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The progression of the paraplanner profession

Over the last ten years, the paraplanning profession has firmly established itself as a vital component in the advice process. Caroline Stuart of Sparrow Paraplanning reflects on her own experiences as a paraplanner to highlight how this dynamic community has finally achieved the recognition it deserves.

The 100th edition and ten year anniversary edition of IFA Magazine is certainly something to celebrate. I was thrilled to be asked to contribute some of my own reflections to it on the development of paraplanning over this period.

That was then

What an eventful ten years it has been for us all in financial services, particularly in paraplanning. Looking back at 2011, it wasn’t like now and paraplanning was often seen as an extension of the administration process. I’d say we weren’t really recognised as a profession; we didn’t have any specific paraplanner qualifications, events or awards and the first IFP Paraplanner conference was only just about to be held.

I had been a paraplanner for around eight years by 2011 (although I wasn’t even aware of that myself at the time!), so I often wondered what would be the next step in my career? As we all knew at the time, paraplanning was really just a stepping stone to advising, right?! Well, I knew that I didn’t want to be an adviser, so I started to wonder, I love paraplanning, I really enjoy the job I do, so why can’t this be my chosen career?

Fortunately for me, there were lots of other paraplanners thinking the same thing. In fact, not just thinking, but actively doing something about it. Before long, both the Personal Finance Society and the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP) had also identified this fast growing part of the financial planning profession and began to provide them with more paraplanning-specific services. In addition to the professional bodies, the Paraplanner Powwow (now the Paraplanner Assembly) was created by Richard Allum and Ian Thomas, which is now a force in itself!

This is now

Returning to 2021, as paraplanners, we are now a recognised profession and not simply a stepping stone to something bigger or better. We have our own qualifications, events, community, and awards. We also have representation at our professional bodies with practitioner panels and focus groups, all helping to influence the direction of our profession and the overall sector. For me personally, 2020 was pretty huge as I was honoured to be the first paraplanner to become elected as a Vice President of the Personal Finance Society.

So as we look back over the last ten years, it is clear just how far paraplanning has come. As always, I’m incredibly proud to be part of this fantastic profession and the community it has created. However, it’s clear we are still a relatively new profession, (often reflected in the puzzled faces of those you meet outside financial services when you tell them what you do!)

We obviously can’t rest on our laurels. We still have some work to do to help more people understand what a fantastic and rewarding career this is and not just a stop on the way to something else. I can’t wait to see where we will get to in the next ten years!

About Caroline Stuart

Caroline has worked in financial services for around 20 years, with 18 of those in various different roles in paraplanning. In 2019 she set up her own outsource paraplanning business, Sparrow Paraplanning providing support to a range of planners and businesses.

Caroline is an active member of the financial planning and paraplanning community. She has been a member of the PFS Paraplanner Panel since this began in 2015. In 2018, she joined the Personal Finance Society Board of Directors and became the first paraplanner Vice President of the society in 2020.

Caroline finds being a paraplanner a varied, challenging, and rewarding career. Raising the profile of financial planning and in particular, paraplanning, is hugely important to her and she is keen to promote and help develop the profession wherever possible.

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