If tech and digital advice are going to rule the 'new' world of advice, who will run it? It is a question I ask of paraplanners regularly. Let's put it another way. If you are working in an Advice Practice, who is the tech champion? Who leads the software integration and migration when there is a change? nine times out of 10 it will be the paraplanner.
So if the paraplanner is the tech champion, the software implementor, the process automation consultant and template manager, it's pretty hard to see how we are going to transition to the world of digital advice and automation without them. In fact, they should be leading the charge.
Take a step back to the infancy of the paraplanning role. Paraplanners were wannabe advisers who were getting a foot in the door or didn't have the client engagement skills to cut it as an Adviser.
Paraplanners would be trained by the person who was leaving to become an adviser and they were probably sent off to a software training course to teach them how to get an SoA out of the software package in use.
Fast forward 10, 20 years and although paraplanning is now a profession in its own right, and they are often as qualified as advisers, many paraplanners have still learnt the practical aspect of their role from software trainers and 'how to' videos.
For many, it's hard to imagine a time when they had to change software to produce SoAs. They have used the same software for their whole career. From where I see it, this is all set to change and we are not quite ready for it. Why? Because the skillset of many paraplanners is intrinsically linked to the software they use. This means they only know how to be a paraplanner if they are using XPlan/Midwinter/AdviserLogic. In my paraplanning business with an operating model of contract paraplanners, I was often told, 'I only do SoA's in X software'. Really?
I have spent years now working with paraplanners to separate their knowledge and skillset from the software to be transportable. This reduces the friction in changing software and it critical to the success of new software vendors but also to the development and progression of our advice industry in the future.
We need more paraplanners that can think about how to use the software to support advice rather than moulding their advice process to suit the software. Yes, this is what has been happening for years. When you have dominant software vendors they tend to dictate how you operate. But not anymore.
In recent years, we have seen the launch of new providers, specialising in parts of the advice process that have previously been neglected or we'd just resigned ourselves to it being 'too hard' to change. NOD is one of those new entrants that has looked at the document generation part of advice and said, 'We can do this better, we can do it faster and it will cost less'.
They are not alone. And the trajectory is exponential if you look to other markets such as the US and UK that we tend to lag in tech adoption and development.
The challenge then becomes adaptation and development of this new technology. If we want to see them in advice practices and support their development, we need paraplanners on board. We need paraplanners who can critically evaluate how these solutions will work in the Australian advice industry. We need paraplanners to take a leadership role in the progress of, and content in, these new tech opportunities.
If you are a new or growing software vendor in the Australian advice industry and you are not actively engaging or educating the paraplanning community, you will not have the success you desire. And we will all miss out on the opportunity to progress advice on our shores.
Note: This article was originally written for Nod.