The Paraplanner Standard

Hi everyone

Firstly thanks for an amazing PowWow last week!

I wanted to raise the topic of the Paraplanner Standard on Big Tent, as I know we didn’t get chance to discuss it properly as it came up right at the very end of the PowWow!

The standard will be going live very soon, and having helped work on it, I am excited to get it out there!  I think that it will help answer the other 2 PowWow topics we discussed on the day: Paraplanner training plans and also defining Paraplanner careers.

So I suppose I wanted to open the floor and ask people what they think: will this be something that you would strive to achieve, what are you excited about, and what you may be concerned about? All comments are welcome, and will be passed back to the drafting committee (which I am on) as I know they are keen to hear from you!!

 Thanks

Jenny x 

Comments

  • richallumrichallum Administrator
    Hi @jenny.ryan got any details on it yet?  I've sat in on the webinars and there hasn't been anything concrete to think about.

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. Republican.

  • Hi Jenny, glad you enjoyed the Powwow, it was fab to meet you :smile: 

    I'm of the same opinion as Richard, I've listened to the webinars on it on playback, and unless I missed a bit, there didn't seem to be anything to comment on.  When you go on the Standards International website, there's an application form available for it but no info on what it is that you are applying for, what the requirements are, or what it means.  It also has a cost of £0.00 which is quite misleading as my understanding is it is going to be hundreds of pounds for some people, based on what was on the calls but again there has been nothing concrete on this. 

    Just a few starter for ten questions I have would be: 

    - Who are they aiming this at?
    - What are the entry requirements? 
    - How will the standard be measured? Is it based on technical knowledge, experience or other factors?  
    - Who will be doing the measuring? What will qualify them to do the measuring?  
    - Will exams still be required or does this replace any of the usual training options?
    - What is the fee?
    - Is it a one off fee or do you need to repeat the process annually?
    - How will the standard be tailored - there is no standard definition of what a paraplanner is and this differs between firms - how will this be overcome? 
    - Will there be different levels for different paraplanners and again who gets to decide this? 
    - Who is on the panel and what are is their experience of paraplanning to enable them to put together a standard? 

    I don't want to come across as negative as I am sure that there has been a lot of hard work go into this but establishing a paraplanner standard is like the question - how long is a piece of string? The term paraplanner will differ between all firms who have one and what the business needs them to be so I am really interested in how that is being dealt with. 

    It needs to be fit for purpose and so far there has been so little consider or review on this and my concern is that it will actually do more harm than good and create animosity, as who actually has the right to tell anyone that they can or can't call themself a paraplanner? Particularly when it is being driven by someone who has never been a paraplanner and has taken it upon themselves to create this by virtue of the fact that 'they are the bet ones to do it' . 

    If the panel can provide something concrete to consider, this would be a good start, as at the moment it appears to be a movable feast trying to be all things for all people. 

    Sorry for going on but as you can see this is something I have a keen interest in! ;)



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  • Hi Jenny

    One of my concerns is that anyone who obtains the standard will then be marketed to adviser firms that have the adviser version of the standards.

    Whilst I recognise that the Standard would make candidates more desirable, I think we need to be careful of the potential conflict of interest.

    Cheers

    N




  • Hi guys thanks for all your comments - Caro I can see why we didn't have a chance of covering all that in the last 5 minutes of the PowWow day lol -  I am drafting some info for you all, and will post it shortly! :)

    Nathan just to be clear, do you mean that Standards International might try to tout Paraplanners to other firms once they have achieved the Standard? I.e. act as quasi-recruiter? just want to make sure I have your question straight :)

    thanks all, J  

  • That's fab,thanks Jenny, look forward to seeing it :) 
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  • Hi Caro, Richard & everyone

    So far the Standard has been drafted to include:

    • The Standard itself: starts with a foreword, then details the committee members, then various definitions (it has been designed to be used worldwide), then the whole point of it, what success would look like, then the various areas the Standard assesses such as communication, diligence, compliance, integrity, ethics, resourcefulness, professionalism, analysis of client needs, using platforms/technology, systems and processes, understanding of the overall financial planning process, (which go on to be detailed in the skills matrix below)

    • A ‘best practise’ team structure, wherein a Paraplanner fits

    • A Paraplanner role purpose

    • Essential and desirable skills matrix

    • Training needs analysis – identify areas for improvement / to get you to the next level

    • Appraisal and Development guide - guidance for Paraplanners and managers

    • CPD log

    • Training plan

    Our hope is to make all these documents into a book format, so it could be a sort of “Paraplanner handbook” or for firms who want to develop Paraplanners but aren’t sure where to start. I hope that this should be available to buy without having to sign up to be assessed to the Standard (marketing details still being sorted!)


     

     

    Reece

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  • To answer your questions Caro:

    Who are they aiming this at?

    It’s aimed at anyone who sees themselves as a Paraplanner, at any level, or wants to become one. Basically the sort of proactive & ambitious bunch who were at the PowWow! The Standard is certainly not trying to exclude those who are striving to become a professional Paraplanner, in fact its those people it wants to encourage.

    - What are the entry requirements? 

    The Standard is broken down into 3 ‘levels’.

    1 – Trainee – someone who hasn’t started exams, or isn’t up to level 4 yet. To certify themselves as a trainee according to the standard, an assessor needs to see that they have a structured training / qualification plan in place and that they are working to it.    

    2 – Certified – at this level you need to have level 4 and 2 years’ experience. More of the ‘desirable’ skills at level 1 become ‘essential’ to get to level 2, e.g. process and operations, time management, literacy & communications skills.

    3 – Advanced Certified – at least one level 6 qualification and 3 years’ experience. There would be extra ‘essential’ skills at this level such as mentoring / leadership, presenting face to face etc.


    Reece

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  • - How will the standard be measured? Is it based on technical knowledge, experience or other factors?  

    It’s based on both. We don’t intend to reinvent the wheel in terms of exams as hopefully we agree that enough of those exist. Instead we will use the existing recognized level 4 and level 6 qualifications. On top of this we add a face to face assessment whereby the Paraplanner will take the assessor through what they do on a day to day basis and how they interact with their colleagues/clients. It’s a mix of qualifications, technical experience and displaying general character traits like attention to detail, professional demeanor, trouble-shooting etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              
    - Who will be doing the measuring? What will qualify them to do the measuring?  

    Professional assessors will do this. They are qualified to do so and they already do for the Financial Planner Standard.  If Paraplanners are interested, and once they have achieved the standard themselves, it would be encouraged if they wanted to train as an assessor and do assessments for others…

     
    - Will exams still be required or does this replace any of the usual training options?

    It’s not intended to be simply a test of technical knowledge. It is intended to be more “well-rounded” than this. Though there is an element of academic achievement required to go beyond Standard level 1, the Standard is also intended to quantify the Paraplanners’ experience, ambitions and on-the-job abilities. We as the committee did feel that there is an element of technical know-how required to be a Paraplanner and that the exams, at the end of the day, are a successful way of benchmarking that.  


    Reece

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  • - What is the fee? / Is it a one off fee or do you need to repeat the process annually?

    The final word on the fee is with Standards International. At the moment it is looking like a monthly subscription which will include free CPD days etc. as well as the cost of assessment. Assessment will need to be re-completed on a regular basis (annual or so, TBC). The Committee thought that face to face was the best way to assess a Paraplanner’s role outside of exam-learning, and naturally there would be costs to this, e.g. travel for the assessor etc so these need to be covered by the subscription. “top-up” assessments thereafter might be by skype/phone etc to reduce ongoing costs.
     
    - How will the standard be tailored - there is no standard definition of what a paraplanner is and this differs between firms - how will this be overcome? 

    We hope that having a Standard will be the remedy to this – the general feeling I detect is that Paraplanners generally want Paraplanning to become more formalised in this way….?  By doing so we hope to create a Paraplanning career-ladder so it can be viewed as a profession in its own right.

    Not to say that every single Paraplanner must do exactly the same duties, but rather that those who do ‘true’ Paraplanning jobs are recognized over and above those who don’t do any of those things. For example, the Standard is designed to cater for both in house and outsourced Paraplanners. We are also using a matrix of ‘essential and desirable’ abilities, for example using cash flow. We recognise that not all firms use cash flow, and where they do, it isn’t always the Paraplanner that does it. the Standard would be looking for someone’s ability to understand the cash flow, its purpose, where it fits into the client cycle, etc. So it’s not a tick-box exercise to say “Can they do cash flow? Yes.”  but rather we are trying to get a view of a Paraplanner’s skills, intellect and characteristics in the round.


  • - Will there be different levels for different paraplanners and again who gets to decide this? 

    See above 3 levels  J


    - Who is on the panel and what are is their experience of paraplanning to enable them to put together a standard? 

    The panel is made up of Paraplanners across the range of experiences (so some of us would be categorized as ‘Trainee’ and some as ‘advanced certified’), and are both in-house and outsourced. We also have financial planners, business owners, HR/ops manager too. I believe there are 14 of us in total. Standards International team have experience of putting together an international ‘standard’ as they have done so for Financial Planners already.  

     

    I understand your point about the fact that the Standards Intl team aren’t Paraplanners. However I think that is why they were so diligent about building a committee. Also, they do have a unique perspective in that they have worked with dozens and dozens of firms up and down the country, so they have a good overview of what Paraplanning looks like and how it works well / not-so-well UK-wide. They also have a lot of international contacts, and there has been a clear appetite expressed for the Paraplanner Standard in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia so far too. I don’t know who else could have that kind of reach except perhaps the CII/CISI but they didn’t take it up.


  • my screen shot didn't seem to work; it was a bit of a sneak preview of the hopes of the committee for the Standard:

    - that 100% of Paraplanners undergo training and development to support their achievement of the Standard

    - that the Paraplanner role is recognised and consistently referenced worldwide

    - that the standard will raise awareness of the Paraplanner role in its own right, and is no longer regarded as a stepping stone towards an advisory role

    - that firms have access to a wide pool of suitable and appropriately skilled team members allowing them to develop their businesses and service their clients

    - to create  a clear path of progression through defined professional roles, whilst encouraging new entrants into the sector


    look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts!


    Reece

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  • I'm going to be honest with you Jenny and say that has not really answered a lot of my questions, and actually just created a whole load more, sorry! 

    I have some major concerns and reservations about this and whilst I don't doubt the largely good intentions of the panel, there still seems to be a degree of vagueness and wooliness surrounding it, for example: 

    Who will be doing the measuring? What will qualify them to do the measuring?  

    Professional assessors will do this. They are qualified to do so and they already do for the Financial Planner Standard.  If Paraplanners are interested, and once they have achieved the standard themselves, it would be encouraged if they wanted to train as an assessor and do assessments for others…

    but how are they qualified, what assessment qualifications do they hold, awarded by whom, how do you train as an assessor, how many assessors are there currently? Who assesses the assessors? 

    The drafted standard 

     Our hope is to make all these documents into a book format, so it could be a sort of “Paraplanner handbook” or for firms who want to develop Paraplanners but aren’t sure where to start. I hope that this should be available to buy without having to sign up to be assessed to the Standard (marketing details still being sorted!)

    This implies that you will need to pay for some sort of book or pamphlet to find out what the Standard is, before you sign up and pay to be assessed for the Standard.  Unless of course you sign up without knowing what it is.  Will there be anyway of finding out what its all about before you have to commit to buying any sort of product or publication? 

    What the Standard will assess 

    communication, diligence, compliance, integrity, ethics, resourcefulness, professionalism, analysis of client needs, using platforms/technology, systems and processes, understanding of the overall financial planning process

    I would like to know how the panel proposes the above areas are assessed. Systems and processes will differ between every single firm that each paraplanner being assessed is working for, so how will the assessors have a clear understanding if they are being followed or not and then attach a grade or measurement to that.  

    Additionally, areas such as communication, ethics, resourcefulness, integrity are not things that can be graded or scaled. There is no integrityometre that I am aware of (apologies for the flippancy there but I'm sure you understand where I am coming from). What is the assessor using as a comparator to show the paraplanner demonstrates the required resourcefulness, ethics etc. 

    How will the standard be measured? 

    On top of this we add a face to face assessment whereby the Paraplanner will take the assessor through what they do on a day to day basis and how they interact with their colleagues/clients. It’s a mix of qualifications, technical experience and displaying general character traits like attention to detail, professional demeanor, trouble-shooting etc.

    Again, I would like to know how the assessors will measure attention to detail, professional demeanour and trouble shooting and what will be used as the standard to which they need to measure up against. 

    No standard definition of what a paraplanner is

    Not to say that every single Paraplanner must do exactly the same duties, but rather that those who do ‘true’ Paraplanning jobs are recognized over and above those who don’t do any of those things. For example, the Standard is designed to cater for both in house and outsourced Paraplanners.

    What is a 'true paraplanning job' and what are the things that they are doing that 'those who don't do aren't doing?' Who decides what is a true paraplanning job and what isn't and again on what basis has this been derived? 

    Standard Committee 

    I understand your point about the fact that the Standards Intl team aren’t Paraplanners. However I think that is why they were so diligent about building a committee. Also, they do have a unique perspective in that they have worked with dozens and dozens of firms up and down the country, so they have a good overview of what Paraplanning looks like and how it works well / not-so-well UK-wide. They also have a lot of international contacts, and there has been a clear appetite expressed for the Paraplanner Standard in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia so far too. I don’t know who else could have that kind of reach except perhaps the CII/CISI but they didn’t take it up.

    By working with dozens of firms up and down the country, I would expect Standards Int to have first hand experience that the role, duties and responsibilities of a paraplanner are as varied as the companies that they work for, both in house and outsourced, and consequently that there is no such thing as a standard paraplanner.  Yes, there are common tasks and qualities, but what is needed from a paraplanner will depend largely on the business type, culture and client base. 

    If paraplanners are doing things differently up and down UK alone, how can this be standardised globally? I appreciate they may have international contacts but are they experts in all areas of foreign financial advice/planning legislation, regulation, practices, methods, technology, and exam structures? 

    Originally, this was being marketed as a UK standard and then various Twitter and trade press polls showed that actually the paraplanner and broader financial planning community were actually fairly indifferent to it with usually a reasonably equal split between those who did and those who didn't want it. 

    Then, the next webinar that was held the standard wasn't going to be just a UK thing, it was going to be an international thing, I remember hearing 'Even if only 5 people wanted this in the UK, we would still do it' or words to that effect on the webinar. 

    My worry is therefore how can the panel ensure that this does not end up being 'a one size its all' thing being reduced to the lowest common denominator in order to market it to as many people as possible, which given the moving goalposts on this is not an unfounded concern. 




    richallum

    Reece

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  • Hopes of the committee 

    - that 100% of Paraplanners undergo training and development to support their achievement of the Standard

    - that the Paraplanner role is recognised and consistently referenced worldwide

    - that the standard will raise awareness of the Paraplanner role in its own right, and is no longer regarded as a stepping stone towards an advisory role

    - that firms have access to a wide pool of suitable and appropriately skilled team members allowing them to develop their businesses and service their clients

    - to create  a clear path of progression through defined professional roles, whilst encouraging new entrants into the sector


    Re the above, until there is clarity over the specifics of the Standard, particularly around the competency, qualification and ability of the assessors to assess, how intangible qualities will be measured and what the cost is likely to be, the credibility of the standard, for me personally, is highly questionable.  That, coupled with the fact that in polls only ever around 50% at best of people who took part,showed an interest in there being a standard, I think that 100% take up is fairly ambitious.  

    I also don't think that having a rather vague standard will in anyway help to raise the profile of the profession or have 'referenced worldwide' although I'm not entirely sure in what context this 'worldwide referencing' would be.  Paraplanning is broad ranging and so could appeal to many different types and skill sets and this is perhaps something to celebrate. As we all discussed at the Powwow, it is also now already recognised as a career of choice for many people and I don't personally think that this standard will particularly change or improve that.


    I personally don't have an issue with there being a standard per se; in theory its a good idea as it would give a clear defined career path, give people milestones to aim for, eg, level 4, level 6, competency in cashflow and tax planning etc. but the reality of it is that it is just not, (I don't think and happy to be proved wrong) workable in reality for all of the reasons and unanswered questions I have gone through. 

    I appreciate that a lot of work has probably gone into this to get it to the point of launch, Michelle originally announced that she would be doing this in September / October last year and it has taken a year to get to this point.  However, what I am not sure she is aware of is that a range of people have been trying to look into creating some sort of standard, or definition, or code of practice for paraplanners for a very long time before she took it upon herself to create it.  

    I personally know that this discussion has been around for at least the last six years if not longer and many people have been looking into how to create this.  They have not been able to, not for the lack of trying, but because there are so many questions, variables and unanswerable elements to it that it has never reached the point of being an actual workable, fit for purpose defined standard that would benefit anyone.  

    I don't doubt however, that there will be some people signing up for it but unless clarity on its structure, its assessors, how intangible qualities are going to be quantified and graded, the cost, the benefits it will provide and the value it will give to those going for it, are made available for people to make an educated choice on whether to apply for it or not, before they commit to giving Standards Int a fee for it, I can't see the take up being huge. 

    Sorry for going on but it is expected of a paraplanner to challenge and question, so there you go! 

    Also, that's the reason why there wasn't enough time to discuss it at the Powwow! 

    richallum

    Reece

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  • Having read this feed, alongside Richard (my boss), and as a member of the committee, I would like members of this feed to give me further clarification on 2 of the problems raised.

    1. The fact that the role varies up and down the country making it difficult to assess.

    This is exactly why a standard needs to be in place. I have worked with/ seen in the industry plenty of different types of paraplanners. There were the advisers that, post RDR, decided they did not want to complete their diploma and so turned to paraplanning as an easy option. Then there's your standard "letter writers" who do not undertake any techinical research or add any value to the advice being given by the adviser/ firm they work for but these people also can call themselves Paraplanners. In reality, there are far too many job roles at the moment that sit under the heading of "paraplanner" and this needs to stop as it waters down the credicility of the term. Also, if we are asking what is it that paraplanners should be doing that they aren't, then that is, at the moment, subjective, however, if you put a standard in place, this is no longer a problem by the very definition of a standard. What the role entails has been discussed by a committee of, mainly paraplanners who have agreed and discussed all areas of what a paraplanner should be doing. This committee was built up of people in different stages of their career and from different businesses and background. I feel that this is a great way of building this standard. If one "paraplanner" or individual thinks that they have a better idea than a full committee then they are likely not going to pass the standard.


    2. Questionning the validitiy of the assessors.

    This is ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. The people who will assess the applicants for the standards will be trained assessors as they are in all other industries. I would ask the people thinking this way if they questioned the instrustor of their driving tests credentials? Also, accoridng to the CII, someone who can pass 3 exams can be a certified paraplanner. Is anyone questionning the validitiy of this? or the CIIs industry credentials? I would argue that to be a certified (or whatever word you want to use) paraplanner, there needs to be some practical assessment. Comments around whether integrity is quantifyable or gradeable or ridculous and integrity is one of the key elements expalined and promoted by the FCA (our regulator) so if it isn't something to be included in an industry standard then we all may as well not bother (google FCA Integrity if you don't believe me).

    In my eyes, the paraplanning role is undervalued in the financial industry at present, as per previous comments. I am in full support of this standard but understand that ti is not a neccessary qualification to have. Noone is being forced to do it and, as a member of the committe, I do not feel that wishing 100% of the paraplanners in the industry would apply. This would get rid of, or atleast rename, the people calling themselves paraplanners for an easy life or due to the inability to pass exams.

    My last comment is that I would like to congratulate Michelle, Standards International and the whole committee that have worked to get this standard together as it is clearly something (as per previous comments) that has been discussed for some time but no one has been able to produce.

    I will be applying and am very proud to and will also be proud to hold the standard but if people, for some reason, don't wish to have their role defined properly industry wide then fine, but eventually, I think the industry will have to move this way in the future.

    Anna

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  • Morning!

    The standard would be accredited by Standards International which is a recognised specialist standards agency with their own assessors. They already do the British and international financial planner standards, so not ‘new’ in that sense.

    There will a summary document put out there in the public domain once its finished, but yes the full document would be something paid for, which isn’t unique. Those criteria that remain ‘woolly’ will be clarified within this. Fees too, which are still being finalised.

    Clearly it is hard to give you the full detailed criteria without sending the whole Standard, which I am not able to do. We accept that there are obviously variations between people who are Paraplanners, in terms of role and personality. But at the same time believe there is a way to measure these to a common set of criteria. If it can be done for other financial services roles then why not.

    The idea that Paraplanning means different things to different companies is true, we feel that’s more of a reason to have a standardised definition. It can have a degree of ‘give’ in some aspects, as we believe ours does, as it needs to be realistic & adaptable. We have worked hard to ensure the standard accommodates as many of the disciplines and functions that a paraplanner undertakes or is responsible for at all levels of experience and has a lot of inbuilt flexibility; but there are certain things all Paraplanners do and need to have an understanding of.  As you say yourself there are commonalities.

    Wouldn’t agree that going from a UK standard to a global one is a moving goalpost in a negative sense. The fact it has been well received even wider than we anticipated is a great thing. A starting point of 50% take-up would be a great result. 100% is ambitious, but we are, which is why we have put so much work into it J  Its to be expected that there will be a period of ‘bedding in’ because it’s brand new! That doesn’t mean it won’t work.

    Perhaps the fact that ‘other options for Paraplanners besides advising’ is still a topic suggests the opposite, that Paraplanning in its own right isn’t yet a fully recognised career choice. I remember someone at the powwow did say they would like that to no longer even be a question by this time next year. Let’s hope so.

    Attached is an example of some of the literature for existing adviser standards to give an example of what will be created.

  • Reece said:

    Having read this feed, alongside Richard (my boss), and as a member of the committee, I would like members of this feed to give me further clarification on 2 of the problems raised.

    1. The fact that the role varies up and down the country making it difficult to assess.

    This is exactly why a standard needs to be in place. I have worked with/ seen in the industry plenty of different types of paraplanners. There were the advisers that, post RDR, decided they did not want to complete their diploma and so turned to paraplanning as an easy option. Then there's your standard "letter writers" who do not undertake any techinical research or add any value to the advice being given by the adviser/ firm they work for but these people also can call themselves Paraplanners. In reality, there are far too many job roles at the moment that sit under the heading of "paraplanner" and this needs to stop as it waters down the credicility of the term. Also, if we are asking what is it that paraplanners should be doing that they aren't, then that is, at the moment, subjective, however, if you put a standard in place, this is no longer a problem by the very definition of a standard. What the role entails has been discussed by a committee of, mainly paraplanners who have agreed and discussed all areas of what a paraplanner should be doing. This committee was built up of people in different stages of their career and from different businesses and background. I feel that this is a great way of building this standard. If one "paraplanner" or individual thinks that they have a better idea than a full committee then they are likely not going to pass the standard.


    2. Questionning the validitiy of the assessors.

    This is ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. The people who will assess the applicants for the standards will be trained assessors as they are in all other industries. I would ask the people thinking this way if they questioned the instrustor of their driving tests credentials? Also, accoridng to the CII, someone who can pass 3 exams can be a certified paraplanner. Is anyone questionning the validitiy of this? or the CIIs industry credentials? I would argue that to be a certified (or whatever word you want to use) paraplanner, there needs to be some practical assessment. Comments around whether integrity is quantifyable or gradeable or ridculous and integrity is one of the key elements expalined and promoted by the FCA (our regulator) so if it isn't something to be included in an industry standard then we all may as well not bother (google FCA Integrity if you don't believe me).

    In my eyes, the paraplanning role is undervalued in the financial industry at present, as per previous comments. I am in full support of this standard but understand that ti is not a neccessary qualification to have. Noone is being forced to do it and, as a member of the committe, I do not feel that wishing 100% of the paraplanners in the industry would apply. This would get rid of, or atleast rename, the people calling themselves paraplanners for an easy life or due to the inability to pass exams.

    My last comment is that I would like to congratulate Michelle, Standards International and the whole committee that have worked to get this standard together as it is clearly something (as per previous comments) that has been discussed for some time but no one has been able to produce.

    I will be applying and am very proud to and will also be proud to hold the standard but if people, for some reason, don't wish to have their role defined properly industry wide then fine, but eventually, I think the industry will have to move this way in the future.

    Hi @Reece ;. I don't want to play devil's advocate or argue with you because I think you raise some valid points. However, it appears that you are essentially saying that this standard is being created to stop others from being able to call themselves paraplanners because a committee has come together and decided what they think, in their opinion, a paraplanner's role should be. I strongly disagree with this and I think (or at least I assume) that many others disagree with this too. A paraplanner's role should be able to be moulded to match the company that they work for's requirements, insofar as they are not just carrying out an administrative role and therefore would be best off calling themselves such. This has formed the basis for why other's have struggled to create a standard in the past, as referred to in earlier comments.

    I sit on an investment committee and carry out due diligence for all providers and decide which ones ultimately are used, but at other firms this would not fall under a paraplanner's remit. That is the nature of the beast, it is not 'watering down' the term it is just how it is. 

    I think @Caro s' points raised above are all very relevant and most others I have spoken to view this from a similar position. 

    At the end of the day, I wait with great anticipation to see where this standard will lead and remain undecided of whether or not to apply. But, if I decide i'm not going to apply for the standard I am still very much going to call myself a paraplanner and at the moment there is no regulatory position to say otherwise.
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  • Hi Reece 

    There aren't particularly any members on this feed, the above points were really just my thoughts and questions so I'm happy to give you further clarification and respond to your points: 

    1. The fact that the role varies up and down the country making it difficult to assess.

    This is exactly why a standard needs to be in place. I have worked with/ seen in the industry plenty of different types of paraplanners. There were the advisers that, post RDR, decided they did not want to complete their diploma and so turned to paraplanning as an easy option. Then there's your standard "letter writers" who do not undertake any techinical research or add any value to the advice being given by the adviser/ firm they work for but these people also can call themselves Paraplanners. In reality, there are far too many job roles at the moment that sit under the heading of "paraplanner" and this needs to stop as it waters down the credicility of the term. 

    So far I agree, but until the term paraplanner is regulated or subject to other restrictions, this is not going to change. A non enforceable standard will not alter that.  

    Also, if we are asking what is it that paraplanners should be doing that they aren't, then that is, at the moment, subjective, however, if you put a standard in place, this is no longer a problem by the very definition of a standard.

    This is where I start to see problems arising.  In the company I work for alone, we have different types of paraplanners, some attend meetings, some do not.  We have some that are diploma qualified, some not. Some chartered and fellow, some not; however, all of them are paraplanners. 

    What the role entails has been discussed by a committee of, mainly paraplanners who have agreed and discussed all areas of what a paraplanner should be doing. This committee was built up of people in different stages of their career and from different businesses and background. I feel that this is a great way of building this standard. If one "paraplanner" or individual thinks that they have a better idea than a full committee then they are likely not going to pass the standard.

    Having a range of people putting together a standard is a good idea and I am not querying the paraplanner members’ paraplanning credentials in any way.

    Granted the committee have discussed and agreed ideally what a paraplanner should and should not be doing, but because an individual does or does not do a particular task, doesn't mean they are not a paraplanner.  It just makes them not a paraplanner by the committee's standard. 

  • Your second question:

    2. Questionning the validitiy of the assessors.

    This is ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. The people who will assess the applicants for the standards will be trained assessors as they are in all other industries. I would ask the people thinking this way if they questioned the instrustor of their driving tests credentials?

    I do not think that it is ridiculous to question the validity of the assessors.

    Using your example, a driving instructor has to be an approved driving instructor.  There are three levels to this including exams and assessment.  There are quantifiable measures that the instructor must attain in order to qualify and then there is regular ongoing four yearly assessments to check that they still meet the required measures.

    My question was but how are they qualified, what assessment qualifications do they hold, awarded by whom, how do you train as an assessor, how many assessors are there currently? Who assesses the assessors?  

    I know that my driving instructor has gone through a rigorous procedure to qualify them for that role.  By the same token, I want and have the right to know that someone assessing me for a ‘standard’, for which I will be paying potentially hundreds of pounds, has also gone through a rigorous process to give then the skills, knowledge and ability to do so.

     Also, accoridng to the CII, someone who can pass 3 exams can be a certified paraplanner. Is anyone questionning the validitiy of this? or the CIIs industry credentials? I would argue that to be a certified (or whatever word you want to use) paraplanner, there needs to be some practical assessment.

    Passing an exam shows that you have attained a measurable and quantifiable level of knowledge, that can be tested against a benchmark.  Practical assessment of assessable tasks is one thing:

    -       Can the paraplanner complete a cashflow correctly

    -       Can the paraplanner draft a technically accurate, compliant, engaging report

    -       Can the paraplanner complete a carry forward calculation

    These are all measurable tasks with a definable outcome.

    Comments around whether integrity is quantifyable or gradeable or ridculous and integrity is one of the key elements expalined and promoted by the FCA (our regulator) so if it isn't something to be included in an industry standard then we all may as well not bother (google FCA Integrity if you don't believe me).

    Again, I don’t think it is ridiculous to question how intangible qualities will be quantified and graded. 

    Integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism and communication are all very subjective areas and so I ask how will they be objectively measured?  A businesslike and professional demeanour to one person maybe another person’s standoffish poor communicator.

    Does wearing a suit gain a higher professionalism grading than someone who wears jeans and a jumper to work?

    Does a shy, quiet paraplanner get downgraded on their communication rating over an outgoing and confident one?

    I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t be included, they absolutely should.  What I am asking is how will they be graded and measured?

    In my eyes, the paraplanning role is undervalued in the financial industry at present, as per previous comments. I am in full support of this standard but understand that ti is not a neccessary qualification to have. Noone is being forced to do it and, as a member of the committe, I do not feel that wishing 100% of the paraplanners in the industry would apply. This would get rid of, or atleast rename, the people calling themselves paraplanners for an easy life or due to the inability to pass exams.

    I am entirely in agreement that the paraplanner role is undervalued and as I have said in my earlier post, I do not have an issue with a Paraplanner Standard, it just needs to be fit for purpose and be able to stand up to intense scrutiny or it may do more harm than good.

    My last comment is that I would like to congratulate Michelle, Standards International and the whole committee that have worked to get this standard together as it is clearly something (as per previous comments) that has been discussed for some time but no one has been able to produce.

    I am also not disputing the very hard work and commitment that committee have undoubtedly put into it.  This is has never been in question, but again, that does not mean that their work should simply be taken at face value and not be queried to make sure that it works for all paraplanners at all levels of their career.

    I will be applying and am very proud to and will also be proud to hold the standard but if people, for some reason, don't wish to have their role defined properly industry wide then fine, but eventually, I think the industry will have to move this way in the future.

    I wish you success with your application for the standard, and I also wait to see the full details of this once launched and where it will lead, but like Jamie_Barnes I will continue to call myself a paraplanner irrespective of whether I apply for the standard or not. 



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  • Hi jenny.ryan  thanks for the additional info. If there is going to be a summary document then I will wait to read that which may give more info. 

    I can see the hardwork and the passion that the committee have for the standard which I really think is terrific. However, I do not think that it is unreasonable to want to fully understand exactly what the standard is before committing what could be hundreds and hundreds of pounds to it.  

    Many paraplanners do not have the good fortune to have their qualifications and development paid for by their employers and are self funded.  This makes it even more important that what they do spend their money on for their career gives them the knowledge and development they need, is credible, serves a real and useful purpose and is good value for money. 

    Maybe the Standard will do all of this, maybe it won't; the summary document will perhaps give sufficient info for people to make an informed decision. However you should expect people to quite rightly ask questions and challenge because unless there is absolute transparency with it, I can't see people buying into it in large numbers. 

    But again, happy to be proved wrong, and good luck with the launch :) 
  • richallumrichallum Administrator
    edited September 2017
    Hi @Reece thanks for joining the site today and joining the thread.  This site was set up for people to share their views, ask questions and provide answers.  No questions are 'ridiculous' so please refrain from using that tone if you wish to post again.

    It's clear that the people who have invested their time in this are clearly for it and it's also clear that paraplanners who are interested in their profession will ask questions.  I may be reading this wrong but it seems strange to me that you can only find out full details of the standard if you pay for it.  I'm not sure how a paraplanner would decide if it's worthwhile on that basis or if an employer or colleague would value it without knowing fully what it means.  Happy to be enlightened on that.


    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. Republican.

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  • You won't have to pay for the Standard in order to find out full details about it neither will it cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds.  On the other hand it is not going to be free.  It has been designed to recognise that Paraplanners do very much work according to the needs of their businesses and as such there will be a very wide range of skills that can be recognised.

    Will it be perfect from the get go? Maybe, maybe not, but Committee Members have been asked to commit themselves to being in the first cohort and of course as a member, I shall be doing that.  I believe its robust enough. Will I give my feedback though, good or bad? You betcha!

    This is something in addition to the usual academic requirements, lets not forget why this idea came about in the first place - to recognise those skills and experience not tested by traditional exams. To try and provide a clear definition of essential Paraplanning roles and responsibilities. To be inclusive and not put barriers in the way of people looking to develop into Paraplanners or develop their existing skills further.  To recognise and give recognition to the differences between a Paraplanner, Adviser and Administrator.

    Some people will not like this approach, some will.  Ultimately the Standard will either succeed or fail due to how relevant and useful it is and only time will tell on that.  

    There are other developments in the pipeline that Standards International have been working extremely hard on, which will be of enormous benefit to the Para Standard that will be announced soon and I also really do appreciate the effort that has gone into this by all members of the Committee and the guys at Standards International, because I was a right old cynic at the start about all this.  

    I'm going to give it a shot, if it sucks I'll let you all know...but you know what...I don't think it will  :)




     
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  • I don’t think anyone would disagree that they would expect to grasp what it is they are signing up for before they sign up and part with cash, as a general principle in life :-P

    At the other end of the scale I don’t think we could expect disclosure to the point of the full marking scheme etc. to be made public to the point where it renders the whole exercise pointless, sort of like the CII making their answers public before an exam?!

    Absolutely nobody would argue that they want value for money! :) And I genuinely do think that it could help those starting out to build up a self-development plan which is a really important group of people!

    Naturally we are open to challenge, hence venturing onto Big Tent, twitter etc and getting it out there. We don’t want to exist in a bubble and all constructive questions and suggestions are welcome in my book

    Have a fab weekend everyone  & watch this space :)

  • Hi everyone,

    This thread is really interesting and such a good demonstration of how passionate and proud we are of the job we do - It's brilliant and It can only be a positive thing for our clients!

    I've set out my views below, from a purely personal perspective, as food for thought. I'm not worried if people don't agree, but I think the more opinions to consider, the better!

    I consider myself to be a professional paraplanner. Having worked in 5 different financial advice firms, inhouse and outsourced, the types of work I have been involved in has varied considerably.

    In larger firms, I have found that paraplanners with different strengths, personalities, communication styles work really well together to help achieve the best outcomes for a client but wouldn't necessarily achieve the same results if assessed on the same basis as each other, even though together they form the perfect paraplanning team.

    I do understand the point about "report writers" and have used this term myself before. However, as I have progressed in my career and gained more experience, my views on this have changed. I would note that there are varying degrees of this. I have worked with firms where research was centralised or completed by a particular member of a team and the report written by someone else. To me this doesn't necessarily make the person writing the report any less of a paraplanner. When this has been me, I have still considered all of the clients circumstances, sense-checked the advice and challenged where appropriate. I hadn't gone from being a paraplanner to not being a paraplanner when I was working in that way. In a similar vein, I have completed projects which were solely research and analysis and not report writing and this didn't make me any less of a paraplanner either. The point for me has always been that I wanted to do whatever task was appropriate given the team dynamic, skillset and the needs of a particular client.

    In my current role, I get involved in tasks that an administrator would traditionally do along with tasks that a paraplanner traditionally does. This hasn't diluted my role, instead it has enhanced it. Not only am I helping to meet the needs of our business but it has increased my experience, enhanced my research skills and actually improved my report writing. Next year, due to the needs of our business, my key tasks are likely to change again. I'm looking forward to this as I'm sure it will make me a better paraplanner.

    What I'm trying to say, in a bit of a backwards manner is that I'm not sure I would want to subscribe to a standard that tells me I'm not a paraplanner if I do work that is not included in the list of "things a paraplanner does" or the other way around. I also don't want to be deemed less of a paraplanner if I am unwilling to spend money to be tested on skills I have long held and built during my time in the industry.

    Additionally, I am level 6 but not necessarily looking to get a qualification in mentoring/leadership/presenting as these are not areas that will benefit me in my role - How does this work then if I want to be considered a paraplanner according to the Paraplanner Standard? Do I take a qualification that I don't really need or do I just not get the advanced certified status?

    Can we get an list of the skills that will be tested as "essential" and "desirable"? - I would hope to see a syllabus of what will be tested before signing up to make sure it is appropriate for me.

    Have a great week everyone :) 

    K

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  • richallumrichallum Administrator
    Here's a good blog from 2016 on this subject.  

    I've applied for the new standard (not the one we already have).  Best way to find out more is to go through it (unless it's the £750 quoted on the last launch webinar).  I'll report back on my experience.

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. Republican.

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  • I too await for 'the standard' to be published; until then everything we discuss here is conjecture but interesting none the less.

    A 'standard' is not a job description. It should, I guess, be seen as an indication of some (not necessarily all) of the tasks you would expect anyone calling themselves a 'paraplanner' to do to a greater or lesser degree.

    Having been involved in employing paraplanners in the past I am all too well aware of the differences of 'definition' and 'expectation of the role of a paraplanner. It certainly is a role which requires a high degree of adaptability not only to the needs of the business but also to the changing needs of the business.

    I guess my real concern is grasping what it is that a 'standard' will bring that cannot be achieved elsewhere. This in turn surely depends on what an employer needs from a paraplanner.

    The outcome will inevitably be, individuals for whom attaining the paraplanner standard is a sensible route; for others, it will not.

    You will also have individuals who attain the standard who are very good and those who are less good.
    I know plenty of Chartered and Certified advisers who are poor at what they do and vice versa.

    If, however, such a standard does gain real credibility then this will be shown in the employment market, with employer demanding new recruits either have or are willing to attain, the standard.

    My view, for what it's worth, is that to be a paraplanner an individual  must be able to understand the financial planning process from start to finish; must have technical knowledge to understand (and challenge) the advice either they are setting out or being asked to set out; have good communication skills (written and verbal); be able to understand the impact of giving advice on one course of action may have on another area and also have the ability and willingness to learn, constantly.

    If all a 'paraplanning' job entails is filling in blanks on a fairly prescribed advice template report then this is, in my view, an administration role not one of paraplanning.

    Whatever the standard says, if you are not involved to some degree in the actual planning decisions being made to support the advice to the client then I do not see this as a paraplanner.
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