The role of the Paraplanner

By Sara Mather, Paraplanner, Brunel Capital Partners

“What do you do?”

When people ask me what I do, I assume they’re not asking about what I do in my own time, what I do with my kids or what I think my role in life is. They are asking what I do as a job. “I’m a Paraplanner” I tell them. “Oh right” is the standard response. Cue the blank face, followed by a second question “and what does that mean then?”.

To anyone outside the financial profession it’s not a term people are generally familiar with, unlike Financial Adviser or Financial Planner which are roles people tend to recognise.

The role of the Paraplanner is a relatively new one, and even within the industry it is not always clearly defined.

In some Financial Planning practices, a Paraplanner has limited input into the advice process and is simply tasked with the role of gathering information and formalising the Financial Planner’s recommendations into a report, essentially, providing a report writing service.

In other practices, the Paraplanner has a much more active role in the advice process.

This is the case at Brunel Capital Partners. The Paraplanner here works as part of a team alongside the Financial Planner to provide clients with a professional and ongoing Financial Planning experience. We play an active role in the advice process.

The Financial Planner gathers the initial client information, gets to know the client and gains a real understanding of their objectives and what they are trying to achieve. The Paraplanner then collates the client’s personal details, gathers policy information and builds up a picture of the client’s current financial position. We then use this as the starting point for identifying any shortfall between the client’s current position and where they want to be, in line with their personal objectives.

We analyse every detail of the client’s personal situation; their age, their health, their objectives, their existing plans, their attitude to risk, their existing plan charges, the underlying investments; essentially the overall suitability of these plans and how likely it is that the current provisions are going to meet their future needs.

Then we build on the initial picture with the Financial Planner. Together we analyse whether the client’s existing plans and provisions are appropriate and sufficient on all fronts. We look at what would need to be done to address any shortfall and whether the objectives set are achievable. This is a collaborative process between Financial Planner and Paraplanner.

We draw on the intricate knowledge and understanding that the Financial Planner has of the client, their needs and their objectives and apply this to the analysis the Paraplanner has done, to determine the best course of action for the client going forward.

A Paraplanner is often qualified to give investment advice in their own right, and typically has a wealth of financial exams to prove it. Honestly we are a little (ahem) geeky, we like numbers, we like technical detail and we make sure we keep abreast of changes in the market, changes in legislation and compliance requirements. This gives the Financial Planner and Paraplanner combination a dynamic edge, two sets of knowledge, two sets of eyes, and two sets of ideas.

This gives the client the best possible solution, advice and hopefully outcome.

Once recommendations have been made and put in place we work with the Financial Planner to review this advice regularly, ensuring it remains appropriate, and that it’s on target to achieve the client’s goals.

So, when people ask me “what do you do?”, I must admit I do sigh a little inside. Not because I don’t love what I do (which I do), but because there isn’t a quick answer. Explaining the role takes a while, and I fear that Mr Well-Meaning Polite Person isn’t actually looking for chapter and verse on the ins and outs of my role.

Apparently pension legislation, Inheritance Tax and cash flow forecasting aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, it’s ours, and that’s what we’re here for.

Sara Mather
Paraplanner, Brunel Capital Partners