Guest blog: ParaPowwow14

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TUE, 12 AUG 2014

Paraplanners PowwowI’m one of a bunch of paraplanners nationwide who help make Paraplanners Powwows happen.

If you’ve not come across one before, let me explain. Powwows are ‘unconferences’ which means paraplanners who participate get to vote on the topics they want to exchange views on or learn about or fix or share.

And three particular themes repeatedly bubble to the top of the Powwow agendas. They are:

1. What tools, resources and technology to use;
2. Minimum professional standards and qualifications; and
3. How to manage relationships with financial advisers.

From a service provider’s perspective, there’s a role to be played in each of them: some directly and some, perhaps, more obliquely (and you’d have to turn up to a Powwow and tune in to really find out how).

But if I could pick four things that any provider could do today to make paraplanners’ lives easier, it would be these:

1. Appreciate the different needs of in-house and outsourced paraplanners
Here’s the thing: In-house paraplanners work exclusively for one financial planning practice whereas outsourced paraplanners may work with many. You’d be surprised just how often the design of providers’ services seems to miss the significance of that – especially online.

For instance, it’s relatively straightforward for an in-house paraplanner to set up a login associated with their employers business but an outsourced paraplanner may need to set up more than one login on behalf of more than one advice practice.

It would be great if the ability to set up logins, which are pre-approved by our advice clients, came as standard.

2. An easy-to-use website that doesn’t require a SatNav
It might sound obvious but a website that’s easy to use – and where information is easy to find – is a paraplanner’s idea of nirvana. For outsourced or in-house paraplanners, a service provider’s website is the bit of the brand that they deal with the most so, if they can both get along, it will really make a difference to each others’ days.

3. Show me the money(-related information and tools)
Lots of providers invest in the creation of really useful web-based troves of technical information and tools and services, which are invaluable to paraplanners who want to put together quick quotes or illustrations.

All too often, though, they are stuck behind a login so, to access them, you have to register on behalf of your employer’s business (in the case of an in-house paraplanner) or the business on whose behalf you’re acting (out-sourced paraplanner).

My hunch is that the need to register at all is more to do with pinging up on a provider’s business development radar than it is to protect any intellectual property locked into the content.

Now, I appreciate that metrics and prospective customer data can be valuable. And I know it must be hard to see how influential paraplanners might be in the decision-making process about where and what to invest clients hard-earned cash in. But the need to register is really disruptive to paraplanners so – please – do we really need to register? Really?

4. Get stuck in
Paraplanners are likely to have nigh-on forensic knowledge of your service and the marketplace. So rather than miss out on really valuable nuggets of insight that could make a big difference to both paraplanners’ and advisers’ experience of provider services get them involved. Whether it’s as simple as asking for a quick opinion or as in-depth as workshops to design new or improved products, services or features, why not ask a paraplanner?

James Hay Partnership is keen to learn as much as possible about all of the above, which is why we’re one of five supporters of the 2014-15 Powwows

Any opinions given are those of the individual writing this blog and not necessarily those of James Hay Partnership