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A para-what?! Just what does a paraplanner do?


Most people have a good idea what a Financial Planner does, but Paraplanners are used to having to explain what their job is! Goodmans Senior Paraplanner, Kathryn Jeffery, outlines where the role came from, what it involves, and why it’s the perfect fit for her.

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You’d be forgiven for asking what a Paraplanner does… it’s a role instantly recognised within the financial services industry, but that’s not the case when you venture outside. When I tell people what I do, the typical response is, “Sorry, what was that?”, or, “Oh, you’re a Paralegal”, although intriguingly no-one has yet mistaken me for a Paratrooper!

A profession is born 

When I joined financial services in 2006, paraplanning was a relatively new job emerging from the need to free up advisers’ time so they could do what they do best – engaging with and helping clients. Previously, it wasn’t unusual for advisers to have to do their own product research, write reports, complete paperwork, and present their recommendations. With the best will in the world, even the most organised Financial Planner couldn’t be expected to fulfil all these tasks to the highest standard for every single client, and so the Paraplanner was born!

The name itself is relevant, as the word para derives from the Greek word for ‘beside’. Essentially, Paraplanners work alongside advisers. Unlike Financial Planners, we don’t provide advice, but we do need to have excellent knowledge of financial concepts, products and processes, being heavily involved in the research and analysis that clients and their advisers need in order to make informed decisions.

As we need to have up-to-date knowledge of financial products, tax and legislation, you’ll increasingly find Paraplanners taking the same exams as Financial Planners, and now there are even industry-specific exams for my field.

An evolving role

Initially, paraplanning was more of a technical, back-office administrative job – completing application forms and carrying out admin tasks, but over time the role has evolved so that in addition to this, many Paraplanners now liaise with Financial Planners to find solutions that best fit the specific goals of each client.

Generally, Paraplanners tend to specialise in the more technical side of financial planning, including:

•    Conducting research

Ranging from a deep dive into clients’ existing policies and quizzing providers on the finer details to researching products in the marketplace.

•    Compiling 'suitability reports'

All Goodmans clients receive suitability reports to show the research and analysis undertaken together with the technical details of any recommendations.

•    Compliance

A key responsibility is ensuring everything is factually correct and that all documents as recommended by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have been supplied to the client and saved to make up a compliant case file.

•    Implementation

Since Paraplanners have in-depth knowledge of the cases they’ve worked on, they often action the recommendations in client reports, or at the very least deal with the more complicated applications.

Personal progression

For many Paraplanners, garnering exams and experience while working alongside advisers has meant they’ve seen first-hand what it takes to become a Financial Planner or adviser. Many opt to pursue that avenue. However, others – me included – choose the complementary career of paraplanning. Like me, they enjoy the role and feel confident that it’s the best use of their meticulous eye for detail and technical, analytical and written skills for the benefit of clients and the business.

Moving centre stage

Paraplanners were once solely back-office staff with little client interaction, but the industry is changing. For many, the role has developed to involve a more client-facing approach.  

Goodmans has embraced this change, so many of our clients will have met a Paraplanner in review meetings. This has been hugely beneficial to everyone involved for lots of reasons:

  • It gives clients another point of contact other than their Financial Planner.
  • Paraplanners benefit from hearing a client's individual circumstances, goals and concerns first-hand, enhancing our understanding of their thoughts, feelings and situations – crucial for tailoring financial planning solutions and compiling meaningful reports.
  • It enables more in-depth conversations with the Financial Planner, so there’s less chance of anything being over-looked or misinterpreted.

We believe that, altogether, having a Paraplanner in clients meetings facilitates better client outcomes.

A vital part of the team 

As I hope you’ve gathered, paraplanning is an extremely varied role, which can alter from business to business. There are often different levels of paraplanning within the same company, with opportunities for Paraplanners to specialise in a specific area or product. 

Whatever level a Paraplanner is at, they’re a valuable resource and in demand in our field. I, for one, find the role richly rewarding. The days are varied, and I’m forever learning as rules and regulations change, new products are introduced, older policies occasionally come to light that I haven’t encountered before and, of course, every client and their circumstances are unique. My role is constantly evolving in line with business and client needs, and it’s so rewarding to know I’m part of a team delivering a great service to clients.

At the end of the day, that’s what we're all here for!

Find out more about Kath in her Team Spotlight.

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Kathryn Jeffery

Kathryn Jeffery