The Paraplanners

Where's the next generation of paraplanners going to come from? Thu 14 May 2015

Within the advice community these days it’s widely recognised that paraplanning is a flourishing profession. 

There is more and more demand for paraplanning and more and more people are choosing career paths in the paraplanning world. 

What’s more, according to the IFP’s paraplanning survey in 2014, almost half (49 per cent) of practising paraplanners are aged between 25-34 years old. More than three-quarters are aged 44 or lower. 

Right now, the demand for paraplanning is only going to increase. 

But without a regular influx of ‘new blood’, demand will not be met. Access to paraplanning services could be at a premium with consequences for the cost of advice to consumers and the ambitions of advice practices to expand. 

So where will new paraplanners come from? 

Among paraplanning practitioners today, it’s likely that many came through their firms – often starting in administrative roles. 

Others may switch from roles in life companies – like I did. However as lifeco organisations have diminished in size, so too has the number of paraplanners emerging via this route. 

In an ideal world, of course, we would ‘grow our own’ so that our culture, systems and processes are embedded from the start. 

And the new apprenticeship scheme for paraplanners can help – though not necessarily to the extent that the advice profession needs. 

Many financial service firms are small businesses. They’re often family-owned without the luxury of the time and money to employ and train a paraplanner themselves. 

Where businesses do pursue this route – even if they take advantage of a government-backed apprenticeship programme – there’s always a nagging concern that, once trained, paraplanners will move on to a bigger firm or 
role taking all the skills developed with them – leaving the firm back at square one. 

Some larger firms have graduate programmes but these aren’t all that common and so are not an option for most. 

Just as significantly, recent experience tells me that many financial services undergraduates simply aren’t aware that paraplanning exists, never mind aspiring to become one. 

Instead, undergraduates are fixed on careers in the retail and investment banks. 

When The Paraplanners ran a competition for two current undergraduates to attend, fully funded, the IFP Paraplanners Conference later this month, we had just one entry – albeit a very good one. 

Now it could be that we didn’t have the profile among UK students, or it could be that it coincides with year-end exams or Finals. Of course, it could just be that most students simply are not that interested in paraplanning as a career choice. 

That’s a concern – both for the financial planning profession today and in the future. 

Our profession is at a crossroads – both in terms of raising its profile among young and career-changing talent, and in ensuring there are clear points of entry into the profession. 

I’m personally committed to invest my time and energy to see what needs to be done, to make sure that paraplanning continues to grow and to attract fresh new ideas and people who can help advice practices deliver their ambition of great client outcomes. 

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