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A look at paraplanning through the pandemic

BY TIM SUTCLIFFE | FRIDAY, 24 SEP 2021   4:00PM

While based on UK research, the Paraplanning through the pandemic report provides valuable insight into the paraplanning market over the last two years and how the market has responded to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report identifies that more practices are increasingly using the paraplanning resource as the engine of the advice business creating more time for advisers to focus on building and developing client relationships and bringing in new business.

The report also shows that paraplanners are taking on more responsibilities with a growing number joining investment committees and becoming part of the management teams.

While paraplanners have increasingly moved to outsourcing relationships, the needs of firms that are more relationship driven with the paraplanner playing a key role in the advice process cannot be met with outsourcing. There will always be a demand for in-house paraplanners in firms with this structure. Paraplanning continues to be an ever more important area within progressive financial planning firms, although it can suffer from 'old school' attitudes and approaches.

The slow stream of new talent coming into the paraplanning market leads to nearly 70% of paraplanners stating that more needs to be done to attract graduates and others into the market.

While 64% of paraplanners always worked from the office pre pandemic, just 7% expect that they will do so from now on. A hybrid approach will work post pandemic, with 60% anticipating they will work equally from home and office or mainly from home and another 19% expect to work mainly from the office but also from home. Paraplanners have shown that they can work efficiently and profitably outside of an office environment.

Additional takeaway from the research includes:

  • Paraplanning continues to have a higher ratio of female practitioners.
  • The number of paraplanners working directly for and adviser has increased marginally from 53% in 2019 to 59% in 2021.
  • The number within a pooled team working across the firm's advisers has fallen from 45% to 39%.
  • Eighty-eight percent of paraplanners say their workload has increased over the past two years, with 77% saying their workload has risen during the pandemic.
  • Artificial intelligence-enabled automation is considered the biggest threat to paraplanning in the future.
  • A quarter of paraplanners (25%) state their career aspirations is to move into a financial advice role either full time or part time.

While the value and importance of paraplanning is recognised and rewarded in the industry, there are firms where paraplanners feel the role is undervalued in terms of what it delivers for the business.

"Advisers need to change their outlook, especially as some paraplanners are more technically competent than the advisers themselves. There are too many old mindsets that won't give paraplanners the recognition or financial reward they deserve," the report reads.

"I think the standing paraplanners have within advisory businesses is improving, but I think the progress is slow. I believe a number of firms (particularly larger companies) still undervalue paraplanners and do not give them enough influence," one paraplanner who took part in the research said.

Paraplanning may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is clear from the research that it remains crucial and an ever more influential section of the financial services market, with paraplanners dedicated to achieving the highest qualifications and skills and helping to deliver the best in advice to the clients of financial planning and advice firms.

Within progressive firms paraplanners are thriving, actively taking on more responsibility, and helping to drive forward the firms for which they work.