Applied Financial Planning
The planning backbone
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Having steadily evolved over time, the traditional role of the paraplanner is no more.

With advice practices demanding more from support staff, the benefits of outsourcing becoming increasingly apparent and a constant drip-feed of financial planning software enhancements, to suggest that paraplanning is at an inflection point would be an understatement.

Revered as the backbone of an advice practice's back office, paraplanning was typically seen as a stepping stone for people wanting to gain a foothold in the advice industry before transitioning to other roles.

Now, it is seen as a career path in its own right with the titles of 'paraplanner' and 'associate adviser' now interchangeable.

Having discussed this among paraplanners she works with, IOOF head of group paraplanning Melinda Bates says motivating factors for this are generally consistent.

"They have a genuine passion for the value of financial advice, but don't necessarily want to be involved in client-facing roles. Being a professional paraplanner provides the opportunity to apply the same level of knowledge as an adviser to a client's situation without necessarily having to deal with clients directly," she says.

However, paraplanners working in-house do, with their responsibilities having also evolved. From producing Statements of Advice and performing administrative tasks within a practice, paraplanners now regularly sit in on client meetings and update model portfolios.

"The role of the paraplanner has become increasingly integral to the success of financial advisers and their businesses. They are effectively implementing the advice, administration and collateral development, leaving the advisers to focus on developing client relationships and attaining new leads," Bell Direct chief executive Arnie Selvarajah says.

Despite this, the Investment Trends 2017 Planner Business Model Report shows that only 59% of advice practices employ paraplanners in-house; 30% have just one on staff, while the balance employ two or more.

Offering a possible explanation - and making the evolution even more interesting - is the fact that it is happening in tandem with technological innovation, with the potential for complete automation of paraplanning functionality fast becoming a reality.

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