Paraplanning is still a pretty new job; I still find myself explaining to friends and family what it is I do (no, it doesn’t involve parachutes, paragliding, parasailing). However, even in that short time, the role has changed a lot, and continues to change. This is never more obvious than at the current time, when we are all finding that our job roles, and the way that we do them, are changing out of necessity.
Paraplanners have often been seen as glorified administrators, or just report writers. However, the role is branching out more and more, and looks set to continue to do so in the future.
The innovation in technology, back office systems, and report writing software, means that very simple paraplanning tasks often don’t need much human input. The value in paraplanners therefore, now and even more so in the future, is in the roles that technology cannot fulfil.
This means that the complexity of the role has increased, and is much more multi-faceted. This is reflected in that many paraplanners hold the same qualifications as advisers, and more in some cases. The relationship between adviser and paraplanner is becoming much more collaborative, with the paraplanner more intrinsically involved throughout the advice process. We find that many advisers like to simply have a sounding board when dealing with unusual cases; to have someone who will push back and bring new ideas to the table.
The advances in technology, especially during the pandemic, also mean that it is much easier for paraplanners to adopt more client facing roles. Video calling software has been invaluable in recent months, and this can also be used to allow paraplanners to easily attend adviser meetings. Previously, this has been the practice of some in house paraplanners, however it is now also an option for outsourced paraplanners too. Para-Sols has recently launched their virtual paraplanning service for this very purpose; your associate paraplanner arranges your meeting, discusses the agenda with you prior to the meeting, and sits in on your discussion with the client. Your paraplanner takes meeting notes, and is on hand for any technical queries, allowing you to focus on the client.
This brings us on to another change in the paraplanning role, which is likely to become more and more important; soft skills. As a more integral part of the advice process, and with a more client facing role, a good paraplanner needs excellent communication and listening skills to enhance the client experience; no hiding in our report writing caves! The lines between adviser and paraplanner are becoming more blurred, with paraplanners being more involved in the presentation of advice. This may be in terms of running and presenting cashflow, as part of an adviser/client meeting, or presenting the suitability reports themselves.
The suitability reports that are our original bread and butter are also evolving; as well as the changes in legislation which require report content to be regularly updated, there is also the challenge of improving how client friendly reports are. With the amount of important information that needs to be provided to the client, striking a balance between being compliant, and being easily understandable is hard. Here at Para-Sols, this is something we are always striving towards, and our traditional templates are regularly updated. However, technological advances, as well as the rise in the number of clients being tech savvy, has encouraged the creation of new interactive reports. These reports turn the traditional report structure on its head, providing all the necessary information in a format that (hopefully!) better engages the client.
To summarise, I think the lines between paraplanner and planner are blurring and will continue to do so as we all find our feet again in the new world.