- Paraplanners are seeing greater recognition of their role from advisers
- Relationships with advisers are strong
- So much so, that paraplanners have the confidence to challenge advice recommendations
Paraplanners are reporting strong alliances with their advisers. A sizeable 87% of paraplanners rate their current adviser relationships as either good or excellent. This is not far off the 90% net positive score with which paraplanners judge the strength of the relationship with their own paraplanning teams (only 1 in 8 are the only paraplanner at their firm). Strong relationships foster greater collaboration and lay the groundwork for challenge and debate. And that is what we see here, with an impressive 9 out of 10 paraplanners feeling that they can challenge an adviser’s recommendation.
The way in which paraplanners describe the nature of their working relationship adds some colour to this result. Nearly half of paraplanners say their advisers mainly make the decisions but they listen to their opinions, while 38% say that they work in a fully collaborative way (albeit this jumps to 46% for paraplanners who have been working for more than five years). Only 13% felt the relationship was very one-sided with the adviser mainly dictating recommendations. Paraplanners felt that ‘good communication’ and ‘mutual respect’ were the most important factors in establishing strong adviser relationships.
What is driving these strong results? Well, we can point to stronger paraplanner involvement in a range of critical adviser support activities. Respondents feel they add most value on report writing (61%), adviser support (53%), technical analysis (46%) and advice recommendations (42%). However, they also feel they have more to offer, believing they could add more value in technology decision-making (35%), technical analysis (31%), and advice (31%). So, what’s the biggest blocker stopping them from doing so? Interestingly, it’s not company management or structure, it’s simply workload.
Paraplanners are enjoying record high levels of recognition for the role they do within their adviser firms. Nearly 9 out of 10 feel that advice firms value paraplanners more highly now than in the past. However, while the scales have tipped in their favour in terms of adviser recognition, this does not always extend out to the client relationship. Nearly 40% of paraplanners who have contact with clients do not feel appreciated by them. Is this perhaps a function of how the paraplanner is introduced to the client? Does the client always get an accurate sense of how much the paraplanner has contributed to their advice package?
The overwhelming majority of paraplanners (96%) feel their firms are supportive of their roles. In terms of how they could be more supportive, 62% of paraplanners feel a pay review would help, 41% believe their firm should employ more paraplanners, while 36% believe greater investment in technology would help.
We can add to this general impression of strong recognition and support by exploring how paraplanners feel their role is perceived at their firms. Three-quarters of paraplanners say their role is seen as ‘essential support for advisers’, half of respondents reported that it is seen as a ‘report writing service’ highlighting the time spent on this critical client activity, while 39% believe their role is seen as the ‘technical engine’ room of the business. Only 17% believe their role is seen as a purely administrative one within their firms.
It is worth drawing a distinction here between experienced, collaborative paraplanners who are contributing to key aspects of the advice process and report writers who may be starting out in a more narrowly defined role. Looking back over the last few years, we have seen paraplanners move up the financial planning value chain. This is an ongoing process, however, in which new, younger paraplanners must earn their stripes, but they do now benefit from tailored qualifications and more structured career routes at advice firms, some of which now run academies and mentoring programmes.
“It has been fascinating and gratifying to witness first-hand the rise of the paraplanner. It’s not just a story of paraplanners wanting to take on more – adviser firms, for their part, have embraced their paraplanners and encouraged them to contribute in areas like research, analysis and advice. This has allowed advisers and business owners to focus their efforts on meeting clients, growing assets, and running their businesses.
The fact that 9 out of 10 paraplanners feel able to challenge their adviser’s recommendation is fantastic – perhaps this stat more than any other shows how far paraplanning has come. While those conversations might be difficult, they should ultimately strengthen the advice process, especially when getting to an optimal client solution can be an iterative process. It goes without saying that most advisers would rather have a lively discussion with their paraplanners at the time of the recommendation, than be forced to defend it later with the compliance department or at a post-sale advice review.”
Intermediary Distribution Director, Embark Group
As part of our Paraplanner survey report, watch part 2 where we look at paraplanners relationships with advisers. Key points: