By Lucy Bennett
One of the best things about working as a financial planner is that no two days are the same. The opportunities for progression are vast, and the satisfaction from helping clients is second to none.
If you are looking to start a career in financial planning but not sure what it actually entails, we are going to give you a flavour of what a typical day as a financial planner looks like at Paradigm Norton. We will discuss more about the tasks our team undertake and how the role fits in with the wider financial planning firm.
What is a financial planner?
A financial planner (also called a paraplanner within the profession) helps individuals to structure their finances to meet their needs and broader life goals. Financial planners will work alongside a client manager – whose role primarily is to manage the relationship with the client. Client managers are authorised and regulated to provide advice and they present the majority of the content within meetings and lead telephone conversations with clients.
The financial planner/ paraplanner role is primarily to support the client manager in all stages of the client relationship, from conducting detailed technical research behind the scenes, to presenting financial plans to clients in meetings.
Who do financial planners work with?
A financial planner will typically work with individuals and families, but this can extend to business owners and small businesses too. A typical Paradigm Norton client will be between the ages of 40 and 65 and will be accumulating capital whilst they are still working. A common financial goal articulated by clients is being able to fund their lifestyle in retirement with a particular retirement age in mind.
Other common goals include being able to financially support children and grandchildren and other family members and to make charitable gifts. Some clients have quite a specific goal in mind, for example, to be able to purchase a holiday home in their favourite holiday destination and for some, their primary goal is to ‘do good’ with their investments.
Is there a difference between financial planner and financial adviser?
Financial planners look holistically at the client’s situation. They take time to discover what is most important to the client, and what their main goals are in their lifetime. They will build lifetime financial plans which will show visually, the outcome of making different decisions and the impact this will have on their long-term financial plan and ability to meet their goals. This will enable the financial planner to build a portfolio with different wrappers and investments which will help the client meet these objectives.
The term ‘financial adviser’ is typically associated with someone who provides a suite of financial products and less with holistic lifetime financial planning and goals led conversations with clients.
A financial planner, by contrast, will take time to really understand a client’s goals, values and motivations and will ensure that their money is aligned with their values and broader life goals and ambitions.
What tasks do financial planners undertake?
Financial planning looks quite different for each client. This is because planning in our firm is tailored specifically to their individual needs and the tasks undertaken for each client depends on these needs. However, we have set out below some tasks that I undertake typically on a daily, weekly, monthly and ad hoc basis.
Like most roles, the first daily task for any financial planner is to check their email inbox. Has anything important or urgent been received that takes priority over any existing tasks? Checking my emails typically takes no longer than half an hour. I would then focus on the urgent tasks for the next hour or so after that. If there are emails from clients which require a more thorough response, this will slot into the to do list for later in the day.
Urgent client emails could include a request for information or an update on their investment values (especially after a period of turbulence in global stock markets) or requests for withdrawals or new money for investment.
Next on the list includes the buying and selling of investments, arranging withdrawals and rebalancing portfolios in line with the agreed investment strategy – all dealing needs to be done in the morning before the daily cut off. This is usually all done online although the odd paper transaction might slip in once every few weeks. You may also need to carry out peer reviews of colleagues’ dealings.
The remainder of the day is spent on client work which most days takes the form of conducting research, formulating recommendations and writing these up in compliant suitability reports. The day will also involve providing support to the client managers, for example if research or planning is required as a result of a client query.
At the end of every day a good financial planner will set out a to-do list for the next day. This only takes fifteen minutes but is one of the most important tasks in the day. It will allow them to assess and prioritise ongoing tasks and ensure nothing important is missed.
Once a week internal teams will meet to discuss workloads and priorities for the week ahead. This might take only half an hour but ensures that we are all working on the highest priority tasks, and nothing gets missed. Part of the role includes buddying other financial planners to share knowledge and provide support and this usually means speaking at least once a week.
It is usual to have many transactions on the go for different clients and we like to check in on these weekly to check progress and ensure all is going smoothly.
One big task that financial planners undertake is an annual client portfolio review. With so many clients to work with, there are always a handful of these each month. These meetings usually fall within the same month each year so that there is a full twelve-month period to review.
A typical review cycle will look something like:
1. Prepare annual analysis document
Financial planning assistant prepares the annual analysis document for the client which is then checked for accuracy. The client manager also checks this over and once finalised, this is sent on to the client.
2. Preparation for meeting
Preparing for a meeting which involves checking whether tax allowances have been used, whether there are any planning opportunities in the upcoming year for our client, for example due to changing legislation or a change in their circumstances and reviewing our meeting notes from the previous year.
3. Update financial plan
Updating the financial plan with any updates provided by the client ahead of the meeting and up to date values and assumptions ready for use within the meeting.
4. Client manager leads the planning meeting
The client manager leads the meeting with the client, with the financial planner there to present the financial plan to the client. This involves going through the inputs to check for any changes, as well as presenting the conclusions and stress testing the plan. They would also cover off any other financial planning matters during the meeting.
5. Meeting write up
Following the meeting the notes will have to be typed up. It is important that notes are thorough and accurately reflect the discussions that have taken place. These notes are all there is to refer back to and so these need to be done with care and attention to detail.
6. Follow up
Follow up recommendations are then produced for the client.
Ad Hoc tasks
Ensuring you are kept up to date with the latest industry knowledge is vital. One way of doing this is by attending paraplanning conferences. So keeping an eye out for these and attend a session or speaker that you find interesting or will help you in your role. These are usually in person and it is great to meet other people undertaking similar roles at different firms. This might occur two or three times a year.
There is often an opportunity to get involved in projects and committees. For example, at Paradigm Norton we have a ‘Financial Planning Week’ team, which takes a few hours towards the end of the calendar year to coordinate the company’s approach, and this can involve presenting progress to colleagues. We also run a General Council that meets twice a year to discuss donations from the Paradigm Norton Charitable Trust to different charities, and this is an incredibly rewarding role.
We are fortunate enough to have an in-house tax team, so our financial planners regularly liaise with the tax managers on more complex tax matters. There is a coordinated approach, and we share knowledge and information to ensure the best outcomes for our clients.
Many of our financial planners are working towards Chartered Financial Planner status with the Chartered Insurance Institute, so there is always a lot of studying for these exams. It is also important to keep up to date and we evidence this through maintaining Continuing Professional Development records.
Financial planning could be for you
Whilst it is one of the key responsibilities, the role of a financial planner is so much more than simply providing support to the client manager. The role can be incredibly varied and although some of the tasks are undertaken independently, a co-ordinated team approach is vital to support the client.
If you’re interested in becoming a financial planner, there are a few financial planning books you should take a look at reading. They have helped lots of our financial planning team here. We would also encourage you to look out for job vacancies on our careers page so see what roles we have available.