As part of The Verve Group’s #FYIfinance series, our very own Alex Buckle was featured to give the low down on all things being a paraplanner…

Not many people have heard of the paraplanning role in financial services, including Alex, who explains how she got into the industry below…

“I first came across the role of a paraplanner whilst applying for jobs after my degree. Having studied Psychology, where my days were full of Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s pigeons, it was fairly daunting entering the finance world. I was initially drawn to the role, however, by the promise of a new challenge every day and that having an analytical mind would come in handy.

In terms of an average day in the life of a Paraplanner, it’s hard to say, as every day is different. But I will usually be writing reports and/or carrying out research. The latter can range from tax calculations to provider and investment strategy research, using various software, such as FE Analytics or CashCalc. In more recent times, I have also been more involved in rebuilding our reports, making them more fun, digestible and interactive, and the feedback has been very positive so far. I am fortunate to be a part of a team who strives to be bold, confident and introduce new ways of working together within the financial sector.

A big part of being a paraplanner is sitting exams to further our knowledge. Therefore, a big challenge is being able to juggle a busy day at work with revising towards exams, all whilst trying to maintain a social life and pretending that I like going to the gym. Time management, a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn are therefore very important as a paraplanner.

I have learnt a lot over my three years in role, and the various exams – from what a pension actually is, and why it’s important to have one, and how I should approach getting a mortgage. You know, all the useful things that no one thinks to tell you in school, but can really help in the real world.

My top tip for those seeking a career in finance (and to those who may not even know they are yet) – don’t worry if you don’t think you have the right experience to work in the financial sector. I can’t emphasise enough how little I knew about finance before working at Para-Sols. In fact, it’s probably like a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ trying to find someone who did a Finance related degree in our office. There are so many life skills that are transferable to a role in finance. For example, in our office, we have roles which rely heavily on skills in terms of marketing, organisation, technical knowledge, time management, and the list goes on.”

Alex Buckle – Paraplanner

The start of my job application at The Verve Group seems so long ago, I was half way through the recruitment process awaiting to go along to the final stage when the dreaded COVID-19 and lockdown hit. A few months later my trial was booked and the next thing I knew I was sitting at my new desk as Executive Assistant!

As soon as I saw the advert it grabbed my interest and from first glance, I would have never guessed it was a role within finance. The Verve Group blows the stereotype of working in finance out the water, and my welcome has been so friendly and casual, without a suit in sight!

My first two weeks have been a fantastic insight into the brand and different companies which make up the group.

Firstly, I was thrown straight into learning about Para-Sols, speaking with all their clients to update the terms of business, a great way to get to know the different companies and the paraplanning services that Para-Sols offer.

Next up was Apricity Compliance – gaining an insight into the client journey from on-boarding with the system, to having quarterly and annual reviews with their dedicated consultant. 

A task from The Art of Finance then came along to send out lovely postcards to all those who had taken an exam following their training recently and had passed to say well done. Something I have noticed at The Verve Group is that they always deliver on those little things that mean a lot, and that’s to both clients and their employees.

On my first insight of the company I have found technology plays a massive part and they are either building new or incorporating current software into everything they do to improve and support the world of finance. This even goes down to the online interactive brochures they have on their services. It makes everything so easy, slick, efficient and all can be found or looked into at a click of a button. 

I’m really looking forward to learning more at my role here and to sum up… Verve is definitely ahead of the curve!      

What better way to round off Para-Sols incredible year of growth than squeezing in just one last member of staff!  Whilst we’ve had a great year expanding our Trainee Paraplanners, the Technical Research team has been given a life of it’s own too.  So to help strengthen the existing team we are pleased to welcome Hannah as our final hire of 2017.  Hannah has come to us from a background in finance solutions and has fit seamlessly in to the team.  She tells us her impressions so far…

What’s been your first impressions of Para-Sols?

My first impressions were how friendly the office environment is and I really appreciated how organised everything was for me on my first day starting, I had a Mac set up waiting for me with everything installed and set up ready to go! Everyone is really helpful, even when everyone has a lot of work to do people are happy to answer all of my ‘newbie’ queries. I like how the company is growing and forward thinking therefore everyone’s opinions are valued, it doesn’t matter what your role is or how long you have been there. I particularly enjoyed the Christmas party, which was at the end of my first week here – it was certainly a good ice-breaker, so by my second week I felt fully at home in my new role.

What have you learnt so far?

I feel like I have learnt such a lot in a small period of time. I’ve had various spells of financial services experience before working here however not in pensions so I have learnt a great deal about specifics of defined benefit pension schemes and their complexities. As other new starters before me I have also had to get used to using a Mac which I am really enjoying and may end up wanting my own!

What are you most looking forward to?

I’ve started on the pensions side of things, but I am looking forward to learning about different financial products as and eventually getting some qualifications under my belt. I enjoy keeping busy at work, and because we have been so busy recently the days just really do fly by! I am also excited for the new year to do some more training, keep learning and when we expand the Technical Research team even further, I won’t be the newbie anymore and can help others too.

To find out more about Hannah you can also head over to her profile on our Meet the Team page.

We have recently welcomed another wave of graduates in to the Para-Sols team and couldn’t be happier to have them on board. It’s a lot of fun going through the whole recruitment process with them, and finding people who have a genuine interest in Paraplanning and the wider Financial Services industry.

It’s not always easy though to figure out the best way to interview someone who is fresh from university and is likely to have little or no work experience. So what’s the best way to assess those candidates and work out who you want to hire? Well, rather than a standard interview where candidates limited practical experience will impact on the effectiveness of this structure, we instead select our graduates based on an assessment day. From initial CVs and covering letters, we shortlisted candidates down to 10, and invited them along to spend the day with us and used a variety of methods to assess them. Here’s how we broke it down and why it has worked for us.

Numerical and literacy tests – Everyone can use spell check on a CV and covering letter, but being a good Paraplanner requires that extra eye for detail and accuracy. The tests we used weren’t long rambling exams, but just enough to make you think and identify those with great attention to detail.
One on One interviews – It was still essential to have some one on one time with candidates; we used this to find out their motivations and career aspirations and what they had learnt so far through university and part time employment that they thought would make them tip-top Paraplanners.
Variety of team building exercises – This is really one of the more interesting parts of the day, where we split the candidates up into small teams and give them problem solving and research tasks to work on together. By observing in this way, it can tell you so much about who’s proactive, who is a natural leader, and who really engages in the task at hand. It also highlights candidates that work well in a team and really listen to other people’s point of view and be objective in their response.

By looking at the results of all these elements together, you get a great picture of who is going to be the right man / woman for the job! By the end of the day candidates are really relaxed and you get a feel for personality too – which is hard to gauge in an interview only setting. Being a small business ultimately we also want people who will just fit in well with our vibe!

We used the same process last year when we recruited Kate and Simon who have done amazingly well ever since. We’ll report back on the progress of the new graduates over the coming months.

AAB Wealth have had a relationship with Para-Sols stretching back to the very early days of our business. We particularly like the way that Para-Sols can adapt their reports to our own template designs and branding and the very well thought out way client reports are structured. We have a lot of confidence in their ability to produce reports that are not only fully compliant, but also client friendly and easy to read.

I have found Para-Sols to be efficient, friendly and effective. Cathi Harrison is building an strong paraplanning solution for financial planners; I can recommend them.

We started using Para-Sols back at the end of 2014 and we are very happy with the service provided. We mainly use the recommendation report service; having obtained reports on a wide range of recommendations, we have been impressed with both the presentation and the quality of the documents provided and would have no hesitation in recommending their services.

As a sole practitioner I find having a paraplanner of great value. It releases valuable time, up to an extra day a week, which can then be used to engage with more clients which is what the job is all about and gives me more earning potential.