Mel has worked in the Financial Planning industry for over 20 years and is passionate about digital innovation and paraplanning. Mel is also the administrator of The Paraplanner Hub, a dedicated community for paraplanner development and support.
Owning a financial planning business in the current landscape means that, more than ever, keeping operating costs low is key to growing a successful and valuable business. This may include finding efficiencies in internal processes, or outsourcing some of your critical business functions, such as paraplanning to reduce your operating expenses.
A common misconception when moving from an inhouse paraplanning resource to an outsourced solution, is that it is too difficult to collect and provide all the information to complete the job (“I might as well do the SOA myself”) or to overcome the hurdle of communicating with a paraplanner virtually. It goes without saying that the COVID-19 forced work-from-home mandate has debunked that myth, as most of us must work with colleagues virtually using innovative software solutions.
Assuming that you are ready to take the step to use an outsourced paraplanner, how can you make sure that every interaction you have with your contract paraplanner is productive, cost-effective and worthwhile?
We polled members of The Paraplanner Hub, a community of over 700 paraplanners, on ways to make the paraplanning process efficient for both the paraplanner and the adviser. Here’s their top five tips:
Establish secure lines of communication
Decide the best way for you and your paraplanner to communicate during the paraplanning process. This could be via email, phone, video meeting, or other secure chat services. Remember that all client data should be encrypted if using an unsecured medium such as email. Another way to share client data is to set up a secure file-sharing platform where you can drop in all the files you need to provide, easily and securely.
Most of the time, a paraplanner will need to ask questions confirming details to complete the job for you. It is important that you make yourself available for queries and address questions asked in a timely manner, especially if the delivery time-frame is tight. Even if you think the answer is in the files provided, the paraplanner may be seeking clarification.
A simple approach to dealing with questions is to have your paraplanner list them in a table so they can be addressed easily, with a record. Having questions and answers in a series of emails or chat exchanges makes it difficult to keep track of what you’ve advised and when.
Avoid handwritten notes where possible
Trying to decipher hand-written notes is definitely time consuming. If something can’t be read this means more questions and delays. There are many optical character recognition (OCR) tools in the market that can convert handwriting to text, such as OneNote or Google Docs.
Provide accurate data
Most back and forth between parties is due to missing information or data which seems to be conflicting with other areas. As simple as it seems, if a paraplanner is accessing data in your financial planning software, make sure this is up-to-date and does not contradict information in other documents (such as a fact find). If they do conflict, be sure to let the paraplanner know which one is accurate.
Other information which will help make the process quicker include:
Stating whether loan repayments and insurance premiums are included in the cost of living figures.
If you are rolling over a pension, comment on whether the current fund is deemed or deductible for Centrelink calculation purposes.
Providing licensee assumptions for projections and other documents like annuity and insurance quotes.
APIR codes for products (where there could be confusion).
Meeting file notes – files notes are ideal to help paraplanners understand the context of your advice.
Alternative products for replacement of product analysis.
Disclosure information including the Licensee / Adviser fee split.
Provide your instructions clearly
Reworks of a completed Statement of Advice is another time-draining and mostly avoidable exercise. If you don’t have the final strategy mapped out yet, most paraplanners have stated they would be happy to help with strategy development including providing different scenarios for consideration.
You don’t need to write a novel to the paraplanner to explain your advice. Use bullet points and avoid wordy paragraphs so they can digest your advice easily. And most important of all – don’t forget to include the reasons for your advice. A tabled instruction template is an efficient way to collate all the information to provide to your paraplanner and helps make sure you provide all the information required. If you really want to explain your strategy well, another option is to draw a flowchart or submit an audio recording with your request. Hearing an adviser talk about why they have recommended a product or strategy provides rich information for a paraplanner to understand your thinking.
Let’s work together!
The most prevalent feedback from the paraplanners in the community is – be open to finding the right way to work together. It might take a few goes to get it running smoothly and don’t give up after one SoA. The paraplanners want to add value to the advice delivery process as best they can, so they will help you become more efficient.
Finding the right outsourcing paraplanning solution for you
There are many different paraplanners and outsourcing businesses that will meet your needs and suit your working style. The hardest part is trying to find them! To help with this, there is Tanngo.
Tanngo is an online platform connecting self-employed contract paraplanners and advisers in a secure, online workspace. Create a job request, pick your paraplanner, share documents, chat, and pay fees – all online, all in the one place.