What Is a Paraplanner and How to Get Started
If you’re interested in jumping into the finance industry, you’re in luck! The financial world is one of the few sectors anyone can enter, whether they’re fresh out of college or looking for a career change. As long as you’re knowledgeable about finances and possess the skills it takes, you can get your foot in the door.
Plus, it’s well documented that paraplanners are in high demand these days, making it a great way to get started. The paraplanner career path opens you up for a lot of opportunities to grow and develop in the industry. So, what can you expect as a paraplanner, and how do you get started?
What is the role of a paraplanner?
As a paraplanner, your main role is to aid in financial planning. This is usually done under the direction of the company’s lead financial planner.
Paraplanner responsibilities include preparing analytical reports, as well as performing financial research. You’ll also to gather client information and develop analysis-backed recommendations for them. However, paraplanners typically have minimal client interaction, compared to client-facing advisors and consultants.
Should you become an in-house or outsourced paraplanner?
The answer to this question all depends on you, and the paraplanner lifestyle you want to have! There are definite advantages to both options.
As an in-house paraplanner, you’ll slowly become familiar with the company and its clients. This allows you to create your own routine, and gain experience in certain areas and tasks. In addition, in-house paraplanners are more likely to see internal promotions to more senior roles. So if you’re looking for long-term growth, becoming an in-house paraplanner might be your best bet.
As an outsourced paraplanner, on the other hand, you’ll work as an independent contractor. This gives you the chance to work with various smaller firms that don’t have large budgets, allowing you to learn more about these niche areas of the financial industry. If you’re not yet sure what kind of firm you want to work in, or if you’d like more variety in your days, this may be the perfect option.
What are the basic paraplanning qualifications?
This may come as a surprise, but there are actually no structured qualifications. However, the basic expectation is that you should have a bachelor’s in accounting or finance. You’ll also need a keen knowledge of financial planning concepts. Plus, you’ll need to be comfortable using different types of financial planning software. Beyond this, every company will have its own minimum qualifications.
To make yourself more marketable, consider getting a Registered Paraplanner qualification (RP) from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Passing this certification requires you to pass a 10-module course and a final exam.
As you progress in your career, you may want to pass the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) program, as many consider it to be the industry gold standard. If you have an interest in paraplanning long-term, this certification shows your commitment and competence. To increase your chances of getting hired, you can also look into becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
In terms of industry software, there are no specific exams or qualifications needed. However, as stated above, it’s a good idea to be as familiar with it as possible. Try to request demo versions of the most popular software to play with them on your own. You can also keep an eye out for online courses that walk you through the basics.
As for soft skills, a paraplanner needs strong technical knowledge and keen organizational skills. You should also be able to prioritize and tackle tasks based on strict deadlines. Even though your role will be analytical in nature, you’ll still need great interpersonal skills in order to interact with clients. And don’t forget communicative skills, to make verbal and written recommendations.
What kind of paraplanner career path can I look forward to?
For recent grads who want to get into the financial industry, paraplanning is the perfect way to get a strong foundation. This is especially true if you’re simply looking for a role to use as a stepping stone toward other financial careers. Landing an entry-level position lets you gain experience to move your career forward.
From this entry-level job, you can slowly pick up experience and skills, identifying areas in which you want to develop. For example, you may decide to specialize in mortgages, insurance, or investment management over other types of paraplanning.
As you develop your own skills as a paraplanner, you become much more valuable to your company. Within a few years, you can take on a role as a senior paraplanner, with advanced coursework and qualifications—not to mention a higher paraplanner salary.
Eventually, paraplanners can put their skills toward careers with even more responsibility. For example, paraplanners can later become lead financial planners, financial advisors, investment analysts, and more.
How do I get my foot in the door?
In order to start off your paraplanner career, of course, you’ll need to network, network, network! Many major cities have a local Financial Planner Association (FPA) chapter, or one for the National Association for Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Both of these are great ways to meet others in the industry. There, you’ll learn about conferences, potential employers, industry best practices, and scholarships.
Whether you’re fresh out of grad school or changing careers, getting your foot in the door is all it takes to launch a successful career in the financial industry.