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Standards International looks to set up Paraplanning Standard

Standards International MD Michelle Hoskin has outlined how the Paraplanning Standard might work, potential pricing and says if demand is there the Standard could be up and running in three months.

Michelle Hoskin, managing director of Standards International, has hosted a web conference to discuss how the standards body might run the Paraplanning Standard, if there was sufficient demand from paraplanners to take it forward.

The Standard would be a way for individual paraplanners to differentiate themselves in the market, as well as for advisory firms to develop their internal paraplanners, and immediately assess the competencies of outsourced paraplanners as well as job candidates.

“What we are looking to do is raise the bar and benefit everyone, individuals and firms alike,” Hoskin said.

A straw poll run by Hoskin on Twitter this week showed on its close that 53% of paraplanners had said No to a Standard while 47% were for a Standard being introduced.

“That is very close. If 50% of the market says it wants a Standard and 50% says it doesn’t I will support the 50% that do and I will do that with a passion, “ Hoskin said. “I’m not going to pander to people who don’t want to develop. This is about those people who want to progress and be the best they can be for themselves and for the firms they are working for.”

The Standard would likely draw on elements of ISO 22222 and ISO 9001, which are internationally recognised. As such, it could be up and running in three months, Hoskin added.

However, the Standard would not be structured just by Standards International but would be set via a committee, including paraplanners, and Hoskin said she would be seeking out people to be part of that committee.

Minimum qualification

While earlier debates around a Standard had suggested that it could be structured separate from the qualification process, Hoskin is firmly of the opinion that qualifications are essential to a Standard and the minimum level for a Paraplanning Standard should be Level 4. “There’s no question about that. Paraplanners are supporting qualified individuals that need at least that level of technical knowledge in their paraplanner,” she said.

“In my view, paraplanners need to be technically equal to their planners or even more qualified.”

Those views are also a reflection of a change in the market that she believes is occurring whereby paraplanner are becoming stronger influences and playing ever more crucial roles in advisory firms.

Assessment process

In terms of how the Standard would work. Hoskin said the paraplanner would progress through an independent assessment process.

Outlining the process, she said it was not set in stone but, based on other standards work, would likely consist of the following.

First stage would be an Eligibility Application. The paraplanner would submit proof of their qualifications. That would require “a spread of qualifications that would be relative and relevant to the role they are performing,” Hoskin said. Where a paraplanner was a supervisor, for example, they would need to show evidence of their competency in performing all their roles.

“We would want to see that they have undertaken relevant training, development and CPD, and where they have educated others, that is where they have imparted their knowledge to others for the benefit of the business as a whole.”

The paraplanner then would be interviewed, talking about “their role, responsibilities and behaviours” and evidence would be sought to support what was said in interview, for example, client testimonials, feedback from the adviser firm, feedback from their peers and team members, file analysis etc.

“We will be assessing them on the knowledge that they have and evidence of their expertise,” Hoskin said.

The assessments would be undertaken virtually, possibly over video conferencing software, in order to keep cost as low as possible. Each assessment would probably take a full day in total to complete.

Cost of the Standard

In terms of potential costs, Hoskin said initial calculations suggested that if Standards International undertook the whole process, the cost per individual for the assessment would be around £350.

Some firms might want to pay that for their paraplanners Hoskin suggested. “Why wouldn’t they want to develop their paraplanners if it will benefit the firm. Firms that are successful are those that develop their people, because awesome people make for happy clients”

Nevertheless, she added that it would also be in the interests of paraplanners to pay for the Standard as part of their self-development.

Hoskin also put forward the idea that if enough paraplanner volunteers could be found who were willing to undertake the role of assessors, Standards International would put them through its Assessors Training Course for free and with those people in the field the cost could be brought down lower.

Assessment would need to be maintained on an annual basis because of the changing nature of paraplanners roles and competencies but possibly could be cheaper in subsequent years.

The assessment had to be independent and impartial and the Standard had to be top quality. For that to happen, Hoskin stressed, there had to be hands-on, physical assessment based on a robust process. “It would be hard because people would have to feel they had worked for it.”

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