Paraplanners are playing an increasing role in making decisions as to what platforms, providers and softwares are used within financial planning businesses. This is often because they are the people using platforms/softwares on a day-to-day basis.
In fact, a recent survey we conducted shows that 60% of advisers considers platform/provider due diligence a core part of paraplanners’ role and nearly 10 % of advisers plan to outsource some or all their paraplanning work in the next 12 months.
Against this backdrop, it is a quite shocking that most platform providers are doing very little to engage the paraplanning community at large. Most events hosted by platforms/providers are still designed with advisers in mind, with very little content that appeals to often technically-inclined paraplanners.
Platforms still don’t even offer any access to outsourced paraplanners. A core part of platform due diligence exercise is the user experience and one might argue that if outsourced paraplanners have to jump through hoops just to gain access to a platform in order to ‘test drive’ it, they are far less likely to consider the overall experience positive.
It is not unusual that an outsourced paraplanning firm will serve multiple advisory firms and have contacts with several advisers on a regular basis. Needless to say, platforms who successfully engage this sector of the market will fare much better than those who don’t.
This goes for software suppliers as well, with some suppliers deliberately alienating outsourced paraplanners. For instance one pension software supplier pegs their price for outsourced paraplanners at three times the cost they charge IFAs and they make it mandatory for paraplanners to buy their investment software, something they don’t do with advisers. My quick survey of 10 or so paraplanning firms (who must serve 100s IFA clients between them) shows that 9 out of 10 go with a competitor with a better pricing structure. No surprise there!
Paraplanners can be a source of much needed feedback for platforms/providers/suppliers, because often they are the ones using the them on a day-to-day basis. In my recent live webcast, Shaun Sandiford of AxaWealth Elevate points to their own internal research which shows that where paraplanners are registered on platform, they tend to log in and use the platform more frequently.
There are of course a few exemptions. A few platforms/providers seem to have realised the increasing influence of paraplanners in a post RDR world and are already getting feedback and running events specifically designed with paraplanners in mind. These are in the minority and will no doubt reap the dividends.