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How to become a paraplanner

Find out what a paraplanner does, how much they can earn, and the career prospects

If you’re good with numbers and like the idea of helping people with their money, paraplanning could be the ideal career route. You’ll earn a decent salary, and you can gain your qualifications while working in a related role. To find out how to become a paraplanner, read on.

What is a paraplanner?

A paraplanner works alongside a financial adviser to create and recommend a financial plan to meet a clients’ needs. They analyse and assess the information gathered from the client and discuss the possible solutions with the adviser before preparing the recommendation. The financial adviser then presents the recommendation to the client.

Paraplanning is still a relatively new role within the financial services industry. This kind of work used to be carried out by financial advisers, but now, it is a role within its own right – and one that is becoming increasingly popular.

Chloe Phillips, Co-Founder of The Paraplanner Club, describes the role as one that never stands still. She says, ‘You never know everything in financial planning – ever – you’re always learning. That’s why paraplanning is such a great role for people who want to stay motivated and engaged at work.’
 

What are the daily duties of a paraplanner?

Generally speaking, the role involves researching the ins and outs of financial products, analysing data and formulating financial plans which are presented to the clients in a suitability report. Within some financial planning businesses, paraplanners are present at client meetings, to take notes or present part of the meeting.  ‘Two days are never the same within paraplanning,’ says Chloe.

However, the day-to-day tasks depend on the nature of the firm you work for and your seniority. Suppose you are a manager, for example. In that case, you’ll also have to supervise colleagues and different capacities, and if you’re part of an Investment Committee, you will be involved in reviewing the firms Centralised Investment Proposition and creating product panels.
 

What skills do you need as a paraplanner?

As a varied role, paraplanning demands a diverse skillset. Here are the key skills you’ll need to succeed as a paraplanner:

  • Communication skills – you’ll have to write suitability reports in a way that clients will understand. Communication and confidence are key when it comes to discussing any inconsistencies on the client file with the financial adviser.
  • People skills – you’ll work closely with financial advisers and other teams, so it is crucial that you get on well with people.
  • Attention to detail – you’ll need to identify clients’ real needs and spot when small details have big impacts on their finances.
  • Initiative – there are lots of moving parts when it comes to paraplanning and being able to think on your feet will help you succeed.
  • Technical – You will need to keep your technical knowledge up to date on all areas of financial planning in the form of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
     

What qualifications do you need to become a paraplanner?

Although there is no minimum qualification to become a paraplanner, like a financial adviser, most employers will expect you to be at least RQF Level 4 qualified.

The most popular RQF Level 4 qualification within paraplanning is The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. However, there are other examining bodies, such as The London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF) and The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) who also provide RQF Level 4 qualifications.

All three examining bodies also have qualifications aimed specifically at paraplanners.

Some employers encourage you to continue your studies beyond the Level 4 qualification to Chartered Financial Planner (RQF Level 6) or Certified Financial Planner (RQF Level 7).
 

What are the entry routes to becoming a paraplanner?

There are a few ways you could become a paraplanner. Some people join a bank, insurance company, pension firm or advisory business in an entry-level position and work their way up. Many paraplanners have gained experience as a financial services administrator before moving into a junior paraplanner role.

You don’t need to go to university to become a paraplanner, though some people get a degree first. But you will need to do your qualifications, which many firms will support you to do while you work in a more junior role.
 

How long will it take, and how much might it cost to become a paraplanner?

To reach RQF level 4, the three main examining bodies recommend around 400 study hours. Most people gain this qualification while working, which tend to take a few months to complete. Most entry level paraplanning positions require a few years of experience in financial services first as an administrator.

Qualifications cost around the £1,000 mark, but it’s common for the firm you work for to pay the fees for you.

But remember the exams only help develop an understanding of the industry, the real learning begins through the doing and hands on experience.
 

How much do paraplanners earn?

Salaries in paraplanning tend to start at around £30,000. With career progression, you can expect to earn well over £50,000 a year, for more senior roles. Lots of firms offer around £40,000 after just a few years experience.
 

What is career progression like for paraplanning?

According to Chloe, the progression routes for paraplanning have changed in recent years. She says, ‘Paraplanning used to be seen as a stepping stone to go into a financial adviser role. However, that is not necessarily the view anymore. It is increasingly seen as a career in its own right.’

For many paraplanners, career development involves gaining more responsibility, such as joining the Investment Committee, managing a team or even running your own outsourced paraplanning business. Meanwhile, there is still the option to develop into an active financial advisory role if exposure to that career path makes it an appealing prospect.
 

Can I become a self-employed paraplanner?

Outsourced paraplanning is in demand, making freelancing a viable career route. You will need lots of experience if you want to freelance because you will work for a varied client base with diverse financial needs. So if becoming a self-employed paraplanner is your goal, you’ll need to bide your time in-house with a firm and soak up lots of knowledge first.
 

About Chloe Phillips

Chloe is an experienced paraplanner and Chartered Financial Planner. She Co-Founded The Paraplanner Club, a mentoring initiative designed specifically for paraplanners. You can find out more about the mentoring scheme here.

About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.

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