Growing a strong team
Jonny Stubbs joined us as Head of Technical Support in January 2018 and was tasked with growing and developing the in-house paraplanning team. At the time, the team consisted of four paraplanners, including Jonny; since then, largely through external recruitment, the team has grown to nine, which he describes as “about right”. From now on, he hopes to build the team through internal development.
We primarily deal with high net worth clients, including professional sportspeople and, have been running a graduate training scheme for seven years to train up paraplanners and advisers. Jonny explains that the firm has just reviewed the scheme to make it more effective for the business. “It was a five-year program where typically the graduate spent two years as an administrator, two years as a paraplanner and a year as a trainee adviser, before becoming a fully-fledged financial planner. We’re changing that format to make the process more flexible to introduce the graduates to the various aspects of the overall role sooner. So, they may be working in admin but they may also be doing some basic report writing. It means they will be learning more, faster.
“We’re also introducing specific training outside of the core work, such as role-playing, technical, file review, compliance, and suitability assessment training. It’s fast-tracking them to where they can have the greatest effect in the business.
“It is still a five-year program,” he adds, “because we want our advisers to be chartered when they see clients, but it’s also about building their experience. We want them to know every aspect of the financial advice process, including working with them on the softer skills they will need to do the job in the right way.”
Currently, the firm has around 90 employees, including 17 graduates in the scheme. “That’s a big investment from us and I don’t know of any other financial planning business, outside of networks and nationals, that have committed so much to bringing new people into the industry.”
When Jonny joined the firm he stepped into a newly created role, which, unsurprisingly, has developed in the interim period. “A big part of my job has been creating a larger team as well as an environment where paraplanners want to stay.” Also, he has taken on the running of the firm’s transfer servicing team, the admin unit focused on obtaining data from providers to effect pension transfers. “It’s a technical administration team of seven, including a team leader.”
Project work also has been a significant part of the role. Major projects have been redesigning the Client Review process – “What we wanted to do is make the entire process pro-active, so the advice team has the full picture of the client in front of them as early as possible” – and development of the firm’s Centralised Retirement Proposition (CRP) – “It’s a means to document the processes to show that as a firm we acknowledge that difference and the relevant risks involved and that there are formal procedures in place,” he says.
One of Jonny’s goals in March 2018 was to put together a style guide for the paraplanning team. This has grown into a more formal procedures document, stating how the paraplanning team works, setting down the approach to research, analysis and report writing, etc, and setting out standards in terms of style, grammar, and punctuation.
“The structural change work I’ve been involved with has taken precedent over the past 18 months so this has been a work in progress,” Jonny says. “But it’s needed because every firm does things differently and things change, so you need to have something written down for people to refer to.”
Another goal in 2018 was to try to use technology to make the paraplanning process more efficient. “This is another work in progress but we’ve been able to make small day-to-day improvements, for example, using templates in Intelligent Office and pulling in data from the back office which saves keying in that data to a suitability report. We’re also lucky to have a couple of guys who are wizards with Excel, and they have put together some clever spreadsheets which have helped us automate things like MiFID II charges, fund research and so on.”
He also wanted to have the firm’s paraplanners work more on a one-to-one basis with the advisers. “There is an ongoing debate in paraplanning circles, whether one-to-one or a pooled paraplanning approach works best. We are now almost one-to-one with all our core advisers, but we also operate a pooled approach for overflow work or where an adviser’s workload doesn’t need that full-time support. I think the one-to-one approach helps build a good working relationship between the paraplanner and the adviser, but I also like the pooled approach because of the flexibility it gives me within the team when we need it. Having built up the bigger paraplanning team we are now able to do both.”