The Paraplanners

A student's view of the IFP's Paraplanning Conference Wed 27 May 2015

David Smith – The Paraplanners – 150pxStudent competition winner, David Smith (pictured), who’s studying for an associate’s degree in Finance and Financial Management services at the University of South Wales, describes his experience as our guest at last week's IFP Paraplanning Conference near Kenilworth in Warwickshire.

The arrival

I left Cardiff full of excitement and anticipation ready for the first day of the conference. However in all honesty I had no idea what to really expect from the event.

I’d attended a few IFA seminars before, which were interesting, although I usually found that I was the youngest in the room – by a good number of years.

My fears of this happening at the conference soon disappeared when, on arrival at Warwick train station, I met two young paraplanners who were also attending the conference.

It was fantastic to speak to them about their experiences and ambitions.

Day One

The first session at the conference was on the (cheery) subject ‘Pensions on Divorce’ hosted by John Dunn and Paul Cobley.

I found the session very interesting although I admit that it was an extremely technical session and I struggled to understand some points raised. But I’d approached the conference knowing this could be the case, so I was happy to leave the session armed with a page-full of new knowledge on offsetting, earmarking and sharing.

The session was really helpful for both my studies – I’ll study pensions and retirement at university next year – as well as my part time role with Penguin Wealth.


The first conference session over, it was time for the Dinner – which, with succulent duck with a strawberry cheesecake for dessert, far exceeded standard student fare of pizza and chip! – and entertainment hosted by Richard Allum and his phenomenal Elvis-like ‘Bingo is my thingo’ shirt. 

It was a fantastic opportunity to socialise with fellow attendees. There were highly competitive games with fantastic prizes up for grabs but, unfortunately, I didn’t win the £200 bar tab nor the bottle of bubbly. It is likely, though, that you may see me in future down Gala Bingo after winning a full house! (I am actually munching on some of the chocolate I won from that as I write this.)

With no idea what to expect from the conference, I must say that paraplanners certainly know how to party. I thought students were the partying pace-setters – perhaps not.

Day Two

Day Two and the FCA’s Rory Percival and Melony Holman of Compliance and Training Solutions kicked off the conference’s first sessions.

We were given an interesting session on the dos and don’ts from a compliance point of view. As I undertake aspects of report writing in my role at Penguin Wealth, it was extremely interesting and I was able to take a lot from the session.

In the afternoon, I attended the ‘Nuts about tax efficiency’ seesion. It was extremely technical, and I did struggle to understand parts because I’ve not covered some elements raised at either university or work. However I was still able to take a number of hints and tips away from the session – not least, in a world where Franklin’s phrase that ‘in life only two things are certain, death and taxes’ is often quoted, it was interesting to walk away with solutions to reducing one’s tax liability!

The second afternoon session I attended was ‘Nuts about pension freedom’.

This was a session I’d made a point of highlighting before attending the conference. Since the changes to pension rules, we’ve been exceptionally busy at work dealing with clients keen to explore the new pension rules.

James Hay Partnership’s Neil MacGillivray delivered a session that was jam-packed with helpful information about the new rules. It was a fascinating session and I could relate to the real-life examples that he highlighted.

Risk was the topic of a panel debate later in the afternoon with Rory Percival, Dan Kemp from Morningstar and Chris Darbyshire from Seven Investment Management.

I found Rory extremely interesting in the previous session he hosted, I was excited to listen to his sound advice the second time round. In particular, it was very interesting to hear what the regulator looks for when dealing with a client’s attitude to risk versus their capacity to loss. All three speakers were able to provide sound advice on how to ensure a client receives a service that is right for them.

The final session of the day was very different to the previous ones. Information designer, David McCandless, presented a unique talk on presenting data in ways which are simple and easy to understand.

I found his techniques extremely interesting and will certainly be buying one of his books to explore more about his work. Although the talk had no direct link to financial services, I still found it very helpful and took lots on board that could help with both university assignments and presenting client data in reports in the future.

The stands

Throughout the day, providers had exhibition stands set up,  which reminded me very much of fresher’s week in university. As well as freebies galore, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet providers and talk about what they do and what they offer.

Professional Paraplanner Magazine was a great find too and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their latest issue on the journey back to South Wales.

The departure (and return?)

Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to all at The Paraplanners for giving me the fantastic opportunity of attending this year’s paraplanning conference.

It was a brilliant experience and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone in the profession – from people in the most senior role to people, like me, with very little experience – there’s something for everyone.

And I’m certainly looking forward to next year’s conference!



Leave a reply