Sarika Dhanjal offers some advice for paraplanners on how to build better adviser relationships
During the past ten years, paraplanners have become key in helping advisers to grow a successful, strong business. They play a pivotal role in the analysis and development of bespoke client solutions, giving advisers the freedom to spend more time with their clients. This relationship has been strengthened by the introduction of the retail distribution review, but there are still some common pitfalls that can strain the relationship with advisers.
Paraplanners are a valuable resource if utilised adequately and can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience within an advisory firm. However, the role has developed significantly beyond report writing and with it, the relationship with advisers has needed to evolve.
It’s good to talk
Although there are a number of challenges, as with any close working relationship, the key is open communication. The quality of information received from the adviser is imperative in terms of how well the paraplanner understands the clients’ objectives. Once the adviser has seen the client and established clear objectives, these should be discussed in detail with the paraplanner, along with any detailed meeting notes. Outsourcing of the paraplanning relationship inevitably makes things harder, so the reliance on good adviser notes and supporting documents becomes vital to avoid the relationship becoming strained.
It is also important for paraplanners to understand their role in the customer journey.
The quality of information received from the adviser is imperative in terms of how well the paraplanner understands the clients’ objectives
A clear workflow agreed between them and the adviser allows the latter to manage client expectations adequately. Keeping the adviser informed throughout the process ensures that the recommendation does not come as a surprise and enables the adviser to appreciate the time required to undertake the research and create the financial plan, as well as the suitability report, illustrations and applications. If the paraplanner is able to manage the adviser’s expectations effectively, advisers can then in turn manage the client’s expectations. By doing so, the adviser will ensure the client does not become dissatisfied with the experience and go elsewhere.
Areas to watch
Strains on the relationship can arise due to a number of reasons – a key one being the pressure to turn around cases faster than agreed. Normally, this can be managed by educating advisers around realistic timescales such as when the case will be started and the expected completion date, adding in a buffer for any unexpected circumstances. Prioritising workloads based on agreed timeframes and not on who makes the most contact and pushes the hardest, is essential to maintain a good working relationship.
Another frequent problem for some advisers is struggling with loss of control once the case enters the hands of the paraplanner. A way of minimising this is to provide weekly updates on cases, including where each case sits in regard to priority and anticipated completion dates. This links back to the adviser being aware, so they can manage their client’s expectations. This also relates to conflicts caused where there are differing opinions about the recommended client solution. The loss of control felt when the paraplanner’s client solution does not meet the adviser’s expected outcome can be a difficult situation to manage. While this is rare, when it does occur, it can cause tension.
A successful way of dealing with this is to explain the reason for the recommendation, providing factual evidence as to why it appears more suitable. Having adequate research will support this and ensure that the best client outcome is achieved; and this approach works for both the paraplanner and adviser presenting their case. It could be that more than one solution is appropriate and that a similar outcome can be achieved by either option. The final decision ultimately lies with the adviser who takes responsibility for the advice, but the important factor is the open dialogue that informs the final decision.
Essentially, for the relationship to be successful, the paraplanner must work closely with the adviser. Any difficulties will only be resolved by being open and honest, with an understanding of both parties’ roles within the financial advice process. Both the paraplanner and adviser must remember the client’s objectives are the common goal, in order to make a real difference to the adviser’s work life and the quality of the client experience.
Sarika Dhanjal is operations manager at Tenet Group