What’s it like to move from in-house to outsourced paraplanning?

Peers generally look at you curiously when you say you are going to become outsourced.

It’s scary. You’re on your own.

But I’m sure there’s also a little envy too: You’ll get to see so many different ways of working; your knowledge will broaden and of course you get to work flexibly.

That’s true but there are other things to consider too.

Clients, clients…clients?

There are the obvious things that have been mentioned time and time again, so I’m not going to repeat them, but one massive and patently obvious thing is the clients.

By ‘clients’ I mean the person who is paying for the advice that we play a part in delivering. My ‘clients’ are now the planners and advisers that I work for but really – if it weren’t for the actual person on the street – none of us would be here in the first place.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a people person: I love meeting new people. I also love seeing the results of the advice that I – as part of a team – have been involved in delivering.

So why would I step back from meeting clients and become an outsourced paraplanner?

The answer is: I want to learn.

Taking stock and making a choice

I believe that, to help deliver the best advice, you have to have as much understanding as you can. It’s better to base things on practice though, rather than theory. The end client can only benefit from your experience.

Another reason is that as an in-house paraplanner it was highly unlikely that I’d ever have my own clients; that’s what the planners had. Unless I wanted to become a planner I would find it difficult to develop my own client bank and why would I want to?

I could build a relationship, and in some cases, quite a strong relationship. The issue was that maintaining the relationship was beyond my control. This meant that, if the business I worked in changed hands, I had no say in what happened and my ties would be severed.

When you have spent years working closely with a client that’s a difficult concept to grasp; especially if you have helped them through pivotal moments in their life, which happen to have a financial consequences, such as bereavement or divorce.

So I decided to push myself, to test my technical proficiency, my boundaries and experience, and become outsourced. I was lucky enough to be offered a job here at The Paraplanners and, from the day I accepted the job to my first day on the job, I was petrified!

It’s like being in-house but different

I know that starting any new job is tough but starting a new job where you are physically on your own for most of the time is harder still. Starting a new job where you will rarely have a conversation with the end client is even more difficult.

So, let’s get this straight, we are involved in the delivery of advice to J Bloggs. He or she wants help to organise his or her finances, achieve a specific financial goal or even help to make a financial dream come true. This is true whether you are an in-house or an outsourced paraplanner.

It’s not often that you see a fact-find that can deliver the nuances of a client’s true feelings about their finances. Their objectives can be cold and meaningless, difficult to relate to the person. Of course being outsourced I’ll never get to meet that person – it doesn’t make any difference whether they are a top-flight sports star earning millions or a retiring teacher they get the same level of service from me. I like this. Whoever the end client, a little insight into their life helps enormously when it comes to crafting their report or helping formulate the advice.

That’s where some of our clients excel. And that in turn helps me. A small summary of the things that are due to be discussed at a meeting, a hobby or project that someone is involved with, details of impending grandchildren or the state of health of  elderly parents. Whatever it is, if it can help personalise a report and help me get a little insight into the ‘J Bloggs’ that reads the end report, then that’s a positive all round.

Keeping an eye on the prize

I think that, as paraplanners, we have to remember the actual reason we are writing the report in the first place.

Someone has sought advice somewhere because something real is happening in their financial life. Most probably, it’s something pretty big and means a lot to them because if it wasn’t they wouldn’t be seeking advice.

The danger is that we can lose that sense.

We can be technically fantastic, astounding even. We can know as much as there possibly is to know about the implications of the latest pensions ‘simplification’ including every permutation of the world’s most flexible drawdown strategy, but if we can’t apply that knowledge practically then there is something missing.

You might think that investing a capital lump sum is a cold, hard, financial transaction but the fact of the matter is that whether that’s an inheritance, severance pay or whatever, there is most likely an awful lot of emotion wrapped up in that capital lump sum too.

Sometimes I think we can forget to be humble. We can forget the implications of what we are doing, what that actually means to the person receiving the advice. I’m talking about in real life, not on paper here.

Being a good paraplanner is not about knowing everything. It’s about knowing where to find out about everything, knowing what to do with that knowledge once you have it and most importantly, knowing how this will impact the clients you are dealing with.

Clients who return to their planners year after year do so partly because of the relationships that are built.

Helping to build that relationship – albeit from a distance – by writing a report that is meaningful and relates to J Bloggs is something that I’m very happy to be a part of.