Why a Paraplanner should not just do as they are told

by Kimberley Malin DipPFS Cert CII (MP)

When I first started as Paraplanner, I thought that Paraplanners were just there to take instructions from the Financial Planner and ‘do as they are told’.

There is a certain truth to that, but doing what you are told does NOT make you a valuable part of the financial planning process.

Now, it’s not easy to professionally and politely ‘challenge’ what you have been asked to do, nor does it come without practice and skill. It takes time to build your confidence to do this, and even when you are feeling confident, not all Planners are open to the suggestions and inputs of a Paraplanner, but on the whole, I’m pleased to say that in my experience, most are!

For me, personally, my confidence came from increasing my technical knowledge. Although  I had taken my exams and was Diploma qualified, the real learning curve came when I was doing the actual job, and this accelerated the speed at which I was increasing my knowledge. By immersing myself into real-life scenarios and actively applying my technical knowledge, I accelerated my professional development and, ultimately became more confident. This combination of exams and practical experience is instrumental in shaping competent and successful professionals in the field of financial planning.

Experience highlights the professional growth and development that can occur, as a Paraplanner gains a deeper understanding of the financial planning process and becomes more confident in their role. As Paraplanners become more familiar with the intricacies of financial planning, they develop an eye for identifying areas that may require further clarification or refinement.

By actively seeking clarification from the Financial Planner, when necessary, Paraplanners ensure that they fully understand the rationale behind the advice being provided and can effectively communicate it to clients. This collaborative approach fosters transparency and alignment between the Paraplanner and the Financial Planner, ultimately leading to stronger, more comprehensive Financial Plans.

Furthermore, as Paraplanners become more acquainted with the financial planning process, they should begin to offer valuable insights and suggestions to the Financial Planner. Drawing on their analytical skills and technical expertise, Paraplanners can identify opportunities to enhance the quality of the advice or propose complementary strategies that may benefit the client.

This collaborative relationship between Paraplanners and Financial Planners enhances the financial planning process, enabling both parties to leverage their respective strengths and expertise to deliver great outcomes for their clients. As Paraplanners continue to grow and evolve in their role, their contributions to the financial planning team become increasingly valuable, further solidifying their position as key players in the delivery of comprehensive financial advice.

Furthermore, questioning aspects of the advice that don’t seem right is not only prudent but also ethically imperative. It demonstrates a commitment to integrity and a dedication to upholding the highest standards of professional conduct. By engaging in thoughtful communication and seeking clarification when needed, Paraplanners can help ensure that clients receive well-informed and tailored recommendations that align with their unique needs and objectives. This is exactly what the regulator wants – regardless of how we feel about the rules we need to follow.

But here is the dangerous part of ‘just doing as you are told’. While it’s essential to follow instructions and adhere to established procedures, blindly doing as you’re told without critically evaluating the advice or questioning aspects that may seem questionable can indeed pose risks to both clients and the integrity of the financial planning process.

Let’s look at some of the issues that may arise by ‘just doing as you are told’.

Inadequate client service – By unquestioningly following instructions, there’s a risk of overlooking important details in a client’s financial situation. This can result in poor recommendations that don’t fully address the client’s needs or objectives.

Compliance issues – Blindly carrying out tasks without understanding the underlying rationale can lead to unintentional breaches of regulatory requirements or compliance. Failure to adhere to industry regulations can result in legal consequences and reputational damage for the financial planning firm.

Missed opportunities – By not thinking critically or challenging assumptions, Paraplanners may overlook opportunities to enhance the client’s Financial Plan or mitigate potential risks. This can deprive clients of valuable insights and strategies that could improve their financial wellbeing.

Ethical concerns – Following instructions without question may raise ethical dilemmas, particularly if the advice provided is not in the client’s best interests, or conflicts with professional standards of conduct. Paraplanners have a duty to act ethically and advocate for clients’ interests, which may require questioning advice that seems problematic.

Stifled professional development – By simply complying with instructions, Paraplanners may miss out on opportunities for personal and professional growth. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and independent decision-making are essential skills for career advancement and professional fulfilment. Further to this, I believe that the ability to collaborate rather than ‘work for’ a Financial Planner is what will make a Paraplanner valuable and, therefore, opening themselves up to future opportunities.

I hope this article has given you some insight into why it is important that as a Paraplanner, when appropriate, you don’t just ‘do as you are told’.

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