A perpetual dilemma for paraplanners is the all too prevalent idea that paraplanning amounts to ‘writing a report’.
In fact, it has been known for paraplanners to be described as ‘typists’: a tongue in cheek comment on the one hand but a sweeping generalisation on the other whose merit is about as credible as labelling all financial advisers as ‘bank cashiers’.
The fact is, of course, that, just as in any line of work, the collective noun for a professional cohort always covers a spectrum of skills.
It is a matter of fact that – at one end of the paraplanning spectrum – many people are engaged in the task of report writing while, at the other, there are those involved in more specialised financial planning tasks.
Both perform paraplanning roles so, how do you discern the difference between a paraplanner who’s a ‘report writer’ and a paraplanner who’s, well, a paraplanner?
From my perspective, I think a lot of it comes down to the degree of latitude you enjoy in your role.
A ‘report writer’ is primarily engaged in the production of reports and is unlikely to have much say – if any – over what they do and the way that they do it.
A paraplanner, on the other hand, is likely to have greater influence over analysis, is more likely to raise questions and challenge assumptions, and – ultimately – is more likely to work on a strategy which results in a report.
So here’s my checklist for distinguishing between a ‘report writer’ and a paraplanner:
- Doesn’t have to be as qualified;
- Works for the adviser; and
- Less in-depth knowledge.
- Often at least as qualified as advisers;
- Often pursues an area of specialisation; and
- Works with advisers and not for them.
Does that sound about right to you?
An edited version of this article first appeared in New Model Adviser.