Building strengths in paraplanning

08 December 2021

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

FPA Paraplanner of the Year Award winner for 2019, Lachlan Haigh, supports his clients and team at Tupicoffs with his technical knowledge and thorough approach to problem-solving. He shares insights on what it takes to succeed as an advice professional.

After following in his father’s footsteps in construction, Lachlan Haigh joined the financial planning profession almost by accident. “I did my carpentry apprenticeship under my father who did his carpentry apprenticeship under his father,” he says. “That’s why I didn’t go to uni until I was 27 years old when I began studying towards my Bachelor of Commerce majoring in accounting and financial planning at Griffith University. I wanted to be an auditor, but found my way into financial advice after picking up the second major. I only chose it because I was interested in understanding financial planning for myself.”

Although he didn’t consciously choose a career in financial planning, Lachlan hasn’t looked back since. He feels very positive about the choices he’s made in with his studies and joining Tupicoffs after graduating.

“It was a pretty significant life decision to walk away from the family business, to start again and go to university at the time that I did,” says Lachlan. “It was just the challenge that I needed to take on in life. I really enjoy it, but it certainly wasn’t what I set out to achieve when I left building all those years ago.”

A focus on the outcome

When it came to finding his first financial planning role, Lachlan had a much clearer idea of what he was looking for. Working for a firm where he could learn from a best-practice advice process was very important to him so he could really understand how to achieve the best outcome for each client.

“As a graduate I wanted to be in a firm doing the right things and aligned with my personal goals,” he says. “So I started in a client service position with Tupicoffs and spent a couple of years cutting my teeth there. I took the opportunity to read the advice that came through and really tried to understand how the client was better off as a result of the advice they were receiving.”

It wasn’t long before Lachlan’s interest in how advice was developed and delivered led him to take on paraplanning responsibilities. In this capacity, he continued to explore a range of options to meet each client’s goals most effectively. For him, it all comes back to a deep understanding of what’s most important to a person seeking financial advice.

“If I was about to implement the advice with the client, I really had to understand what it was that we were trying to achieve and then figure out how we were going to go about doing it,” says Lachlan. “For me to really grasp that and get on board with implementing a financial plan to its fullest, I really needed to understand how to make a difference in someone’s life.”

In reflecting on what he learned about advice excellence during his first years at Tupicoffs, Lachlan says that achieving the best possible solution for implementation takes time and a willingness to try out different ideas. “I was talking to one of the junior paraplanners here earlier in the week,” he says. “He was asking me a question about how to write a plan. I told him there’s no point rushing it, you just have to fully immerse yourself in the situation and dissect it four or five different ways to really understand what’s going on.

“As a paraplanner I really enjoyed that process of taking something apart, putting it back together [in] different ways and figuring out what the best outcome was for that client at that particular point in time.”

Curiosity matters

Thanks to his determination to keep asking questions to get to the heart of a financial advice issue, Lachlan has become known among the Tupicoffs team for his problem-solving approach. He’d prefer to brainstorm with colleagues to get different perspectives on a challenge rather than relying on technical knowledge alone.

“Rather than burying myself in legislation, it’s more my style to just to go and talk things through with a few people in the office,” he says. “People have a bit of a chuckle when they see me walking down the hall, they say, ‘oh, no, here he comes again’. Talking out a strategy or looking at it from a different perspective is really how I do my best learning.”

Lachlan’s determination and curiosity both played a big part in writing the advice he submitted for his FPA Award nomination in 2019. “The client had recently lost her husband and had been left an absolute mess in terms of their estate,” he says. “So I looked at using the small business Capital Gains Tax (CGT) concessions in conjunction with his estate to make a small business CGT contribution to super to avoid paying CGT when our clients sold the business.”

While Lachlan is quick to acknowledge the role his team played in bringing this piece of advice together, he also recognises that his curiosity enabled him to keep going until he arrived at a solution that would serve his client’s best interests.

“It took a substantial amount of time to work on, but that’s because it went to so many different people for input,” he says. “I couldn’t understand why this lady wasn’t able to claim the small business CGT concessions, and nobody was able to give me an answer as to why she couldn’t. And when I say everybody, I’m talking estate lawyers, I’m talking accountants, I’m talking big four accounting firms, everybody. So the piece of advice came about because of collaboration and because I continued to ask why can’t I do this? Curiosity was exactly how it ended up as it did.”

The value of knowledge

Had it not been for Lachlan’s technical knowledge, this advice solution may not have occurred to him in the first place. So while commitment and curiosity are important, staying informed and educated is also essential for advice excellence, particularly in a paraplanning role.

“While the financial planner’s name goes on it, the paraplanner is the one writing the advice. Take a significant personal deductible contribution (PDC) for example. The paraplanner’s real value is in structuring the PDC, or any other part of the advice recommendation, to really maximise the client situation. That’s where I see a paraplanner really providing value.”

Lachlan’s view highlights the importance of continuous learning for all financial advice professionals. This is why he appreciates the standard of professional education that’s required of all paraplanners in the Tupicoffs team. “The knowledge base is incredibly important,” he says. “Committing to the CFP® [Certification] Program is paramount and it’s a prerequisite to becoming a paraplanner here at Tupicoffs.”

Bringing it all together

Since beginning his financial planning career at Tupicoffs more than four years ago, Lachlan has advanced from his original role in client services and now works as advice manager for the practice. He thinks that moving from client facing to writing advice and back to a client-focused role has helped him to deliver the best service and build up his professional knowledge.

“Starting in client service then working into paraplanning was all part of the journey,” he says. “Now I’m coming back into that client facing process as the advice manager here at Tupicoffs. I’m preparing meeting agendas, drafting emails, doing Records of Advice, paraplanning requests and the beginnings of Statements of Advice.”

To progress towards his next goal of becoming a fully qualified financial planner, Lachlan is currently completing his professional year under the supervision of Neil Kendall CFP®, a highly qualified and experienced financial planner and former Chair of the Financial Planning Association (FPA).

“I’m basically shadowing Neil in the day-to-day life of being a planner,” says Lachlan. “As much as I enjoyed writing plans, the variety in meeting with different people and seeing the vast array of situations is something I find really refreshing.”

“It’s very important to him that I do this year well,” Lachlan adds. “His door is always open to come and chat and reflect and offer feedback as to what was done well and what could be better. The life of a planner is extremely busy so I’m very lucky that Neil is so generous with his time.”

While Lachlan has certainly achieved a lot in these early years of his career, his advice to other young financial planning professionals is to take their time and be patient in their learning and development.

“I thought that I needed to race through the process, but in hindsight there really is no need to rush,” he says. “Commit to continued learning and just enjoy the ride. It took me a couple of years to figure out there’s no point walking before you can crawl but now I’m comfortable with it.”

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