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Confidence and relationship building in paraplanning

Confidence is the feeling you have when you are capable of doing something successfully.

I recently attended a session on ‘Confidence and relationship building in Paraplanning’ hosted by The Paraplanner Club and presented by Carla Langley. The session was designed to help paraplanners to develop their confidence and to provide ideas and support to help them to challenge in a positive and constructive manner.

As was pointed out at the very start of the session, having the confidence to challenge is the bit about paraplanning no-one warns you about. Yet it is an incredibly important aspect to becoming a really good paraplanner. Whilst paraplanners may not be client facing, they have to do something that is possibly even more daunting than presenting to clients. They have to be able to constructively challenge their peers, to raise standards and ensure clients receive the best possible advice.

We started by looking at the definition of confidence. Paraplanners are often seen as less confident than their financial planner colleagues. It may be a stereotype that paraplanners prefer spreadsheets to people, but on the whole, they do tend to be quieter and more introverted than planners. As someone who can certainly relate to that, I found this part of the session particularly interesting.

So, what is confidence, or perhaps more importantly, what is it not? Confidence is not about being extroverted, loud or arrogant. In fact, the word confidence comes from the Latin word ‘fidere’ meaning ‘to trust’. So being confident is about having trust in yourself and believing in your own ability. It’s vital for building healthy relationships, both with your colleagues and your clients.

When looked at like this, I started to realise that most paraplanners actually do have confidence in their own ability. After all, they have usually spent years developing their technical knowledge and understanding to get to this point. So perhaps the key learning point is not so much about being confident, but more about how to convey your own knowledge and understanding to others in a positive manner. After all, paraplanners and financial planners all have the same end goal; creating happy clients by providing the best possible advice to help them achieve their goals.

So how do you challenge in a positive manner? Carla had some great tips for everyone here:

Firstly, it’s important to build a strong relationship with the person in question. Getting to know and understand each other is vital for building and maintaining a good relationship. If you’re going to start working with someone new, have a constructive conversation about how you’re going to work together. It’s also worth considering the methods of communication being used. If possible, speak face to face or by video call. Building relationships over email is very difficult and it can be easy to misunderstand the tone.

Secondly, once a problem has arisen, try to present this in a positive manner. It’s easy to get on the defensive if you feel you’re being criticised, so the way you phrase the issue can be key. Using phrases like these can lead to more constructive conversations:

‘Can I bring another idea into the mix?’

Can I play devil’s advocate for a minute?’

Thirdly, understand why the issue you’ve identified will pose a problem and then communicate this effectively. The example given was poor factfinding. This is a problem as it may mean the case will be difficult to defend in the event of a complaint.

Lastly, don’t just present the problem but also come up with an ideal solution. It’s important to know how the issue can be fixed and to address any negative impacts. This can help you to build trust and make the meeting as positive as possible.

Armed with this knowledge, we then looked at some case studies and were asked to come up with ideas on how to challenge in a positive manner. Some of the mentors from The Paraplanner Club had some great ideas to try here, including:

  • Start by asking for a face-to-face (or video) meeting with the financial planner to discuss the case in more detail with them.

  • Make a list of all the questions you have before the meeting. That way you can be clear and organised, and your focus can be on the conversation. It also means you don’t have to keep going backwards and forwards with more questions later.

  • Ask the financial planner to talk you through the case and keep probing them for more information. Often the information is in their heads, it’s just a case of getting it down on paper.

  • Make sure you’re on their side. Ensure they know why you need this information and that this will help you write a really good report and ultimately ensure compliance (or the FOS) understand why the case is suitable.

  • Identify if there has been a gap in the process and look at how can this be fixed. Is this a training need or possibly a process issue? Consider how the information is being recorded and perhaps make use of things like structured notes or dictation apps.

Overall, the session offered some great insights into how paraplanners can build and improve their relationships with financial planners and challenge in a positive way.

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