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6 ways to help make suitability reports more readable

Top tips from peer-to-peer discussions at the recent Paraplanners Powwow Down South event  

The latest Paraplanners Powwow Down South event took place this week in London, The events are organised by paraplanners to network with their peers, to discuss issues relating to the paraplanning role and to share good practice, one of the topics raised for discussion was what more could be done to make suitability reports more readable and easier to understand for clients. In particular, where reports covered numerous aspects of a client’s finances and so could be long and/or complex.

This session produced six tips that attendees might take away and use within their own reports.

1. Include an executive summary at the start of the document. This could be one page or more. It was further suggested this should be set out under clear headings, with those headings repeated in the body of the report itself, so that if the client wanted to read about a particular section in more depth they could easily do so by turning to that section.

2. To test how accessible and client-friendly a report or template is, ask a non-technical member of the team to read mock-up reports. This can provide useful feedback on whether a report is readable and can be understood by the client. Those who had sought feedback in this way said that invariably, it helped improve the layout and the accessibility of the reports they were producing.

3. Use visuals to break up pages of text. Also, use colour-coded sections, in particular where a report is complex and/or long, to aid the client in getting quickly to the material they need. Similarly, use of white space and headings that were big enough to catch the eye could be used help to make the report more accessible and less imposing as a document.

4. Drawing important information to the client’s attention, or points on which the client needed to take action, either by putting them in boxes, or otherwise highlighting them on the page.5

5. Use of plain English that the client could understand and avoiding the use of complex terms or jargon. While seemingly an obvious point, it was noted that the technical nature of the advice at times meant it could be difficult to provide an explanation in layman’s terms. And again, having a second set of eyes read the report looking for anything that might difficult for the client to understand.

6. Use of diagrams to help explain more complex issues, for example, trust set ups and drawdown arrangements. A well-designed graphical representation of a process could be immediately accessible and easier to understand than trying to outline the process in writing.

Pictured: Organisers of the Powwow (l-r): Dan Atkinson, senior technical consultant, EQ Investors; John Redmond, paraplanner, BpH Wealth Management; Alan Gow, director, Argonaut Paraplanning; Nathan Fryer, director, Plan Works.


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