For our first Q&A we speak to Paraplanners Powwow founder and organiser Richard Allum, managing director of outsourced Paraplanning firm The Paraplanners and one of the leading voices of the Paraplanning profession for many years.
The Powwow movement organises a series of conferences for Paraplanners with a difference, often called ‘unconferences’ because delegates set the agenda. It’s probably best known for organising the annual Paraplanner Powwow in September each year which takes place in teepees in Northants. Some of the more enthusiastic delegates don warpaint to get into the ‘teepee’ spirit.
While the events are designed to make learning fun there is also a serious side with in-depth technical sessions dominating most events and nationally-known speakers and leading Paraplanners among the contributors.
Richard Allum talking at the 2016 Powwow
Financial Planning Today: What does the future hold for the Powwow?
Richard Allum: Well, the Powwow is here to help Paraplanners to learn, fix and share so whatever the future holds we have to be driven by these three pillars. We continue to try new content areas that the community is interested in - for example, we’re running a soft skills Howwow in November. We’ll continue to listen to what the community wants and deliver it.
We’ll remain fiercely independent and, community permitting, will continue to challenge and forge a different path for events and communities in financial services. The Powwow has been doing this for seven years and we hope to continue.
Richard Allum - minus warpaint
How has the Powwow changed over the years?
The community has grown - we see new faces and new people stepping in to volunteer, and activity on the forum, The Big Tent, has increased. We’ve introduced new formats - the monthly online Howwows have been a resounding success - lunchtime hour long sessions on the topics Paraplanners want.
No matter the size, we stay true to the founding principles - to help Paraplanners learn, fix and share principles.
What can be achieved at the Powwow that could not be achieved at a more traditional corporate event or conference?
- While we’re supported by a number of organisations, we remain fiercely independent. That means we can continue to run in the same way we always have, a community built for Paraplanners by Paraplanners - everything we do has been driven by the community. So our events truly are run by the community, whether that's the volunteers that help make things happen or the content that the participants have selected because we're run on ‘unconference’ principles.
- We keep coming back to community - but that is one of the unique things about Powwow events. We have and continue to build a community together. In between events, the community lives on in the Big Tent where Paraplanners help each other out online, answering each other’s questions. So, the community doesn’t finish once the event is over - it lives on.
What are the current major issues facing Paraplanning?
- Paraplanning is a positive profession so let’s call them challenges, rather than issues.
- We need to continue to raise awareness of Paraplanning as a role so that it’s seen as an attractive career option for newcomers to the industry and those switching to it. Lots of work has been done on this but we can keep on improving.
- There is a supply vs demand issue. It’s important to make sure that standards are kept high and so access to quality CPD delivered in flexible formats is going to become even more important.
Where do you see Paraplanning in five years?
Paraplanners are at the heart of a growing number of financial advice and planning firms already working in partnership with advisers to deliver great client outcomes. I expect this trend to increase over the next five years. It will continue to be a community that’s full of people that are keen to work together and help each other.
I hope we’ll continue to see other organisations in the industry get their head around Paraplanning, Paraplanners and our needs. We're seeing good signs and we hope this continues. I hope we’ll continue to see the diversity we already see in the Paraplanning community and that it remains as welcoming and inclusive as it is today.
Why should people embark on a career in Paraplanning?
You should only embark on a career in Paraplanning if you’re hungry for knowledge, happy to listen, learn, apply and challenge. This is what Paraplanning needs and this is why it's such a good career. It can be very rewarding and an opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.