For over 15 years I have believed and promoted that the operational and technical support teams and functions within today’s busy practices are the backbone to every business regardless of its size, set up or service.

    These keys roles are the power to the engine room and those firms both within the UK and overseas that have fully embraced them into their business are not just surviving, they are thriving.

    It is great to see that that despite so much focus on the advisers, planners, propositions and pricing that the paraplanning and advisory support community are pushing their way through to get the exposure and recognition that they truly deserve.

    However, there are still a few issues that need to be finally put to bed and now is the time to do it, no more talking, it’s time to take this proactively to the next step.

    I think we all agree that across the practicing market there is still a lack of consistency and definition of what a paraplanner actually is and even does. This is making it almost impossible for firms to grow as despite advertising for a ‘paraplanner’ they continue to be presented with a mish mash of all skills, abilities, experiences, attributes and salary expectations! This is not helpful and will prevent our profession growing.

    Added to this, the role of a paraplanner continues to be pulled from pillar to post. For instance, in some firms, they have little or no autonomy, control or authorisation and simply do what is instructed right through to others who are fully involved in the research, analysis, presentation and discussions with clients with full autonomy and authority.

    Now, whilst these problems are not life changing day-to-day, my fear is that these hairline cracks will turn into craters if we don’t nip them in the bud now.

    In addition to this, there is a ripple effect causing issues for the following:

    1)  New blood entering into the market continues to be confused as to what the role is and what it does. They may have reviewed the available role descriptions, and gone through a development programme such as the apprentice scheme but life is likely to be very different when they actually get into the firms themselves.

    2)  In firms that are also suffering from an identity crisis, role profiles (titles) are literally being plucked from thin air with very little clarity as to what these roles are responsible for and contribute to. Titles are given such as administrators, practice managers, office managers, technical managers, heads of lifestyle planning, sales co-ordinators , report writers, technical support co-ordinators and the other day I also saw a role profile for a ‘head of new business processing and technical templates’ (and I’m not joking!)... Need I go on?

    The point is there is confusion and clarity and standards do not just apply to advisers, planners, and now paraplanners, they apply across the full scope of roles.

    A standard certification development programme is currently being drafted which pulls from both our (Standards International existing expertise in designing and assessing individuals and firms to international and British best practice standards as well as the valuable expertise, insights and knowledge from our technical and practicing committee.

    The standard shall include definitions and profiles of the key roles within a financial services firm, all of which will be designed to be fit for purpose today as well as be able to evolve to support the next level of ‘new model’ firm.

    The standard shall outline a framework for (but are not limited to) competency including knowledge (with a minimum entry level set) as well as the understanding and application of that knowledge, breadth and depth of experience, scope of the role and the responsibilities, ethical principles, values and behaviours, professional development and contribution, relationship management and overall support and contribution to the culture of the team/firm.

    This is by no means a conclusive as there is further work to do.

    The assessments shall include (but are not limited to) a mixture of face-to-face, oral, case studies, role plays and work based methods and based on early calculations the cost shall start from £347 plus VAT and shall be assessed on an ongoing basis (frequency to be agreed).

    The positive interest for this standard has been overwhelming and we will commit fully to supporting the profession move forward and take this to the next level.

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