Here’s the secret sauce for finding support staff

22 February 2023

Melanie Drago

Melanie Drago is the Founder of Tanngo, the first online marketplace for contract paraplanners and support staff in Australia.

As a financial planner, you play a vital role in helping your clients achieve their financial goals. However, to effectively serve your clients and grow your business, it is crucial to have the right support staff on your team. A competent and motivated support team can help you with administrative tasks, freeing up your time to focus on client relationships and business development.

So in this tight talent market, how do you find competent and motivated staff?

Before you hire someone:

1. Do a deep dive on your processes and business operations

Sometimes reviewing and improving your current processes before you hire someone will not only improve your business operations but may also reduce the need for a full-time resource. It’s also good to ensure your processes are efficient and practical before you hire and train your newest recruit.

If you think your business could benefit from a process efficiency review, your licensee may be able to assist. If not, there are boutique consulting firms that are dedicated to this space in both process and technology solutions, at a surprisingly reasonable cost.

Alternatively, it might be worth spending a little extra to hire an experienced employee who may be able to bring efficiencies and new ways of thinking to your business.

2. Could you consider outsourcing?

Wages are no doubt one of the largest operational expenses for a financial planning business. In today’s globalised world there are several onshore and offshore businesses that provide both paraplanning and administrative outsourcing for financial planning businesses, quite easily.

For smaller businesses, it may be worth considering either outsourcing paraplanning, paraplanning overflow, bulk administration tasks like sending FDSs, data entry and basic administration tasks.

Perhaps complementing outsourcing with a part-time in-house resource may help reduce costs.

So, you’re ready to hire someone, what’s the best way to secure those candidates?

3. Provide a clear job description

When hiring support staff, it is important to provide clear job descriptions, including responsibilities, expectations, and compensation. This will help to ensure that your support staff knows what is expected of them and that you are able to hold them accountable.

Define the tasks you want them to be responsible for, and as they learn your business, gradually introduce additional tasks and responsibilities.  If you want someone who is experienced to help lift productivity and improve your advice efficiencies – mention it in the job description and call out areas you would like to improve, this way you may find candidates who have specialist experience in that area.

And do not forget to add a salary range – you’ll rarely get a prospect without it these days.

4. Do not hire based solely on qualifications

While qualifications are important, it is also important to hire individuals who have a positive attitude, are motivated, and are a good fit for the job at hand.

I have interviewed a few paraplanning candidates that looked great on paper with a long history in financial planning, however when I tested their knowledge, their technical knowledge was good, but they couldn’t develop strategies.  If you are considering hiring a paraplanner, don’t concentrate on short-answer technical questions, ask them about what strategies they would consider for a client, and you’ll get a better understanding of their skill level.

Finding the right type of person for the role is important too. I have an interview question I keep up my sleeve to determine if someone is a detailed-oriented person or a big picture person.  I find detailed-oriented people are great with understanding facts, diving into detail, and following processes; big picture people are perfect if you want someone to help drive improvements and innovations in your business.

The question is, “Describe the room.”.  A detailed person will typically say facts like “A door, two chairs, a desk, carpet floors…”, concentrating on details and facts.  A big-picture person will naturally say things like “It’s bright and airy, professional, modern…” highlighting the entire space of the room.

Obviously not a hard science, but helps me understand how they interpret the world around them and how they may suit the job at hand.

5. Flexibility and Culture

I cannot stress this enough. You. Need. To. Offer. Flexibility. Some candidates that have families might need to work around other schedules and will use flexibility as the deciding factor between one job or another. Some would give up a small pay increase just for the opportunity to work from home a couple of days a week and/or have flexible hours.

If you insist that your staff need to work five days a week in the office from 9am – 5.30pm, I suggest you offer a moderately higher salary to attract these candidates.

Note that in the paraplanner survey Tanngo conducted recently in The Paraplanner Hub, only 5.6 per cent of respondents preferred to work in the office every day, with 83.9 per cent preferring to have some days at home.

Your staff don’t need to be in the office five days a week to build culture and camaraderie.  Running The Paraplanner Hub community, I’ve seen this happen. The members engage entirely remotely, and yet the support and passion between members is strong, with engagement of over 85 per cent within the community.

With Tanngo, I work very closely with my team in other states, meeting them only every so often for dinner, drink, and brainstorming session (if at all!). Building culture requires sincere intentions, trust, and honesty.  It’s making sure everyone respects each other, has genuine (and even vulnerable) interactions, and most importantly feels valued.  Once you achieve this trifecta, you’ll find the team will want to help each other succeed, no matter where they are located.

Granted, there will always be times where people need to work together face-to-face, and this is even more important when you are training junior or inexperienced staff.  But for experienced people that can ‘hit the ground running’ after a few months, flexibility should be considered.

6. Training support staff

There will always be an element of training required for a new person. If you are hiring a less experienced person, or one who hasn’t worked in the industry – expect a learning period of up to 8-12 months.

Consider how you will train your new employee, what time you need to dedicate to this, and what measures you need to take to cover any workload while they are learning. This could mean outsourcing some functions until they are running at expected capacity, or sharing the additional workload among other staff members for a short time.

If you are training the person yourself, be kind to yourself.  Know that your business may be running a bit slower for a few months while you do this and don’t overload yourself with new clients or reviews.  Push out other work for a month or two (if you can) so you can support your new employee where possible.

Before training a new employee, you should have your main processes mapped out.  This doesn’t have to be too complicated – could be a workflow in your software, or flowchart map saved in your shared drive.

Developing a ‘Business Handbook’ is a good idea too – this handbook should have everything they need to know about your business.  What the financial advice process is (for ‘green’ employees), where information is saved, what software you use, your main points of contact, details about who your clients are, who to contact if something goes wrong, and your business values, ethics, and expectations, and explaining acronyms, among other things.  When I first started working at a financial planning firm (at age 17) I had no knowledge of how superannuation works, and it took me a good year to comprehend the fundamentals without proper training – don’t assume your junior staff understand financial terminology.

If you need help training staff, you can also outsource this to experienced trainers so you can keep your business running and revenue and BAU operations are not impacted.

7. Career paths and development

I do not have to reiterate that development is important.  The problem is most businesses talk about it and don’t implement it.  Make sure you talk about career progression with your staff, and map out a career timeline in your business – and discuss it in reviews.

Enrol your staff members in some ongoing professional development, take them to networking events, PD Days and conferences.  I found these events so informative to understand the entire industry when I was a junior support person.

Consider paying for education costs. Understanding the ‘why’ of the work they do helps improve what and how they do it and reduces mistakes.  It will also mean they are not just following instructions like a robot; when they understand the why, they can innovate and improve the way things are done because the process makes more sense.

…And that’s the sauce!

Melanie Drago

Founder of Tanngo – a platform connecting contractors and financial advisers;

Founder of Tanngo Training – support training for in-house employees,

Senior Consultant at Tangelo Advice Consulting –  specialist consulting for advice licensees and wealth businesses.


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