We’re still celebrating the fact that we won Paraplanner Team of the Year at the Professional Paraplanner Awards!

In this recent article from Professional Paraplanner, you can find out why we were deemed worthy of this award. Plus, you’ll gain some insight into the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into our work lately!

You may have heard we have been working on a little something called #Project2030. When the world went into lockdown, we knew we had to start looking at our services across The Verve Group differently, ensuring that they are fully future-proofed for our clients. And so, #Project2030 was born and the outcome saw the launch of many brand new services.

But what was the thinking behind #Project2030? Catch up on this article from our Founder & Director and CEO of The Verve Group, Cathi Harrison as she caught up with Nucleus.

Para-Sols Team

To say the last few weeks have been busy would be somewhat of an understatement. With the launch of our #Project2030 and the brand-new services that came along with it, our feet have barely touched the floor.

So, you can imagine the joy that it brought to the team when our efforts were recognised by Professional Paraplanner as not only were we shortlisted for Paraplanner Team of the Year, but we also went and won it!

The news could not have come at a better time – with all that’s going on in the world currently, it was a relief to have something to celebrate. We’re always proud of our team but especially when we pull together and make amazing happen.

For a reminder of the new services we have recently launched you can catch up below.

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COVID is a very bad thing, but one good thing that has come out of this is that it gave us a gift. A gift of time. And as I always say, time is the one thing that we Paraplanners need the most!

For so long I have been saying “I wish the world would pause for a moment, so I can have time to review the business properly”.  Well it did. And I did.

One of the things I’ve never had time for, and always wanted to have time for, is reviewing our suitability reports. I update them regularly; well the updates dictated by compliance or budget changes, but the fundamentals of it have always remained the same.

We all know that as paraplanners, the reports are our bread and butter; they take up the majority of our day and we’re very proud of the output.

Now, I think our reports are pretty good. We drop the jargon. We split it into three different formats, to ensure we cater to clients with different attention spans. They’re compliant. They are absolutely littered with infographics, colours, tables and charts, to make the information more digestible. They’re great, but can they be better? Can’t everything?

In addition, despite being my life’s work and having my heart and soul poured into them, deep down, I’ve always known there was a very large possibility that those reports were flipped through and popped into a drawer to read ‘later’ (at best). That no matter how many pretty colours or nice graphs we used, the majority of clients would absorb the information given to them by their adviser, ask their questions face to face, and see the report as a formality to back that up.

So, I had a ponder as to whether there was anything that could be done about that:

The vicious circle of reports is the more you try to explain a financial term, the more words you use, the lengthier the report becomes, the less likely they are to be read.

But what if we could take some of those terms, get rid of all the words, and turn them into videos? Or motion graphics? What if we could make the reports interactive, and visibly ‘pop’ so the client wants to at least have a play around with it, if not absorb every single word?

What if we could use animations to show the impact of the advice and the costs and charges, so they were as clear as clear could be? In fact, what if they got all of that information in an app, so flick through in their own time, maybe while on the tube or while in the hairdressers’ chair?

So that’s what we did. We trialled a load of programs and settled on one that can provide all the above and now we can offer “reports” which are sent to the client as a link, and is more of a presentation. Data is hyperlinked to other sites, for example the provider site, so we no longer need to add information on the platform. There are videos explaining risk and death benefits for example.

Some information is hidden until it’s hovered over and it is easily navigated around to go back and forth across the important bits.

And the best thing is?

It’s half the size.

It’s more usable and enjoyable for the client.

It feels more modern and in keeping with the technological age.

The feedback on it has been excellent and I’d like to think, that while there will always be a place in my heart for the current, word reports, that these report types will become the new norm as we drag suitability into the 21st century.

I have no doubt they will change in the future. And I hope they do. But this is a really good start.

Jo Campbell – Director

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So. Suitability reports. Our bread and butter as a business for the last 11 years and for pretty much all of Cathi’s (lengthy) time in financial services.

They’ve always been the time-consuming part of the process that advisers have wanted to get off their plate and onto the plates of someone who actually enjoys doing them. And that’s us; as paraplanners, we have a unique (read: odd) appreciation of suitability reports and using them to convey often complicated matters to the client in terms they understand.

At least, that was always the aim.

Deep down, we’ve always known there was a very large possibility that those reports were flipped through and popped into a drawer to read ‘later’ (at best). That no matter how many pretty colours or nice tables we used, the majority of clients would absorb the information given to them by their adviser, ask their questions face to face, and see the report as a formality to back that up.

And so we had a ponder as to whether there was anything that could be done about that:

  • Did they need to be quite so long??
  • Did they need to be printed? (think of the trees!)
  • Did they really have to be so flat?

The vicious circle of reports is the more you try to explain a financial term, the more words you use, the lengthier the report becomes, the less likely they are to be read.

But what if we could take some of those terms, get rid of all the words, and turn them into videos? Or motion graphics? What if we could make the reports interactive, and visibly ‘pop’ so the client wants to at least have a play around with it, if not absorb every single word?

What if we could use animations to show the impact of the advice and the costs and charges, so they were as clear as clear could be? In fact, what if they got all of that information in an app, to flick through in their own time, maybe while on the tube, in the hair salon or even in bed?!

Well, here you go. That was the philosophy around our reimagined suitability reports. And here is the output.  We’re continuing to develop them, because our innovation never stops. But we’re pretty pleased with what we’ve built so far and hope you and your clients are too.

Click here to view our interactive reports or view below:

Made with Visme Presentation Maker

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We heard from our Client Relations Manager, Dwight to find out how lockdown has affected the working process at Para-Sols and the opportunity it presented to the business.

‘’COVID-19 has obviously posed challenges to businesses across all sectors and financial services is no different. At Para-Sols and The Verve Group as a whole, we’re fortunate that our typical desk space has the hardware to enable us a simple transition to home working. We already use laptops and internal chat groups as appropriate, so it wasn’t really a struggle to move a large team to work from home. The key though, hasn’t been just to switch to remote working, but also to maintain that team ethos and spirit that our office fosters. We’ve done this through virtual team meetings, quizzes and generally keeping up regular communication with each other. The very nature of outsourced paraplanning means we’re not located with our clients and so our working location is almost irrelevant as the whole team have access to our case submission portal and shared drives – this means for us we’re very much ‘open for business’.

Many of our clients and prospective clients have mentioned how this unique time has prompted them to review their working process, staffing and even premises. I think many firms will come out of this situation in a different shape, probably more agile, tech-heavy and adaptable to huge changes going forward. Industry-wide, I think the rise of digital signatures has been hugely accelerated by COVID-19, as has the use of video meetings for advisers and clients. Although that’s a very positive way to manage the current situation, I think it’s important to retain the human aspect of financial advice and that will be one of the challenges going forward, as will tailoring the use of technology to each specific client to ensure they receive a positive experience.

The businesses within The Verve Group have used lockdown to further develop the range of services on offer and to fast track the future of finance. It’s where we thought we’d be in 2030, but we’re going to be there 10 years early! #Project 2030 is the brainchild of Para-Sols founder Cathi Harrison. Its aim is to look at how we can adapt to meet the future needs of our clients. Several new services are being launched in early June, including:

At Para-Sols, we’ve always been pioneers in tech and when you combine that with the gift of time that has been thrust upon us, we are once again leading the revolution in paraplanning and technology. So, what happens when you combine those two elements, plus you add our innovation into the mix? You get our brand new interactive, digitally delivered Suitability Reports – which are visually interesting and super easy to use. Click here to check out the new reports.

Our new Virtual Paraplanning service offers our clients the option to have one of our paraplanners attend their client meeting virtually, ensuring we can answer technical queries and complete the meeting notes. There’ll be more coming on this soon but in the meantime, you can watch this video for a little more insight.

Our new services are being launched early June and more details will be provided at our virtual launch party, click below to register to attend.’’

A study produced last Summer by NextWealth and the Personal Finance Society has illustrated that we are the leading supplier of outsourced paraplanning, used by more than double the number of firms than our nearest competitor.

As a company, we’re absolutely delighted with this outcome as it provides recognition and testament to the 11 years of paraplanning support we’ve provided within the industry. A mixture of providing excellent service to existing clients and business growth through referrals has ensured our leading position within the industry.

Summary of the report contents

NextWealth and the Personal Finance Society (PFS) have published a comprehensive benchmarking study for financial advice businesses covering the profile of financial planners and their firms, the future of financial advice businesses, investment propositions, technology infrastructure and outsourced support.

The results are based on an online survey of 482 PFS members conducted between 11 and 24 July 2019.

Insight included in the report

  • The average age of financial planners is 49 and 20% are female.
  • 39% of financial advice businesses have recruited in the past year.
  • 82% of financial planners use ESG solutions for 7% of client assets.
  • Financial planners use between 2 and 3 discretionary fund managers.
  • Between 3 and 4 weeks pass between the first point of contact and the first piece of advice is delivered to clients.
  • The average cost to onboard a client is £1,543.

 

Talk to us about your paraplanning requirements.
Dwight Scaife – Client Relations Manager
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Suitability – without a doubt, the key word in financial advice, across all relationships, between the adviser, the client and the regulator. And yet, such a conceptual, evolving word. One that is open to interpretation and applied in so many different ways. For something so core to what we do every day, you could be forgiven for thinking there was a lot more focus given to clarify exactly what it means, how it looks, and how we can apply it.

But there seemingly hasn’t been… until now!

Introducing our brand new whitepaper, brought to you by The Verve Group leadership team. ‘Suitability: Defining the Undefinable’, looks at Suitability from four different angles, incorporating the views from each of the businesses within The Vere Group (Para-Sols, Apricity Compliance and The Art of Finance).

It’s free to download and you can grab your copy here!

As part of our business planning, we’ve considered what aspects of the business we might change and what areas we should focus our investment on.

With that in mind, we took a look at main priorities for the year which our Director, Jo Campbell discussed with Nucleus in this article.

It’s often said within the office that there “ain’t no party like a Para-Sols party”- and with this year being our first official Christmas as part of The Verve Group, it’s safe to say the game has been stepped up even further!

The theme: Great Gatsby. The food: Incredible. The dancing: Ok, we won’t talk about the dancing.

As always, our Christmas parties are also the time where we host our annual staff awards, so we’ve popped a little about each fabulous winner below…

Best new signing

A prestigious award within the team, as this goes to the person who has made the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time – this award was extended across The Verve Group and the finalists included three of our lovely Para-Sols team. As we know, there could only be one winner and that was Technical Researcher, Ellen Wood!

With comments from her fellow colleagues such as ‘I can’t believe Ellen has only been here six months’, ‘I honestly couldn’t ask for a better team player’ and ‘she is an asset to the company’, it’s very easy to see why Ellen was our winner. In the time that she has been here, she has made the lives of everyone around her much easier.

She’s a fantastic and reassuring voice at the end of the phone for our clients and the quality of her work is amazing. She embodies our company values and is an integral part of the team – well done Ellen!

Para-Sols Players’ Player

This award was for the person who is consistently a team player and who always has their colleagues back – there are now 32 people in the Para-Sols team, so this was always going to be a big achievement to the winner. After receiving a number of high quality and quite frankly, heart-warming, nominations from the team, the winner was our Lead Paraplanner, Peter Rhoden!

Pete has been with us for a number of years and has been a pillar of support throughout our growth as a company. A fantastic mentor to his hub, he is everything that a good Lead Paraplanner should be; encouraging, understanding and patient. Pete is the first one in the office on a morning and the last to leave at night – his commitment is something to be commended and his colleagues describe him as a brilliant hub leader and someone who always sets a good example to everyone around him.

We’re over the moon for Pete as this is very well deserved!

The Verve Award

 A new award introduced for 2019 – this was for someone who had had a standout year, been consistent in their efforts, consistently champions company values and simply deserved the recognition of being amazing. Voted for by our Senior Leadership Team, this was the final award announced on the evening and, the most exciting!

The winner of this incredible award was our fabulous Junior Paraplanner, Alex Buckle. Alex received so many nominations in almost every category within the awards, showing how appreciated she is across the full Verve Group. Her quality of work is described as exceptional and it’s amazing to see how many people are personally impacted by Alex’s good nature and strong teamwork ethic.

This year Alex completed her Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning after completing our graduate programme, The Grad Scheme – which is a huge milestone that she has worked so hard towards.

Alex represents all of our company values perfectly and with ease. She is a natural hard worker with a strong desire to learn. As a fundamental part of our team, we see a bright future for Alex as a Paraplanner and we’re very proud to be part of her journey. (She’s also described as the funniest person in the office, much to the dismay of our Director of Quality and Operations, Jo Campbell).

Congratulations Alex!

And that’s it for another year –  what a fantastic evening of celebration, old sport. If you’d like to see the other winners from the evening, head over to our sister company, Apricity.

Having previously worked for a financial adviser’s practice and now as an outsourced paraplanner, I know that there are many benefits for outsourced paraplanning.  

Working on an outsourced basis, I believe, requires far greater knowledge and understanding of the industry as a whole. Why? Well generally, I feel an in-house paraplanner will focus on working on cases that are part of a centralised investment proposition or have had some sort of platform due diligence carried out, meaning you generally use the same providers and strategies regularly.

However, being outsourced allows us to work for a wide range of advisers up and down the country that specialise in all areas of financial advice. This means that on any given day we could be working on a case where a new SSAS is being set up, monies are being invested into VCT/EIS investments or dealing with defined benefit pensions, including running TVC reports and cash flow analysis. This would be in addition to your more standard mortgage, life cover, pension and investment cases.

This allows you to build up extensive knowledge and experience which advisers can find very helpful. I am often asked for my thoughts on their cases, even running them by me before they decide how they wish to proceed with the case/advice.

Given the knowledge and experience we hold, we are able to push back on advisers if we think there are issues with the case or if we feel the advice is unsuitable for the client. This could be invaluable to an adviser to help them get a third party perspective.

As we deal with so many providers, we are quick to find out the latest offerings or updates to products which can help advisers who maybe are not as aware of developments in the market.     

Outsourcing can help to save advisers a lot of time, which they can use to see more clients (or spend more time on the golf course!) – due to us having a top-quality data gathering team, that can deal with providers and chase all the required information on cases from start to finish. Therefore, given the adviser provides sufficient information about the client, we can take care of the full process providing them with a suitability report at the end.

Peter Rohden – Lead Paraplanner.

For more details on outsourcing your paraplanning, click here.

This month we officially hit double digits and turned ten! To celebrate in style, we combined our annual Summer Soiree with a huge tenth birthday party – full of good food, good company, dancing and maybe a drink or two (see image below for more details on that!).

With the launch of sister company The Art of Finance, formalising our group brand structure The Verve Group, as well as countless exam passes and an influx of new team members – this year has brought us many things to be proud of! With plenty to reflect upon, we had plenty of reasons to crack open a bottle of fizz – and we did just that!

New ventures

At the beginning of the year, we announced the launch of latest sister company and newest addition to the group – The Art of Finance – a training solution for advisers and planners to upskill their team, as well as individuals looking to take the leap into financial services. We kicked off our first cohort in May and so far, have received excellent feedback, as the training is designed to be engaging and interactive – no death by PowerPoint!

This year has been a busy one consolidating the company brands within The Verve Group structure. For those who need a reminder, The Verve Group centralises the mission of Para-Sols, Apricity Compliance, The Art of Finance and our graduate training programme, The Grad Scheme. It’s a central platform to provide financial planners, of all shapes and sizes, with the best support services around and; shout about how brilliant a career in finance is, and provide opportunities for those wanting to get into it.

Remind yourself of the full launch here.

‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’

You may remember seeing this quote a few weeks back – it was the title of our blog where we covered the recent scale-up of our team (catch that here).

As we were celebrating over the weekend, we took a moment to reflect on how the team has grown and flourished in the last year. Compared to this time last year, we’ve welcomed eight new team members in a range of roles – paraplanners, technical researchers, and business operations. There are a few more roles that we’ve earmarked for the year ahead as we develop more of our services.

Tick, tick, tick

No, we don’t mean the sound a clock makes – that’s just us ticking off recent exams passes completed by our amazing team. Everyone is making such fantastic progress and during our celebrations, one of our paraplanners, Holly, received special recognition as she recently completed her Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. We also presented our Colleague of the Quarter – an award voted for by the full team – so spirits were high.

We’re not entirely sure on the exact number of sore heads on Sunday morning – but judging by this (see below), we can imagine the number was pretty high. In all, it was an amazing day, celebrating amazing achievements and a full decade of Para-Sols.

Here’s to next decade – cheers!