How to become a paraplanner

Paraplanning is an interesting career option within the finance sector, specifically in personal financial advice. It’s a job that involves a lot of actual plan and report preparation, without having to be the ‘face’ of the operation. In other words, you get to do the interesting stuff.

There are tons of opportunities all around Australia, too. At the time of writing, there were over 3,000 paraplanning jobs listed on SEEK (and that’s just the advertised ones). Good paraplanners – especially the dedicated ones – are in high demand. If you want to help people change their lives by helping them reach their financial goals, chances are paraplanning is on your list of career options.

So how exactly do you get started in this line of work? Speak to two paraplanners (or people who used to be paraplanners) today about how they got into their job, and you could get two quite different answers. Some paraplanners are working their way towards a financial planning qualification, working in a firm while they learn. Some started out that way, but found they loved paraplanning work so much they wanted to stick with it. In smaller practices, it’s fairly common for paraplanners to have backgrounds in administration and client services, and slowly learn paraplanning on the job.

There’s some good news for those who’ve been looking for their first role, as well as those already working in the industry who want to show they’re dedicated to paraplanning. A new course has been established especially for new and emerging paraplanners looking to take their career to the next level.

This new qualification could help you stand out of the crowd as the job market for paraplanners changes in nature (and size) over the next few years. It could be your foot in the door, or your ticket to a higher paying role. Read on to find out more.

A new pathway: the Advanced Diploma in Paraplanning

This brand-new qualification was just finalised in August 2020. It’s purpose designed to fit the needs of industry stakeholders (especially employers) looking for highly skilled paraplanners with the technical ability and transferrable skills to take on a challenging role within a practice team:

“This qualification reflects the role of paraplanners who provide a comprehensive range of financial planning services across a variety of product environments, including those involving complex issues and/or requiring innovative strategies. Individuals in these roles require well-developed skills and a broad knowledge base of the financial planning sector and required regulatory frameworks. At this level individuals are expected to apply specialist skills and knowledge in a range of situations to deal with complex situations and issues. They work across a broad range of technical or management functions with accountability for personal outputs and for team outcomes.”

– Source: PwC’s Skills for Australia

The Advanced Diploma has nine core units that cover the most important skills in terms of technical ability and client service.

Paraplanning and money

FNSCUS516 Record and implement client instructions

This unit is all about the ins and outs of recording the client instructions in the first place. This might be through a number of different ways; direct from the financial adviser after an interview, or from an intermediary. You’ll learn practical ways to make sure the instructions are complete, comprehensive and properly authorised where relevant. Some of this will come down to individual practice rules. You’ll learn how to follow these rules no matter where you’re working, whilst staying in line with legislative requirements and industry codes of practice.

FNSFPL614 Develop financial plans

This unit is exactly what it sounds like – the exact strategic process for developing a great financial plan. It’s presented so that you’ll learn to work with a variety of supervisors or intermediaries, like financial advisers, shareholders, stockbrokers, trustees, agents, or whole financial organisations. From working out the scope and objectives to finalising the plan ready to present, there’s a lot that goes in to it. You’ll learn how to develop plans in a way that meets (or exceeds!) the client’s needs, and leaves you confident you’ve covered all bases.

FNSFPL615 Present and negotiate financial plans

Once you’ve got a financial plan prepared, it’s got to be approved (and renegotiated if necessary) with a financial planner. This means making sure you’re ready to present the plan in a way that addresses key points like the client’s needs as presented to you, the strengths of each aspect of the plan, as well as regulations that may apply to any aspects of the plan (i.e. products), as well as the plan itself. This unit will walk you through the five big steps, picking up from the finalisation of the draft plan, through to negotiating and finalising the plan ready for client signoff.

FNSFPL616 Implement financial plans

As the title suggests, this unit is about your role as a paraplanner once the plan is finalised and signed off. You will learn how to do everything from the practical planning side of organising the implementation actions (a mini project management), to coordinating other professionals, to undertaking parts of the implementation yourself. There’s something for even experienced paraplanners to learn here, especially with coverage of relatively new legislative requirements relevant to implementation.

FNSFPL621 Comply with ethical and operational guidelines, legislation and regulations in financial planning

With the number of laws that apply to the work of a paraplanner, and the changing regulations in financial advice, even paraplanners who want to do the right thing can feel anxious about non-compliance. This unit is about systematic and straightforward ways to identify and apply compliance and ethical rules. You’ll also learn how to review the compliance of your own work – handy if you’re working more independently.

FNSFPL622 Conduct financial planning analysis and research

This unit is where things get interesting (and technical!). To develop unique solutions, you need to have a certain set of research skills. This unit will take you through developing research parameters and requirements, finding the information, and presenting it to stakeholders in an easy-to-understand way. It’s a must-do for new paraplanners, but even experienced paraplanners will learn strategies to research more efficiently and present options more convincingly.

FNSPRM611 Monitor and review organisational system compliance with legislation and regulations

Compliance doesn’t need to be something that makes you nervous or scared (or worse – bored) as a paraplanner. With the right monitoring frameworks in place, you can feel confident you’ve got everything covered, so you can get on with helping clients. This unit walks you through how to set up a working compliance system, including risk management procedures and resources like technology, staffing and consultancy.

FNSINC411 Conduct work according to professional practices in the financial services industry

Professionalism is key to your compliance, success and career progress as a paraplanner. This unit is all about providing effective services within the frameworks of rules, regulations and professional standards that exist for paraplanners in Australia today. You’ll learn everything from legislative and regulatory compliance, to how to work within the kinds of policies and procedures that can vary from practice to practice.

FNSINC511 Conduct financial product research to support product recommendations

One task that takes up a significant portion of a paraplanner’s efforts is product research. This means finding, exploring and understanding products (especially new products) that best fit the client’s needs and objectives. It starts with preparing for efficient research by defining the scope and strategy for research. By the end of this unit, you’ll know how to effectively document and present research to the relevant parties to support the recommendations within the plan.

Your Advanced Diploma in Paraplanning with Monarch Institute

You deserve a paraplanning course that’s going to make you confident, work-ready, and a standout job candidate. Monarch Institute was founded by financial advisers who wanted to deliver practical, real-world education for professionals in this field. The financial planning trainers are all senior practitioners with decades of combined experience. This means you get insight into the way paraplanning works in real life, and how it’s evolved over time.
Meet the course trainers and find out more about what Monarch has to offer here. To be amongst the first students of the Advanced Diploma in Paraplanning, get in touch with a friendly course consultant today.