A topical conversation in the profession is how to attract young people into financial planning. Research shows that the average age of an independent financial adviser (IFA) in the UK is 58. Even more worrying is the fact that one in five IFAs plan to retire from the profession in the next five years, and Covid-19 appears to be fast tracking these retirement plans for many, thus creating an inevitable void of qualified financial planners and paraplanners.
This is a topic which is often discussed in meetings with firms, institutes, members and organisations. The knock-on effect will further widen the advice gap, as fewer financial planners means higher demand and potentially a service that can only be provided to the wealthy. All entirely relevant and true.
However, my concern is the need to train and establish routes for career paraplanners.
The role of the paraplanner is a critical element of good advice, taking a planning business from good to excellent. We all know this. It is well proven and indisputable.
The focus on detail, the client’s journey, the technical elements, the suitability letters as well as the data held for those simple touches like birthdays, names of dogs, cats, aunts and a client’s favourite coffee is often known and managed by the paraplanner.
Traditionally a paraplanner was seen as a stepping stone to an adviser role, so the entry point may have been as an administrator who potentially even stumbled into the profession and worked their way up the ladder.
My concern is the need to train and establish routes for career paraplanners
Pippa Oldfield, CISI Paraplanner of the Year 2020, has said: “One of the main issues I’ve noticed when recruiting for paraplanners, is that many candidates see paraplanning as a stepping stone to becoming an adviser. Career paraplanners are in short supply, and most of them seem happy where they are. So the challenge is presenting paraplanning as a fulfilling career in its own right,”
Arguably the flow is starting to go both ways, for example, Plus Group recruits ex financial advisers into its paraplanning outsource business. But outsourcing firms, like many small IFA businesses, are looking for experienced paraplanners. A further challenge for recruiting the inexperienced has been the pandemic, as paraplanning can be difficult to get up to speed and learn remotely.
Recruiting career paraplanners
While we discuss the urgency to attract talent into financial planning and advisory roles, I believe the growth button, the hot pursuit, should also be for career paraplanners. And how do young people search for a job role in paraplanning? Do they know what it is? Sam Oakes, host of the Financial Planner Life Podcast
, confirmed that only one in ten graduates he speaks to even ask about paraplanning specifically, and most still see it as a stepping stone to financial planning.
Speaking to a number of firms, it appears the common ways to advertise are LinkedIn and social media, but this requires a young person to know what paraplanning is and search for it directly. Not the most obvious choice of career I would think for an 18-year-old, although I am sure there are always exceptions to the rule.
LinkedIn Business Talent blog states that Generation Zers “tend to look for employers who can offer stability, security, and opportunities for growth. One recent survey of 1,000 Gen Zers found that the top career goal among this group is to work in a role where they feel stable and secure, with 40% in agreement.”
Paraplanning absolutely fits this bill.
For me this poses the question that to attract young talent and give paraplanning the same level of recognition and respect from the outside, should professional qualifications be a regulatory requirement? Would this escalate and reassure the young graduates of the importance of the role, placing it on the same footing as a planner, adviser or accountant, thus attracting career paraplanners?
The Institute of Internal Communications specify in a blog post that: “To position themselves as appealing employers to Gen Z, companies will need to invest in professional growth opportunities”
Are established pathways through training programmes and graduate schemes essential to offer the security and corporate structure the young people are looking for?
Many firms like Mazars have established structured training programmes for new entrants into financial planning but few have similar programmes dedicated to paraplanning. Do we need to create and promote these independently to the advisory/ planning route to attract career planners?
This should be the conversation of the day, as yes, some will go into planning and bring with them a wealth of expertise from being a paraplanner first, but some will become the elite paraplanners, the thought leaders, game changers of the paraplanning world. They will be the ones who show us how to move from excellent to exceptional.
This article was first published in the May 2021 issue of Professional Paraplanner. Republished with permission.