Why paraplanning is a great career for men?
To attract more men and encourage them to stay for the long term, common misconceptions about the role need to change
Historically, men have been more likely than women to view paraplanning as a stepping stone to becoming an adviser. Recent research from Quilter Financial Planning’s behavioural consultancy shows this is still the case.
The research found far more male paraplanners than female paraplanners wanted to become an adviser, registering 41% and just 6% respectively.
Paraplanning is the academic side of advice. It’s objective, and also allows you to be more objective
Paraplanning has become regarded as a career in its own right. However, to attract more men and encourage them to stay for the long term, common misconceptions about the role need to change.
Defining the role
The role of the paraplanner varies from firm to firm and there is no reference to finance in the job title. Commentators believe these two factors contribute to paraplanning’s lower profile among men relative to financial advice.
“The problem is there are so many definitions,” says Quilter Financial Planning business consultant and behavioural economist Mark Pittaccio. “I work with hundreds of businesses where paraplanners run from admin assistants getting information from providers up to highly qualified financial people, but they are all titled the same.
We have the flexibility to work at evenings and weekends
“If you talk to any graduates or people considering a career change, this role is so poorly designed and validated.
“You could argue even paraplanners don’t know when they’ve become paraplanners.”
Some years ago, Pittaccio worked with the Institute of Financial Planning — a professional body that merged with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment in 2015 — on making paraplanning a profession. He feels an opportunity to redefine the role was missed, and male paraplanners agree the job title has led to an image problem.
Succession Wealth senior paraplanner Liam Chapman-Lyes points out that, when one searches for paraplanning on Google, the first thing one sees is a definition from Investopedia that may not sound hugely appealing to men in search of a long-term career. It refers to “the administrative, back-office and clerical duties that financial planners delegate to junior-level staff”.
There are so many definitions, even paraplanners don’t know when they’ve become paraplanners
Does being financial planning’s little brother sound like a lifetime career? To encourage more men into paraplanning with confidence their career can progress, certain myths need to be busted.
“We need to change perceptions of paraplanners and paraplanning,” says Chapman-Lyes.
He believes the term ‘technical financial planner’ more accurately defines his role.
One myth is that paraplanners are less qualified than financial advisers, but they can have more qualifications than advisers do.
When Chapman-Lyes became a paraplanner five years ago, he was already qualified to Level 4 and had intended to move into advice. Although he has not ruled out that option, he is currently focused on his paraplanning career, which he says enables progression through more complex cases and exams.
You can become better at what you do or branch out. There is a huge amount of flexibility
“It’s an excellent arena to build up technical skills and experience, and take your financial exams,” says Chapman-Lyes.
“During lockdown, I had the opportunity to become client facing, as an associate financial planner.
“But I used that time to get Level 6 chartered.”
Gender stereotyping and socialisation may be responsible for men and women dominating different areas of financial planning. But seeing someone like yourself doing a job you may not have considered can bring about change as more people start identifying with that person.
“I work closely with good financial planning firms that were struggling to hire female advisers but, once they had one, the next two were easy,” says Pittaccio.
Paul Kenworthy and Troy Johnson are male paraplanners at outsourced paraplanning firm We Paraplan. Johnson immediately noticed the gender disparity within paraplanning because his team was often addressed as ‘ladies — and Troy’. But senior paraplanner Kenworthy was unaware of it until he read about it.
It’s an excellent arena to build technical skills and experience, and take your financial exams
Kenworthy has never wanted to become an adviser.
“I think you need to be a certain type of person and have a particular mindset for that, but I’m more analytical,” he says.
Kenworthy’s point is interesting given the role of the financial adviser has become more about relationships and ‘people’ skills, which typically are associated with females. In contrast, paraplanning plays to different strengths — analytical and technical skills that promote emotional distance — which traditionally were regarded as male.
“Paraplanning is the academic side of advice. It’s objective, and also allows you to be more objective,” says Johnson.
“Advisers see individuals face to face and build relationships with them, but I look only at people’s details, so I’m a little more emotionally removed.
“I sit remotely from individuals’ hopes and dreams for their grandchildren.”
What could make paraplanning a compelling career choice for men of all ages is its flexibility. Even if you choose to become a career paraplanner, you retain the ability to move in a different direction, such as advice.
We need to change perceptions of paraplanners and paraplanning
“You can become better at what you do or branch out; take on more complicated cases or move to be an adviser. There is a huge amount of flexibility,” says Johnson.
Fathers of young children may also like the flexible working hours.
“We have the flexibility to work at evenings and weekends,” says Kenworthy. “So it is very natural for us to work from home.”
This article featured in the September 2022 edition of MM.