But turning to a debate closer to home, about unifying Financial Planning and Paraplanning, as proposed by Martin Bamford recently, I’ve enjoyed reading people’s views lately.
Firstly, I am pleased that we view ourselves as a profession. If we don’t have this opinion of ourselves and our behaviour we cannot expect clients to see us this way. Secondly it has been encouraging to see ‘the profession’ described as having the client at the centre.
So should (or are) Financial Planning and Paraplanning separate professions?
I don’t think that I have ever viewed the two as independent. Great client outcomes come from a partnership between the two.
So what are the similarities?
Other than we are focused on the client. Both have to have excellent command of technical knowledge. Financial Planners and Paraplanners have to communicate these concepts in a way that clients understand what they need to know and do. If either part fails then the person that suffers is the client.
For me it is the second part that differentiates Financial Planners and Paraplanners - yes, there is crossover, but bear with me!
Paraplanners primarily deal with written communications – reports, letters, briefing documents, reviews and so on. They need to be as sharp as a marketing document, succinct as a tabloid, and clearly explain what they need to know and do.
Financial Planners have a far more relational role. As well as communicating in writing, Financial Planners engage in face to face, over the phone – or even by podcast.
It would be quite reasonable to maintain a separation between the two. They use different skills and tend to have different relationships with clients. The differences mean that our training needs and priorities are not always the same. Having activities tailored to our differences is important.
The idea of bringing the two together is equally attractive. We work together and have a lot to teach each other. I have found that understanding the way our Financial Planners work has meant that I can adjust my style to better communicate.
These soft skills are vital for bridging the gap between the technical and real people. It works the other way too. This week we shared writing tips and training with our planners. Taking time out to share these ideas and insights helps them to communicate more effectively when they write letters or emails.
Both the PFS and CISI/IFP have streams for Paraplanners. In my own small way I have tried to encourage a better balance between technical and soft skills training for Paraplanners.
I’ve also felt very welcome at NextGenPlanners which is doing excellent work too.
We have different needs, but if we viewed ourselves (planners and Paraplanners) as different parts of the same Financial Planning profession that would be healthy. It would remind us that we are working together for the client – emphasis on together and client – but respect our different needs.
I would say that at the moment we are both separate and unified professions.
My hope for 2017 is that within our subsets we grow in unity and determination to be the best for our clients.
I also hope that we can take better advantage of the opportunities that arise to ‘cross-pollinate’ as Martin suggested.
Professional bodies could encourage this, but only we can actually do this!