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How to Become a Paraplanner

How to become a paraplanner

It’s 2024, and it seems like everyone’s doing it tough financially. The cost of living has everyone cutting back on the things that make life fun, and even trimming down on basics. Families, singles, couples nearing retirement and more are facing an uncertain future when it comes to their finances. There’s a general feeling that if you’re working, it just shouldn’t be this tough.

For those watching this situation with a bit of concern, whilst also looking for a new career path, there’s some good news. You can get involved in being part of the solution, alleviating financial pain, and even creating hope for the future. There are several niche roles that revolve around helping people set and reach financial goals for the future – even in rough times. And as a (not insignificant) bonus, they’re pretty well-paid gigs too.

Paraplanning is one such role. If you’ve never heard of paraplanning, it’s the admin/support side of a financial planning group (more on the tasks and responsibilities below). The difference between financial planners and paraplanners is that paraplanners have minimal client interaction, and they work under the supervision/instruction of a financial planner. They need qualifications and experience, but they don’t need their own licenses. And they’re often indispensable to the financial planners they work for. So if you’re looking for a role where you can help people be financially secure, with less pressure and a lot less client-facing work, then being a paraplanner could be for you.

There’s also a few important stats to consider:

  • The average salary is $100,000-$120,000 (with experience)
  • There are thousands of paraplanners working across Australia, including in remote roles
  • At the time of writing, there were over 1,600 paraplanner job opportunities across the country

It’s also a role with a lot of potential for flexibility. Many paraplanners work remotely either some of the time, or all of the time. Depending on the demands of the practice, the hours may be flexible – it’s not necessarily 9 – 5.

If you’re asking yourself “how do I become a paraplanner?”, or even just more generally “how do I get a career helping others with their finances?”, read on. In this article we’ll cover a lot of the basics, including what it’s like to be a paraplanner in real life. You’ll learn what it takes to be a good (and well paid!) paraplanner, and the different pathways to get there.

A day in the life of a paraplanner

“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.”

– Source: PwC’s Skills for Australia

Wondering whether paraplanning is a good career? For many paraplanners, it’s not just about the big picture benefits or longer-term development opportunities. It’s about the details, like the day-to-day variety of tasks and responsibilities. To show you what it’s like, here’s an example of a day in the life of a paraplanner.

Clare is a paraplanner for a national network of financial planners. She works mostly from home, with a few office days in the city as required. Her morning routine is quick and efficient, setting the stage for a day full of diverse tasks and responsibilities.

8:00 AM: Claire logs onto her computer in her home office, which is equipped with dual monitors, ergonomic seating, and plenty of natural light. She begins by checking her emails and responding to any urgent queries from the financial planners she supports. This morning, she finds a request to update a client’s risk profile based on recent changes to their financial situation.

9:00 AM: After handling her initial emails, Claire dives into her main task for the morning: drafting a Statement of Advice (SOA) for a new client. This involves analysing the client’s financial goals, current assets, liabilities, and investment preferences. Claire uses specialised software to ensure that all recommendations comply with regulations and match the client’s risk tolerance and timeline.

11:00 AM: Mid-morning, Claire has a scheduled video call with a financial planner based in Brisbane. They discuss the progress of the SOA and make adjustments based on the latest market trends and the client’s revised retirement goals. Claire notes all changes and agrees to send an updated draft later in the day.

12:00 PM: Lunch break. Claire enjoys a quick walk around her neighbourhood. She grabs a sandwich and coffee from her favourite local cafe before heading back to work.

1:00 PM: In the afternoon, Claire focuses on continuing education. Today, she participates in a webinar about ethical investment strategies, a growing area of interest among her clients. She takes detailed notes to share with her team during their weekly meeting.

2:30 PM: Back to the SOA revisions. Claire incorporates the feedback from her morning meeting, double-checking financial calculations, and ensuring that the language in the document is clear and client-friendly. She does some number crunching – prepares cashflows and builds projections for clients too. She sends the revised draft to the planner for final approval.

4:00 PM: Claire dedicates the last hour of her workday to a peer review of another paraplanner’s work. This is part of her firm’s quality assurance process. She carefully examines the financial models and recommendations to ensure accuracy and compliance.

5:00 PM: Before logging off, Claire updates her task list for the next day and sets reminders for upcoming deadlines. She sends a brief end-of-day report to her supervisor, summarising her completed tasks and noting any issues requiring attention.

5:30 PM: Claire’s workday ends, and she logs off to enjoy her evening activities.

Skills, experience and technology

Wondering whether it’s hard to be a paraplanner? The general answer that most paraplanners will give you is that it’s challenging, but not impossible, and well worth it. You may also find that you already have some of what it takes to succeed in this role.

Paraplanners provide crucial support within the financial planning industry. They require a unique set of skills, experiences, and technological proficiencies to succeed. Here are some of the most important ones.

  1. Attention to detail

This is paramount in paraplanning. Paraplanners must ensure that financial plans are accurate and compliant with both regulatory standards and client objectives. Attention to detail involves scrutinising financial data, double-checking calculations, and ensuring that every component of a financial plan or statement of advice (SOA) is correct. This precision helps prevent errors that could potentially lead to financial loss or legal issues for clients and planners.

  1. Time management

Paraplanners often work on multiple cases simultaneously, with strict deadlines. Effective time management skills are essential to prioritise tasks, manage workflows, and meet deadlines consistently. This includes scheduling time for research, report drafting, client follow-ups, and administrative tasks, ensuring that no single task monopolises their time to the detriment of others.

  1. Communication

Strong verbal and written communication skills are vital for paraplanners. They need to clearly articulate financial concepts and strategies to financial advisors and sometimes directly to clients. Additionally, paraplanners must be able to write detailed, understandable financial reports and SOAs that comply with legal standards and are easily interpretable by clients with varying levels of financial literacy.

  1. SOA preparation

The preparation of statements of advice (SOAs) is a core task for paraplanners. This involves drafting documents that outline the financial advice provided to clients, including the basis of the advice, the recommended financial products, and the rationale behind each recommendation. Mastery in SOA preparation requires not only a thorough understanding of financial planning principles but also the ability to present this information in a clear, compliant, and professional manner.

  1. Technology proficiency

Paraplanners must be adept at using various financial planning software and tools. These might include:

  • Financial modelling software: tools like XPLAN for creating detailed financial models and projections.
  • CRM systems: cloud-based services such as XPLAN, which help manage client interactions and data.
  • Document management systems: to keep client information secure and organised.
  • Compliance software: ensuring that all advice meets legal and regulatory requirements.

The combination of these skills and tools enables paraplanners to provide high-quality support to financial planners. The end goal is helping to tailor financial planning services that meet clients’ needs while adhering to regulatory requirements.

Paraplanner courses and qualifications

Wondering what you need to study to break into the paraplanning game? Although some paraplanners have degrees that are relevant to the job, it’s not essential to go to uni. There are faster and more practical ways to get there.

The main nationally-recognised paraplanner qualification is the Advanced Diploma of Paraplanning. And Monarch Institute is proud to offer a unique way to study the Advanced Diploma – 100% flexible and online, fully supported, with no exams (ever!).

With Monarch, you’ll learn through custom-built mobile-friendly multimedia lessons (no clunky textbooks!). There are plenty of practice opportunities and activities to build your skills and confidence. Then when you’re ready for assessment, you’ll work through simulated case work, made to feel like the real thing, but with a lot less pressure. You’ll cover 12 nationally-recognised units across eight core themes:

  • The Paraplanner: the actual tasks, processes, responsibilities, and professional development
  • The Client: client needs, wants, results, accountability, and communication.
  • The Practice: how planners/advisers and paraplanners work together to serve clients.
  • Managed Funds Advice: risk versus return, risk management, and the essential paperwork.
  • Research Activities: how to do thorough, efficient and insightful product research, ready to present to stakeholders.
  • Superannuation Advice: what super is for, and how to make it work for the client.
  • Insurance Advice: how to use insurance to protect wealth whilst building it.
  • Prepare, Present & Implement Advice: bringing it all together, from the initial client contact and product research, to a ready-to-present set of solutions, to post-advice service.

When you graduate, you’ll have a range of pathways open to you. You can step up in your current role, or start applying for paraplanning roles, right away. Your Advanced Diploma can also be a pathway to university study.

Still not sure whether paraplanning is the right course for you? Chat to one of our friendly Course Consultants today. They’ll answer all your questions and help you make the right move.

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Any questions? Ask away!