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Laura Russell

Head of Paraplanner Development at Succession Wealth

Are we doing enough to close the advice gap?

All of the reports seem to indicate that we’ve got these vast numbers of people leaving and not enough people coming through. I do think that we need more in the way of graduate schemes, and more awareness at that grass roots level, in schools. Because it takes time to gain the skills and the knowledge to become an adviser or a paraplanner.

We also need to open people’s eyes to the career opportunities in the industry. You might train as a paraplanner and want to stay in that role, but you might also change your mind and decide to become a financial planner. Or perhaps you realise you have the skills to go into compliance, for example. There are lots of different avenues you could take and each of them would make a really attractive career for young people to consider. For me it’s purely an awareness thing.

Younger people just aren’t aware of financial advice as a viable career path, and I think that’s something that we, as the whole sector, need to do get better at if we’re going to bridge the gap. Equally, there are some perceptions, many of which I don’t think are valid, that are putting people off joining the profession.

I didn’t know anything about the industry before I joined, and so many people come into it by chance. It’s a career you just don’t know about until you start in it, which isn’t good enough, if we want to close the advice gap.

What value can a good paraplanner add to an advice firm?

Paraplanners have a hugely important role within an advice business. They are often the ones with the critical analysis skills and technical knowledge who come up with ideas of how best to meet the client’s objectives. That frees up more of the adviser’s time which they can then devote to their clients, because they know that their paraplanner can put together all the necessary research and analysis for the advice they want to provide. In good teams the skills of the paraplanner complement those of the planner and it’s this combination that helps ensure the client gets the best service.

How is paraplanning viewed as a career compared to becoming an adviser?

With paraplanning, you’ve got those who do want to move onto becoming a financial planner, and clearly that is a natural progression route through the sector. But equally, you’ve got the ‘rise of paraplanning’ that’s happening, where paraplanning is actually becoming a career in its own right.

For some people, the client facing role isn’t for them and paraplanning gives them that really good career within financial services without having to take on the adviser role, if they don’t want to.

The top paraplanners are like gold dust, so companies often want to keep them on as paraplanners. And because paraplanners are so valuable, that also means there’s a balance needed for advice firms, between attracting talent that want to move through to become advisers, and those that want to stay within the paraplanning profession.

What could be done to attract more people to paraplanning in particular?

I think some more formal definitions of paraplanning would be helpful to attract more people into the industry, as there’s still a lot of debate about whether it is a profession. When you compare it to other professional services, like accountancy, we don’t have those same clear-cut standards and there is massive variation in terms of what paraplanning means to different firms.

Is the gender balance noticeably different compared to the wider industry?

We have a lot of female paraplanners. It is certainly a far higher proportion than the number of female financial planners that we have. That’s partly down to the fact you can work paraplanning around your personal situation and family choices, which often suits women midway through their career, but of course that can also appeal to men too and we have a really high number of male paraplanners.

Do you have any training schemes at Succession?

We do have a graduate scheme and a fast track scheme. So, we take on graduates each year and they go through a training scheme to become a qualified financial planner. But they spend time in administration and in paraplanning too. We also have an internal version of the scheme for people who are, perhaps, in an administration role and want an opportunity to develop and progress within the business.

How easy is it to find good candidates?

Paraplanning recruitment is difficult at times because good quality paraplanners are in short supply. We have minimum standards in terms of qualifications, and we like everyone to be diploma qualified. Experience is key too, so we don’t just focus on the exams. It’s also about those other skills, being able to analyse information, being able to summarise it succinctly and clearly in a concise way for the client. It’s understanding the different products out there.

What else needs to happen to close the advice gap, do you think?

There needs to be wholesale investment in technology to help create efficiencies to make that processes quicker and smoother. I honestly think that the companies that don’t invest in technology are not going to be able to survive. The ones who do well will be those that harness the potential of technology to help them meet the needs of all those clients and deliver the service they should be delivering to them.

We’ve got a group within Succession that is looking at the clients of the future and how they will differ from the average client we have today. We’re essentially asking ourselves questions about what do we need to do, as a business, to move forward to meet those future needs and to be scalable and to operate effectively in the future? Because there is a marked difference between that the millennial generation wants and expects versus what lots of clients are used to getting today.

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The advice gap looks set to grow substantially – with significant implications for the financial advice profession.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – Why the advice gap looks set to grow wider

Learn why the advice gap looks set to grow wider and why outdated perceptions of the profession are making recruitment more difficult.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Raising awareness of financial advice as a career

This chapter outlines how we can attract the next generation of talent as well as the significant commercial benefits of doing so.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Harnessing technology and new ways of working

Technology has huge potential to help close the advice gap, but where should you start, and what are the barriers that still need to be overcome.

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