Paraplanner

The Job and What's Involved

Paraplanners support financial advisers and financial planners. They research financial products and give advisers and planners administrative support. They work in all areas of finance, including pensions, mortgages, general insurance, tax and investment management.

When a financial adviser has established what services a client wants, the paraplanner may be asked to:

  • Use various software packages to search financial databases.
  • Find information about products that match the client's needs.
  • Write a report on recommendations.
  • Prepare a selection of product quotes.

Paraplanners frequently specialise in one financial product area. Although they cannot give direct advice to clients, paraplanners can help in the preparation of product recommendations. This may involve attending meetings with financial consultants to gather information. They may also deal with accountants or tax, mortgage and pension specialists when putting together more complex financial plans.

Other typical tasks include:

  • Dealing with customer queries.
  • Keeping accurate client records.
  • Sorting post and referring any potential sales leads to financial advisers.
  • Acknowledging the receipt of application forms and other documents.
  • Processing new business documentation.
  • Drafting letters.
  • Making sure that all work meets the compliance standards set by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Paraplanners in large firms usually work in a team and report to a senior paraplanner. In smaller financial practices, there may be only one paraplanner who supports a team of financial advisers and consultants.

Paraplanners usually work normal office hours, Monday to Friday. They may occasionally have to work beyond these hours during busy times or to meet deadlines. Part-time work and job share are possible. Temporary work is also widely available.

Most paraplanners are office based. They spend much of their time working at a desk, using a computer and dealing with telephone enquiries.

Paraplanners have increasingly become involved in client meetings. This may involve some local travelling.

New paraplanners may earn between £15,000 and £23,000 a year. Experienced paraplanners may earn between £23,000 and £35,000 a year.

Senior paraplanners may earn up to £55,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 35,000 paraplanners employed in financial support services in the UK. Their number has grown in recent years and that growth is likely to continue. They work mainly in cities and large towns. Major employers include:

- Financial planners
- Banks and building societies
- Firms of independent financial advisers (IFAs)
- Life assurance and pensions companies
- Accountants

An increasing number of paraplanners work for IFA support organisations. They provide an administration service and marketing support to smaller companies or self-employed IFAs. Other employers include estate agencies, law firms and retailers who offer financial services.

Turnover of paraplanners tends to be quite high. Vacancies may be advertised in local and national newspapers and in specialist publications such as Money Marketing. They may also be advertised through finance recruitment agencies and on company websites.

Education and Training

There are no set minimum entry requirements for paraplanners. People enter with a range of qualifications, from GCSE's (A*-C) including English and maths to a foundation degree or honours degree. Any degree subject may be accepted but business, economics, finance and mathematics are the most relevant. The Diploma in business, administration and finance may be relevant for this work.

Entry to foundation degree courses usually needs at least one A level or equivalent. Degree course entry usually needs at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications.

Previous experience in financial work is an advantage. Many paraplanners move into this work from an administration or support role in a firm of independent financial advisers.

Some employers may require applicants to have achieved, or be working towards, an appropriate qualification, such as:

  • The Chartered Insurance Institute's (CII) Certificate in Financial Planning (Cert FP)
  • The ifs School of Finance's Certificate for Financial Advisers (CeFA)
  • The Institute of Financial Planning's Certificate in Paraplanning

It is possible to enter this work through an Advanced Apprenticeship in advising on financial products. Employers set their own entry requirements for these Apprenticeships, but often ask for GCSE's (A*-C) including English and maths.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New staff are trained by senior paraplanners, financial planners and experienced administrative staff. This usually includes training in the technical aspects of the job and in the financial products.

The Institute of Financial Planning runs an introductory two-day workshop for paraplanners. Before applying for the workshop, paraplanners need either one year's experience in this work, or a qualification such as the Cert FP or CeFA.

In 2010, the IFP introduced the Certificate in Paraplanning, which is the first qualification specifically for paraplanners. The Certificate includes:

- Underpinning knowledge
- Preparing and maintaining the client file
- Preparing recommendations
- Review

To sit the Certificate exam, applicants need to hold an appropriate qualification for giving financial advice and to have passed a taxation exam.

There is a range of other relevant qualifications for which paraplanners can study, including:

  • CII Certificate in Financial Administration
  • CII Certificate in Financial Planning
  • CII Level 4 Diploma in Financial Planning
  • ifs Certificate in Regulated Customer Care
  • ifs Customer Service Professional
  • ifs Certificate for Financial Advisers

Advanced Apprenticeships lead to a Level 3 Award in providing financial advice and either the Cert FP or CEFA.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important to paraplanners. CPD activities can include attending courses, seminars, conferences and meetings, as well as private study and research.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A paraplanner should:

  • Have good written and verbal communication skills.
  • Be customer focused.
  • Have a good telephone manner.
  • Have good IT skills.
  • Be skilled in research and analysis.
  • Work well under pressure.
  • Be able to prioritise workload to meet deadlines.
  • Be confident, outgoing and show initiative in putting forward ideas.
  • Be trustworthy and hardworking.

Your Long Term Prospects

Paraplanners may progress to a more senior paraplanner post.

Those who have relevant professional qualifications may become financial advisers. The opportunity to become a financial adviser is likely to increase as new qualification requirements for financial advisers are being introduced.

Some experienced paraplanners go into compliance work or become insurance brokers.

Get Further Information

Association of Independent Financial Advisers (AIFA),
2-6 Austin Friars House, Austin Friars,
London EC2N 2HD
Tel: 020 7628 1287
Website: www.aifa.net

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII),
42-48 High Road, South Woodford,
London E18 2JP
Tel: 020 8989 8464
Websites: www.cii.co.uk
and www.discoverrisk.co.uk

Financial Services Skills Council,
51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Website: www.fssc.org.uk

ifs School of Finance, ifs House,
4-9 Burgate Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 818609
Website: www.ifslearning.ac.uk

Institute of Financial Planning (IFP),
Whitefriars Centre, Lewins Mead,
Bristol BS1 2NT
Tel: 0117 945 2470
Website: www.financialplanning.org.uk

The Personal Finance Society,
42-48 High Road, South Woodford,
London E18 2JP
Tel: 020 8530 0852
Website: www.thepfs.org

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