learning styles and how to identify them

The Visual Learner: (estimated to be 65 per cent of the population) This is the most popular style of learning, and these learners gain knowledge through visual information and imagery. They learn best when information is broken down into clear sequences, and which is presented in formats such as pictures, charts, diagrams and text.

The Auditory Learner: (estimated to be 30 per cent of the population) Auditory learners gain knowledge best when it is shared out loud – through methods like lectures, presentations, podcasts and one-to-one teaching. They are also the type of people who will talk their way through a problem or repeat information aloud to help them retain knowledge.

The Kinaesthetic Learner: (estimated to be 5 per cent of the population) Kinaesthetic learners gain knowledge through practical experiences. They learn by ‘doing’, not by listening or reading. They also appreciate walk-throughs and diving right into a project with a more trial-and-error approach, much like role-play or scenario setting.

Why do learning styles matter?

It’s no secret that some of the most successful businesses are those that have fostered a diverse workforce, and benefit from that variety.

Organisations are essentially teams of people, each with their own learning preferences and personality types.

As a result, leadership teams need to understand how to adapt their management style to provide the best environment possible for each employee to flourish and succeed.

Importantly, this needs to be reflected through developing a broader understanding of effective communication across the company, with employees who all process information and learn in different ways.

Understanding an employee’s learning style is particularly crucial in a fast-paced working environment, where time wasted on ineffective training costs money and slows productivity.

Failure to do this could lead to underutilising or overlooking talent that exists within your team, if you were to start offering training and motivation ideas such as employee rewards you might also see an uptake in the effort your workforce puts in as a whole, you can look into the psychology of rewarding your team by reading an article like this published by Blueboard.

Understanding more about your team

Being aware of your team’s preferences is the first step to making all areas of your workplace a more engaged and motivated place to be.

Regardless of the type of learner your employees are, development and training opportunities within the workplace need to be as engaging and diverse as possible. Once their ambition has been aligned to the business need, the design and delivery of training should complement your overall culture.

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into learning styles, 16 Personalities offer an online questionnaire to complete which gives a more comprehensive breakdown of individual personality types.

It’s a free tool (which is always a plus!) and a great introduction for anyone looking to dip their toe in the water in understanding their team more without a potentially huge initial outlay.

After completing the questionnaire, there is practical guidance, advice and things to look out for in relation to each personality type, which can really help with more effective communication, learning and teamwork.

The question of time

I know from personal experience that time is often the greatest challenge when it comes to designing effective training programmes, but sometimes important training courses can be readily available to use without needing to take the time taken to design them. A good example of this is Coast2Coast First Aid and Aquatics which would get staff fully equipped for any incident that involves performing first aid or CPR.

Having developed our learning and development framework for Para-Sols and Apricity, I’m well aware of the sheer volume of blood, sweat and tears that goes into a) designing the content and b) ultimately, delivering it too.

We’ve been asked many a time by advice firms big and small whether we offer training, as the success of our training framework has ultimately been responsible for our own scale and growth over the last couple of years.

We know the power of quality training and how it results in a more engaged, fulfilled team. Naturally this can then be used to benefit a business and help it scale.

With all that in mind, we launched The Art of Finance earlier this year. This is a training solution for people with little or no experience in financial services, making it easier for employers to upskill their team with minimal in-house effort.

As you’d expect, it’s built on the premise of understanding learning styles and purposely restricted to small cohorts of 10-12 people. This offers a more exclusive, coaching-like approach to learning and development.

It combines what’s required to achieve Level 4, along with the practical skills needed to be a successful paraplanner or compliance officer.

There’s no death by PowerPoint and we supply a range of tools and learning resources such as virtual breakfast study clubs, ‘experiential’ classroom sessions, webinars, MP3 downloads and more.

If you still need convincing…

Regardless of how you approach your training – whether with an external provider or in-house – the ‘why’ should be really clear before the ‘how’.

Good quality training will ultimately:

  • Increase employee motivation and job satisfaction;
  • Reduce the time taken to learn new skills, while making sure no one get left behind;
  • Improve staff retention and discretionary effort; and
  • Help you understand your team better, and carry out more effective and realistic performance appraisals.

Adapting training and communications might seem daunting, but my greatest piece of advice would be to simply ask your team: ‘how do you best learn?’

Use that as your starting point, then take on board their feedback and experiment with the next piece of training you deliver. As one example, you could then try and increase the development rate and education of employees while tracking their improvement and performance, as well as being able to record their perception and opinions on the new direction the business is heading by implementing a Learning Management System or something similar to create a suitable and educational environment for beneficial transformation.

With the right mindset and supporting tools in place, your business will find it easier to learn and adapt to the changes that technology, regulation and the economy throw at you.

Our Director of Quality and Operations, Jo, explains how we manage to attract so many wonderful paraplanners, and being the huge Marvel fan that she is, the Avengers references were a must! Over to you Jo…

 

“One of the things I get asked about the most is how we’ve managed to scale our business and assemble a super-team of paraplanners, when paraplanners are harder to find than a cinema which isn’t showing a super-hero movie.

We learned a long time ago, that there just wasn’t enough paraplanners available to allow us to undertake our plan for paraplanning world domination and that we would have to grow our own, in super-secret labs (cleverly camouflaged as a normal office space).

At present we have 17 full time paraplanners, of which all but 3 have come through our graduate programme.

The Grad Scheme

And therein lies our secret weapon. The Grad Scheme our graduate intake programme. It carries a tagline of #capesnotsuits and this turned out to be more prophetic than we could have imagined.

That in itself wouldn’t be the answer, but the refined application process followed by the after care and ongoing training, has assembled a squad of amazing paraplanners and I’m willing to share a few of our secrets (we’re not the baddies in this story).

This last month saw an unprecedented response to the scheme. It has really picked up traction lately, as word gets around about its informal structure and huge potential for an amazing career opportunity. From literally hundreds of applications, we whittled down our shortlist to a mere 20, elite applicants to attend our Assessment Day. Shortlists are stringent and based upon their CV, covering letter, English and Maths tests.

Only the strongest survive. Like the hunger games, but with less bow and arrows, and you know, death.

The Assessment Day

On the day we keep it pretty informal; there’s group activities, ice breakers and all feedback we receive states how much the applicants respond well to the casual setting and approach. Once they’re relaxed, they show their true selves much quicker and this makes our job as assessors much easier.

Without sounding like the arrogant super-villain, we feel that we can convert almost anyone into a super-paraplanner, with time, care and our thorough training. Most people can do most jobs, with the right care. That’s a good theme to remember when you’re selecting your next employee. We tend to assess the softer skills of the applicants. Looking at how they would fit into the team, what they could bring to the business and how they think outside of the box.

Broadly, we use a number of tasks which are designed to test the subjects on three core areas, which are aligned with our company values.

Got Your Back.

World Class Quality

Innovation

Got your back is a teamwork challenge. We assess this in numerous ways, looking at how the applicants interact with one another during various team-building tasks and how they communicate and compromise when needed.

For quality, this is a more lateral approach, including research tasks and paraplanning specific tasks.

For innovation, the prospective employees undertake a creative project, which they then have to present to us, in a short elevator pitch.

We also have one-on-one interviews to allow the quieter applicants to still get their chance to stand out and have their say. Questions centre upon life experiences, rather than work experience, as we’re very aware a lot of graduates don’t have the lateral, work skills, so we discuss those skills that are more transferrable.

Our leadership team, who attend the day, then go through all the applications, looking at the above qualities and we decide who gets to come onboard. It is one of my favourite days of the year, seeing such potential and knowing we’re giving a chance to some people to have a very exciting career and create their own super hero story.

From the last cohort, 6 applicants were accepted and I am very excited about them starting, so they can reveal their super power and help us save the finance world from boring grey suits, one paisley tie at a time.

All that’s left to say is Grads, ASSEMBLE!”

Applications for The Grad Scheme can be made here.

If you have somewhat of a beady eye, you may have noticed an increase in the number of wonderful faces populating our team page… as the saying goes, “we’re gonna need a bigger boat”. Well, a bigger office, but that doesn’t sound quite as good does it?

With an office move to bigger premises imminent (more on that in the coming weeks), it’s important that we invest in our team to keep providing the top-class service that we’re so immensely proud of. We’ve added to our growing brood and along with the new people, comes brand new skill sets and strengths, which of course, enriches the rest of the team.

We’ve taken time to look at the needs for each department, not just paraplanners, and what the business needs overall in order to scale and further service our clients demands.

Technical Research

We’ve expanded our Technical Research hub, so there’s more friendly voices at the end of the phone, ready to talk to providers on client’s behalf. Joining the Technical Research hub, we have Ellen, (who is an absolute whizz on Excel!) and Laura, who has 12 years of experience in financial services, bringing along with her a wealth of knowledge.

As the paraplanners are ever more in demand, it’s vital that we keep up with the research side of things too. Our Technical Researchers work in harmony with our Paraplanners – much like salt and vinegar, they bring out the best in each other! We’ve already noticed a huge difference with having the girls on board!

Paraplanners

The Grad Scheme is as popular as ever with the applications continuously flooding in. It’s heart-warming to see that paraplanning is fast becoming the recognised career choice we work so tirelessly to promote.

From the last assessment day of 2018, we took on two new budding Graduate Paraplanners, ready to soak themselves in the Para-Sols knowledge – Michael and Andrew joined us around 6 months ago now. Rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves with Technical Researchers during the first half of their probation, they gained a solid foundation of the profession and are now readying themselves to embark on their Level 4.

Only a couple of weeks ago, we again held our grad assessment day (the first of 2019 – how time flies!), and so, just this week, we have welcomed three more newbies – Luke, Ellie and Johnathan – who are raring to follow in the footsteps of their new colleagues.

We’ve also welcomed Junior Paraplanner Francis to the team in recent months. Francis is no stranger to the profession and joins us having worked as a paraplanner within an IFA the last few years. He’s fast picked up the ‘Para-Sols Way’!

And last but not least…

Not only have we added to the obvious aspects of the business, but we’ve also welcomed a couple of additional operational support roles to keep the growing team in order and working at the top of our game. Tiffany is our Office Manager and tasked with keeping us all organised (and finding us new office space!) so be sure to say hi next time you call, she’s likely to be the one to answer.

And also, Naomi joined us as Marketing & Events Manager and is responsible for, well, exactly that – marketing, events, and ultimately, all things communications!

It’s amazing to see the team filling up with so many like-minded people who are passionate about changing the face of financial services!

There’s been some exciting developments here at Para-Sols – and we wanted to bring you up to speed with the latest from us.

Since we set up Para-Sols nearly 10 years ago, we’ve continued to build our brand and drive our mission to create flexible outsourced paraplanning solutions, as well as educating the next generation in financial services. Over the years we’ve had persistent requests to offer external training, and so we’ve been on the lookout for an opportunity to do just that!

With this in mind, it was a no-brainer to offer up our support to sister company (and the latest addition to The Verve Group family) – The Art of Finance working with Cathi and the team to bring their paraplanner training – The Art of Paraplanning – to life!

As a fellow member of The Verve Group, we were a natural fit to help support The Art of Paraplanning, and the Para-Sols’ team have helped codesign the practical stream of the course to ensure that the programme is engaging, relevant and exciting!

The Art of Paraplanning is a flexible course that provides the perfect training solution for firms looking to upskill members of their existing team, as well as individuals who are looking to get into or further develop their career in financial services. The financial services profession is changing, and we align with The Art of Finance’s vision that the training should be ever-evolving too.

Para-Sols are very excited to be part of this fresh new approach to financial training. Not only does the course offer candidates the important technical knowledge to gain the qualifications needed, but it also provides them with the practical skills that are required to apply their learning back at the office. It’s an interactive course, which is designed to take someone with little or no financial services experiences, to a fully qualified, and trained level 4 paraplanner over 20 months.

To learn more about The Art of Paraplanning or the other courses available, visit The Art of Finance or get in touch! The next cohort of The Art of Paraplanning is due to kick off on 16th May 2019 and details on the Autumn cohort (21st October) will be released in the coming weeks.