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The role of the paraplanner has evolved greatly over the last 20 years and paraplanners today have become an integral part of the clients journey, dealing with the technical aspects of their financial plans. Paraplanning is a challenging, varied and rewarding role.

Paraplanners use their in-depth knowledge of financial services to work in collaboration with the financial planning team. Working alongside a financial adviser, paraplanners gather information to produce reports for clients. This includes; researching options, modelling scenarios, and reviewing recommendations. Once a financial plan has been agreed, the paraplanner is central to the implementation process, and thereafter for maintaining compliant client files and preparing annual reviews.

What qualifications do you need?

There is no minimum qualification requirement for paraplanning roles, so job vacancies vary in terms of what they ask for. Having said that, it is common for employers to expect applicants to be RQF level 4 qualified. So, if you are looking to increase your options and develop your career, achieving a relevant qualification will put you in a competitive position.

Many paraplanners in the role will have achieved or be working towards a level 4 qualification. The main examining bodies offering qualifications are:

Before choosing which qualifications to take, we recommend you do some research into the methods of assessment used by the examining bodies. Some examinations are multiple choice, others are written answers. Some qualifications are assessed using just exams, some use a mixture of coursework and examination, others are heavily coursework based. Each individual will have their own preferences so deciding on a route that best suits your strengths is an important step.

It is also worth considering the qualification preferences of the firms you are hoping to work for; find out if they favour one route over another.

At BTS, we support the CII route so the information in this profile focuses on some of the main qualifications offered by the CII. Below you will find an overview of the CII Certificate in Paraplanning, the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, along with links to detailed information on each of the exams that make up the qualifications.

The CII Certificate in Paraplanning is a RQF level 4 certificate that offers a dedicated qualification route for paraplanners covering paraplanning skills and technical knowledge in key areas such as personal taxation and investment. There are four core units that make up the certificate, these are; R01 or CF1, R02, R03 and J09.

Key Points:

The CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning is an RQF level 4 diploma made up of six core modules, commonly referred to as the R0 exams.  An RQF level 4 diploma is an FCA requirement for Financial Advisers wishing to provide regulated financial advice. There are six compulsory R0 exam units.

There is no set order in which to take the units, you can sit them in any order you choose. For candidates new to the industry, we usually recommending starting with R01 Financial services, regulation and ethics as this provides a sound knowledge base which is relevant to each of the other units. Then, we recommend taking R05 Financial protection as this is a level 3 unit with no multi-response questions. It is advisable to take R03 Personal taxation and R02 Investment principles and risk fairly closely together as there is significant syllabus cross-over between these two units. R04 should usually be attempted as the penultimate unit due to the knowledge required from the other units. The R06 Financial planning practice unit is usually sat as the final exam as it draws on knowledge and understanding from each of the other R0s.

Notice how three of the units that make up the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning make up part of the Certificate in Paraplanning. For paraplanners new to the role, completing the Certificate in Paraplanning will both support you in your role and set you on the path to working towards the level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.

The CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning is a level 6 qualification. It is becoming increasingly common for paraplanners to pursue level 6 qualifications and even achieve Chartered status.

To complete the Advanced Diploma, candidates must already hold either the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning or the Diploma in Financial Planning. The Advanced Diploma is made up of a selection of units totalling 290 credits. Candidates must sit one mandatory unit, the AF5 Financial planning process (30 credits). The remaining credits can be made up of a combination of units. A total of 120 credits must be at level 6, taken from the AF exams (including the AF5), a further 40 credits must be at level 4 or above (the J0 and R0 exams), and the remaining 130 credits can come from any unit except LF1. The tables below shows the AF and J0 unit options. The CII Qualifications Framework shows the full range of CII units, their level and credit value.

Achieving Chartered Status

In order to apply for Chartered Status with the CII you will need to: 

·    Hold the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning

·    Have five years’ relevant industry experience

·    Be a CII or PFS member and adhere to the CII’s Code of Ethics and Conduct

·    Demonstrate three years’ existing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and commit to maintaining this activity

What skills do paraplanners need?

  • Communication skills – written and verbal. You will need to be able to write technical content in a way that clients can understand. You will also need to have a clear line of communication with the financial advisers you work alongside, especially if you need to refer back to an adviser if the recommendation does not seem clear or you feel there may be an element integral to the advice missing.
  • Analytical problem solving skills – you will need to be able to interpret, at times, large quantities or data, assessing the different options available to a client and assess if this proposed recommendation best meets the clients needs.
  • Planning and organisation skills – you will need to organise your time and resources to support the needs of the firm. This can vary from team to team, so flexibility is also important.
  • Integrity – being able to uphold FCA standards of compliance requires a firm grasp of the rules and the integrity to flag when something doesn’t look right.
  • Initiative – you will sometimes need to think outside the box. Paraplanners are not simply assistants to financial advisers, they are relied upon for their ability to sense-check recommendations and explore all the available options.
  • Technical writing skills – you will need to maintain your technical knowledge, keep abreast of changes in legislation and changes in the market. Your ability to produce technical and accurate reports is crucial.

What does a typical day look like?

  • Attending client meetings alongside a financial adviser
  • Researching financial products for a client
  • Researching investments for a client
  • Creating, and in some instances presenting, cash flow forecasts using cash flow modelling software
  • Analysing and assessing client information and possible solutions
  • Keeping up to date with changes in legislation
  • Preparing financial plans and reports that describe the advice and recommendations provided for a client
  • Keeping up to date with new products
  • Creating templates for reports, letters and other client-facing documents
  • Attending and contributing to investment committee meetings
  • Contributing to the training and development of the wider team
  • Implementing new systems into the business

What does career development look like?

Being a paraplanner is a career in its own right and as the role can vary from firm to firm, many paraplanners stay in a variation of the role for their whole career.

More and more paraplanners are now pursuing advanced qualifications to develop their expertise within the field of paraplanning.

Outsourced paraplanning is also an option for those considering freelancing. There are even employed roles within the outsourced paraplanning world for those who prefer not to be self-employed.

Having a background as a paraplanner can also lead to other roles in financial services, for example:

  • Financial adviser
  • Compliance roles
  • Technical specialist
  • Training / learning & development
  • Investment management

Who employs paraplanners?

Paraplanners usually work within financial planning teams in a range of settings including; wealth management firms, financial advice firms, or specialised paraplanning firms, on an outsourced / freelance basis.

Apprenticeships are available in paraplanning. Find out more by visiting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

St. James's Place Financial Adviser Academy logo

St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy

True Potential logo

True Potential

Paraplanner Vacancies

Check out our Featured Company area for current opportunities.

Part Time Office Administrator/Paraplanner

Freelance Paraplanner

Chartered Client Manager (paraplanner)

Client Manager (Paraplanner)

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