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The power of paraplanning

At IFA Magazine, we are constantly impressed by the tremendous efforts, enthusiasm and dedication shown by the paraplanning community to develop initiatives to build the financial planning profession and to improve the service which clients receive. This month, we are grateful to Caroline Stuart who, on behalf of the PFS Paraplanner Panel, highlights some of the exciting things which 2020 has in store for paraplanners and also shares her perspective on why paraplanning is such a power to be reckoned with.


Firstly, I’m pleased to report that The Personal Finance Society (PFS) Paraplanner Panel has some brilliant news. The Purely Paraplanning Roadshow is back and as usual, we’re visiting six locations around the country. This year we’re off to Cambridge, East Midlands, London, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester; all the dates are on the Personal Finance Society events website page.

I really enjoy the roadshows; I get to meet paraplanners from all over the country, in a wide range of businesses and all at different stages of their career. Each brings different views and experiences and this, coupled with our top quality agenda and speakers, always make these events a roaring success. If you can, they are well worth attending and the time out the office.

Five years on

I joined the PFS Paraplanner Panel when it began in March 2015 and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. We’ve helped organise some terrific events for paraplanners, which get increasing attendance every year; we’ve set up a range of channels to speak with paraplanners and, something I’m particularly proud of, we’ve created the ‘Getting Started in Paraplanning’ booklet to help people new to or considering joining our profession.

Learn. Fix. Share

Getting involved with these sorts of things really began for me when I went to the Paraplanners Powwow in 2013. The brainchild of Richard Allum and Ian Thomas, it began as an ‘unconference’ with the purpose of bringing together a group of paraplanners to share ideas, learn from one another and help make things better. This is the very motto of the Powwow; ‘Learn. Fix. Share.’

Writing this article has got me thinking back over the last seven years and my involvement with these two groups and, hopefully without sounding too melodramatic, how they really have changed my life.

We’ve a huge choice now, but in 2013 there were hardly any events specifically for paraplanners. There were many we could go to of course but they were usually geared for the needs of advisers rather than paraplanners. I’d always feel a bit awkward and out of place; a peanut in a packet of crisps. I never wanted to ask a question or speak up in case I made a mistake or looked foolish.

The Powwow changed all that; here I was with a bunch of people with the same job and challenges as me and were probably all also wondering just what the heck they were doing in wellies, in a Teepee, in a Northamptonshire field.

High on sugar from the Haribo and chocolates that peppered every corner of the tent and buoyed up by knowing these were people just like me, I spoke up for the very first time. No-one laughed or chastised me for being wrong and no-one made me feel like I didn’t have something to contribute.

Onwards and upwards

Flushed with confidence from the Powwow, I started to volunteer for things and getting involved. I helped organise regional Powwows, hosted campfires at the national one and joined the PFS Panel. In 2017 was thrilled and touched (shocked and terrified) to be asked to host that year’s main Powwow.

I felt very reluctant at first. Taking on something as loved, and it really is loved, as the Powwow is terrifying. What if I mess it up and spoil it or make a complete fool of myself? I’m not a natural public speaker so it was daunting but given all the help and learning I’d gained from the Powwow over the years, I couldn’t say no.

Powwow day came and although I was very nervous, I loved every minute of it. When you’re at a paraplanner event, it feels like you’re among friends with everyone wanting you to do well. That’s why I try and attend as many paraplanner planner events as workload and diary allow.

I also like to think I made reasonable fist of it! They invited me back the following year, so I’m assuming I did ok! Knowing that has also given me the confidence to really grasp opportunities when they arise. If I hadn’t got involved with the Powwow and the PFS Paraplanner Panel, I’d never have dreamed of applying to join the Personal Finance Society Board of Directors. Going through the stringent selection process and then being offered a place on the Board to help represent their paraplanner members, was really one of my proudest moments both professionally and personally.

Volunteering with the PFS on the Paraplanner Panel, the Board, and more recently with the Connect Mentoring programme, along with helping with the Paraplanners Powwow not only quite radically changed my professional path, it has also changed me personally.

I’ve gone from someone who would never speak at an event to, and I’m actually (quite proudly) quoting here, ‘a bit of a talker’. When I think back on why I got involved with the Powwow, it was because I’d really enjoyed myself with these welly clad, Haribo munching folk and thought it would be a lot of fun. I could never have known by volunteering with them and then the Personal Finance Society, I would gain so much.

We’ve got the power

Getting involved with paraplanning groups has given me the confidence to set up my own business, something I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done without the help and support of the fantastic network of amazing friends and colleagues I’ve met through volunteering with these groups. I really feel I’ve gained much more than I’ve ever put in, which spurs me on to do more to try and balance this out.

It can be a step into the unknown to get involved with something new, particularly if, like me, you aren’t a natural ‘networker’ and feel a bit dazzled and spooked if you’re in the limelight, but it really is so worth it.

There are lots of opportunities to help within our profession and beyond. There’s the Paraplanners Powwow, NextGen Planners and the PFS have a host of initiatives to help both your peers and the public. You can find all the details on their various websites.

Volunteering and getting involved is really rewarding and can be great fun but most importantly, will help us grow and develop from an industry to a well-respected Financial Planning profession.

About Caroline Stuart


Caroline has been working in financial services for twenty years. Seventeen of those have been in paraplanner, senior paraplanner and Head of Technical roles, until she set up her outsource and consultancy business, Sparrow Paraplanning last year. Caroline is also a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, is a member of its Paraplanner Panel and has sat on the Board of Directors since 2018.

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