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What makes for the ideal paraplanner?

Advisers may have an idea of their perfect paraplanner – but does she/he really exist? Michelle Hoskin of Standards International sets out key principles and behaviours she believes make for the paraplanner advice businesses need both now and in the future

For years I’ve listened to financial planners and advisers tell me what they believed made an amazing paraplanner. They would have no problem telling me what they would look like (of course not physically!), what their wish list of skills and abilities would be, what their perfect paraplanner would do and how they would do it – not to mention how they would think and of course add value!

Until the drafting of The Paraplanning Standard™ my hands were tied, so I had no choice but to join them and wait patiently for the day when the perfect paraplanner would cross their path!

The sad thing was … those days never came!

But why not? How could this be, given the growing population of super keen, educated and competent paraplanners?

You could say that their ideals and ideas were not realistic and that the perfect paraplanner simply didn’t exist. At the time I had no choice but to agree with them … but now I believe it is only a matter of time.

To drive and build a profession, we need to think bigger and broader than technical knowledge and academic qualifications. We know this because, on a weekly basis, I personally (on behalf of our clients) sit eyeball to eyeball in front of some of the smartest paraplanners going … yet we still don’t hire them!

So, what does it take?

Qualifications aside, the committee that designed the international standard for paraplanners knew exactly what we were looking for and after actually not much deliberation we came up with 13 Key Principles and Behaviours. 

These were:

•          Professionalism

•          Moral values and ethics

•          Honesty and integrity

•          Dependability and accuracy

•          Priority of the client’s interests

•          Due care and diligence

•          Compliance

•          Conflicts of interest

•          Communication

•          Objectivity

•          Confidentiality

•          Disclosure

•          Competence

Now – in the absence of a clearly defined internal code of ethics, team culture, and personal performance and development measures – these key principles and behaviours, alongside the 4 Essential Attributes, should become the basis of professional practice for today’s paraplanners. 

When demonstrated, these principles and behaviours are essential in defining the whole person – and when these key qualities are not just met but exceeded, I believe perfection will become a reality.

But of course, as is always the case, there is another side to all of this! The firms that employ and engage with our profession’s paraplanners have to ‘get it’. They have to realise that paraplanning is a profession in its own right. They need to understand that a paraplanner is not some pumped-up administrator who’s got a few exams under their belt or a glorified job title that has been dished out with no thought or consideration and is not worth the paper it is written on.

They need to give paraplanners space and time to do their job properly: the freedom to allow them to think and challenge, and the time to learn and grow. Sadly, this too is not a scene I see very often.

However, the ship is turning, not just in the UK but overseas too. As the professional role of a planner is itself evolving due to the changing needs of consumers and clients, they have no choice but to take note and realise that paraplanners are not failed advisers nor are they necessarily wannabe planners or advisers hopping on the stepping stones to the ‘real job’. They are in fact the superpower which will play a massive role in changing our industry into a true global profession! 

What an exciting time – and best of all, we are living it together.

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