New to paraplanning? Taking part in the Big Day Out on 15 September (or thinking about coming along)? Then we’ve got JUST the thing for you because Siân Davies Cole and Kimberley Malin will be hosting an informal gathering for new paraplanners over the long lunch break at the event.

The optional session will give you the chance to

Your hosts offer exactly the right blend of experience from BOTH ends of the professional journey.

Siân will already be very well known to many paraplanners. A director of Plan Works and co-founder of The Paraplanner Club, Siân counts as one of the most experienced and influential paraplanning leaders working in the UK today.

If you haven’t already encountered Kimberley on LinkedIn then now’s your chance to say ‘hello’ in person. After amassing great experience since 2013 as an Administrator with Four Oaks, Tilney and Plan Works, Kimberley returned to Four Oaks in June 2021 and, in January this year, was appointed as a junior paraplanner –her first role entirely dedicated to paraplanning. Follow her on LinkedIn and you’ll see that Kimberley’s ‘on a mission to become the ultimate paraplanner’ – she’d love you to achieve that too.

New to paraplanning and want to take part?

If you’re at the Big Day Out and Siân and Kimberley’s session sounds like just the thing for you, their session will start at 1:15pm. If you’d like to go but haven’t grabbed your ticket yet, don’t leave it too late. Follow this link to book your ticket now ➔ Big Day Out 2022 tickets

The announcement of Siân and Kimberley’s session follows the news that Sarah Lees and Jonny Stubbs will be co-hosts of the event when it gathers at FarmED in Oxfordshire on 15 September 2022.

A group of about 80 people are gathered in front of three teepees. The front front row is seated on hay bales. The rest stand. They are facing the camera.

We’d love as many paraplanners as possible to start your own Paraplanners’ Assembly – however and wherever you’d like.

But don’t feel you need anyone’s permission to create your own event because, just as Tim Berners-Lee once said about something else: ‘this is for everyone’.

What we would like to do is support any Assembly as much as we can. So here’s a few tips on how to start your own Paraplanners’ Assembly.

Let’s start with the organising principles behind the Paraplanners’ Assembly and how this might apply to your very own event. Then, we’ll explain the practical ways in which we can help one another and support your successful Assembly.

The spirit of the Assembly

The Paraplanners’ Assembly stemmed from a simple idea:

To provide a place where paraplanners can meet to exchange views about the future of our profession, to learn things, to fix things and to share things.

We’d love to see Assemblies – no matter how large or small – adopt that self-same spirit that led to the very first event. (So keep that thought at the back of your mind throughout.)

The six organising principles of the Paraplanners’ Assembly

We’ve adopted some ‘organising principles’ that we think give our events their distinctive character. If you’re thinking of putting on your own Assembly, here’s what they were:

1. (At least) two’s a crowd

Take inspiration from the organisers of other local Assemblies and share the load: Find at least one other person you know and organise the event together. And if you can’t find someone, let’s see if we know anyone you can partner up with.

2. Assembles are not-for-profit events

That’s right. Assemblies are voluntarily organised by paraplanners.

Every penny that participants and supporters part with is invested entirely on making the Paraplanners’ Assembly possible.

Our ambition was to create a place where paraplanners could meet at the lowest possible cost. And, ideally, the lowest cost would be ‘Free’. That’s what we suggest for local Assemblies.

3. Assembles belong to paraplanners

We adopt an ‘unconference’-style format. This means that, in advance of the event, participants get to pick the topics they want to talk about and decide on the priority through voting.

Organisations or brands who are supporting your Assembly should only contribute to discussion about topics that paraplanners themselves have determined or participate in ‘the spirit of the Assembly’, which we mentioned above and doesn’t mention ‘pushing our products and services’.

4. Assemblies are unwaveringly independent

What we mean by that is that the Assemblies are not forums in which organisations or brands can pitch-up and flog their wares.

Because the event is designed by paraplanners for paraplanners (see 3, above), it’s paraplanners who decide what’s on the agenda rather than being subject to the agenda of others.

Organisations and brands supporting Assemblies are precisely that: supporters (not sponsors). Sponsorship brings with it certain rights for sponsors, whereas being a supporter brings no rights at all.

But that doesn’t prevent direct involvement in the event by supporters of Assemblies, so long as their participation is in keeping with the spirit of the Assembly: ‘To provide a place where paraplanners can meet to exchange views about the future of our profession, to learn things, to fix things and to share things’.

5. Participants – not ‘delegates’ or ‘attendees’

Assemblies aren’t events that are put on for people; people are the Assembly, so make sure people realise they’re there to take part before they turn up!

6. Wherever possible, chocolate and top-notch sweets should be provided

Because life’s a box of chocolates; not a saucer of boiled sweets.

6 practical ways to a successfully organise your own Paraplanners’ Assembly

1. We’re all in this together

As soon as you’ve resolved to set up an Assembly, feel free to get in touch by e-mailing [email protected].

We’ll set up a project for your Assembly using a bit of kit called Basecamp. Basecamp provides an online space where organisers of your Assembly – no matter how many there are and where they are in the country – can decide on things, set tasks and keep tabs on progress without clogging up your e-mail.

It means that everyone, who needs to be, is in the know about your Assembly’s organisation.

2. Our survey said…

Because Assemblies are designed by paraplanners for paraplanners, you’ll need a tool to gather opinion from potential Assembly participants on subjects from the preferred date and location of a Assembly, to voting for topics to discuss on the day.

To do this, we use the survey tool, Typeform, and we’d be very happy to set up surveys for you.

3. Where in the world-wide web?

Your Assembly will need its own page on the web where people can find out information and book their spot at your event, so we’ll build you one here at

And, speaking of booking a spot…

4. The future’s Eventbrite

For the Paraplanners’ Assembly, we used the online event management tool, Eventbrite, to handle all the ticketing and bookings and cancellations and wait-list and delegate lists and all that palaver. Eventbrite’s brilliant, so we’ll set up an Eventbrite page for your Assembly – which will include a gizmo to plug-in an online booking form for your Assembly’s page at

5. Getting the word out there

We’ve been in this game for some time and have accumulated quite the following hair flick. We’ll help you get the word out there on our social channels and before you know it, they’ll be hammering down the door.

6. We’ll send e-mail for you

(We couldn’t think of a snappy title for this bit.)

We’ll help you raise awareness for your event with all of our email subscribers. We don’t mean to boast but we have quite the subscription list.

And once you’re ready to roll, we’ll help you communicate with people who have signed up with the essential information for coming along the the event.

So that’s it.

If this has piqued your interest why not get in touch about organising an Assembly? Just  e-mail us at [email protected].

We’re beyond excited to reveal that Sarah Lees and Jonny Stubbs will be this year’s Big Day Out 2022 hosts in the Cotswold countryside setting of FarmED on Thursday 15 September 2022.

While this will be Sarah’s first appearance at the Paraplanners Assembly as a host, the senior paraplanner at Mazars Financial Planning Limited is no stranger to the main event. In fact, Sarah is a serial participant in the national Assembly. Her hosting debut will mean she’s notched up an impressive tally of SIX national events – missing only the 2017 edition since 2016.

Jonny at last year’s Big Day Out of this World with co-host Caroline Singleton. (Astronaut’s suit: Model’s own.)

The Big Day Out 2022 will be Jonny’s hat-trick of national Assembly host appearances but his first at an in-person event. In 2020, the director of risk for LIFT Financial caught the train to the imaginary coastal resort of Paraplanners Paradise alongside co-host Becca Tuck and, last year, was launched to the – once mythical – world of Paraplanet with fellow explorer, Caroline Singleton.

Sarah’s debut continues the tradition of inviting paraplanners with the desire to do so, the chance to host Assembly events. That practice started in 2017 when Caroline Stuart hosted the – then – national Powwow in Aynho, Northamptonshire. Between 2013 and 2016, Assembly co-founder, Richard Allum, had hosted all four national events.

(In fact, this article by Caroline Stuart from IFA Magazine in 2020 still sends tingles up the spines of your Assembly backroom team.)

Don’t leave it too late to grab your ticket!

Secure your ticket NOW for THE BIG DAY OUT on 15 September 2022 and, if you’d like to join us, the BIG NIGHT IN from 7pm on 14 September

It’s the first time we’ve gathered together since 2019.

The BIG DAY OUT cost £30. Tickets for THE BIG NIGHT IN cost £20.

For full event details and to grab your ticket ➔ Big Day Out 2022 on Eventbrite

Want to get involved in hosting Assembly events?

Then the first step is to get familiar with the different formats by trying out the different kinds of events we host. When you have – and you’re definitely interested in contributing a bit of time and energy – get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Whether it’s in reports or documentation, helping clients engage and understand the concepts and recommendations we’re making is part of a Paraplanner’s job.

Alongside the words you use in reports, graphics and illustrations can really help explain concepts and share key information with clients. But creating graphics that help you get across the information you want to share, while being pleasing to look at, isn’t easy. It can be a time consuming and frustrating process.

So, we thought we’d see if we could help out and we asked our supporters, Parmenion, whether they’d be happy to work with us on an idea.

The snippet collection

The Snippet Collection is a new resource that gives you free access to a basic range of simple graphics in various formats for documents and reports, with simple instructions on how to download, resize and reproduce in your brand colours.

It’s a limited collection to start with and, as you make further requests, we’ll develop it, adding further graphics based on demand.

With the Snippet Collection, we want to:

Richard shares a little more about the collection in this video.

Start using the snippet collection

Like anything, knowing when to put something out into the world is hard. There’s loads we’d like to add to the snippet collection and we could spend ages perfecting it but we’re going for progress over perfection and opening it up to you now. We hope that, as you start to use it, you’ll help us perfect it. That’s why it’s really important you share any ideas you have, or improvements you’d like us to look at. We’ve added a feedback survey to the collection for you to this.

So, what are you waiting for? Get stuck in. Use the graphics in your reports and share your thoughts with us.

Take a look at the collection now.

Digging deeper into report design

Perhaps you’d like to broaden your knowledge of designing client reports? A while back we had a conversation with designer, Mike Bond, about creating great looking reports. Watch it here.

While we’re talking about great reports, the words are just as important as the layout and images. We spoke to Simon Grover from Quietroom, about writing financial documents. Catch up here.

Thank you

We’ve been working on this for a while now and we want to thank Dan Atkinson and Rebecca Tuck for bringing their paraplanning experience and knowledge to this idea. We also want to thank the team at Parmenion for their time and design expertise.

Didn’t think you’d hear from Mission Control again? Well, we are about to launch a space time capsule into orbit.

This capsule will remind us and all future paraplanners of our maiden voyage to Paraplanet, all that we saw along the way, and what we wore to get there.

So without further delay, here it is…

A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away…a Big Bang occurred and after all the atoms had discussed how rude that was and dusted themselves off…a unique planet full of paraplanners was born, and thus we ended up calling it Paraplanet, quite rightly!


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Pete Hodkinson, our Chief Medical Officer, was on hand to give us all the safety tips required for a safe flight. Pete is Clinical Senior Lecturer and Head of Aerospace Medicine at King’s College London, so we were in safe hands.


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Astrophysicist, space writer, presenter, and now Paraplanet Spaceways’s official Chief Navigation Officer, Dr Jeni Millard pointed out all the sights our teams would be taking in on their explorative journey towards Paraplanet.


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And we wouldn’t be true paraplanners if we weren’t stepping into this new frontier without knowing what the future holds for investment in space. So we sent out a call for help, and Octopus Ventures hailed us for a chat.


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That’s it. We have carved a new chapter in history exploring Paraplanet and all it’s sights. It is now your turn to go forth and spread the learn, fix, and share motto across the Galaxy.

Over and out from Mission Control…

At the beginning of 2021, we asked paraplanners where they’d like us to focus this year. ESG was in the top five topics requested by paraplanners. So, we ran an ESG special in August and included it in our national event, the Big Day Out of this World.

At both events, we were joined by ESG specialist, Rebecca Kowalski. Her passion and knowledge of the topic helped breath life into the subject.

Rebecca has since set up Overstory – a consultancy with the aim to equip people with the tools, materials and communications they need to have conversations about sustainable investing with clients.

Meeting so many paraplanners at the two Paraplanners Assembly gatherings this year, has given Rebecca food for thought and she shares her thoughts here.

Over to Rebecca….

From Outerspace to Overstory

I had a really great time talking to Paraplanners about ESG at the Paraplanners Assembly “Big Day Out of the World” in September.  Over the last couple of years, with my former employer, my career path has launched me to Planet Compliance and Planet Sustainable Investment and Paraplanning was beginning to seem just a distant star in the sky.  Talking of stars however, I have a lovely shiny one on my window sill, in the form of the Paraplanner of the Year Award 2008, which is how I first met Richard Allum. Yes, I have been orbiting in the Paraplanner galaxy for that long! There have been other awards since then, but that first one always shines the brightest.

But back to the present and the Sustainable Investment mission has in fact been so successful that I ended up on a solo journey and decided a couple of months back to launch my own business, Overstory Finance. Sustainable investing has really gripped me and after over 25 years in financial services, I have never been so proud and excited about what I do.  My former employer encouraged and appreciated my enthusiasm for the subject and noted how it made things happen in the business, rubbing off on colleagues and clients and bringing in recognition for the firm’s sustainable investment portfolios. We were in fact planning to go where no IFA had gone before with the proposition. However, ownership of the business changed and I decided to thank them for their support, wish them all the best and take a small step for the planet and a giant leap for my career development by steering my own ship into the unknown.

Reach for the Tree-tops

So, here we are on the good ship Overstory.  If you don’t know (as I didn’t, until my husband made me read his “tree book” earlier this year –  “The Overstory” by Richard Powers), Overstory means the forest canopy, the tallest trees that grow higher than the others to reach the open sky.  Given I have been affectionately called the office “tree-hugger” in my time, the tree theme appealed to me and also, all Paraplanners like to tell a good story, right?  I haven’t finalised my official business mission statement yet, but the unofficial version would go something like this:

“Determined to use our sustainable investment knowledge, experience and passion to make the biggest possible difference to the financial services industry, to client experience and to the world we all share. Feel good finance for a finite world.”

In practice, this means that I aim to share and put to good use all the hands-on experience I have had, all the huge amount of learning I have done and all the ideas I have chased around my head at midnight through the long months of lockdown.  I have spoken to a lot of FS people about the barriers that deter advisers from embracing sustainable investment and have identified a number of ways in which I can help remove these.   These services will all be listed on my web page which is coming soon.

The Overstory Guide to Sustainable Investing

An early chat with a very kind sustainable investment idol of mine, Kaisie Rayner, got me thinking about writing some training/ learning materials and this idea was re-ignited at the Paraplanners Assembly Big Day Out of this World. Getting the chance to speak to so many people in a small space of time, I realised that there was a real appetite for knowledge about how to do ESG, ethical and sustainable investing well among the Paraplanner community. This shouldn’t of course be any surprise to me, as I should know from experience that no-one likes to do things well more than a serious Paraplanner!

After taking a slightly hell for leather, scattergun approach to building expertise in sustainable investing and matters related to it, I think I can make it easier for people in the financial advice profession who wish to understand the underlying themes, the investment strategies, the regulations, key issues and debates and suitability and compliance considerations relating to sustainable investing.

Having studied and gained some useful knowledge from the CFA Certificate in ESG Investing, I am aware that its method of assessment is very much focused on the role of an investment manager or fund analyst. In my mind’s eye, I see the Overstory guide to sustainable investment advice (don’t worry, a better title will evolve) as focused on the knowledge and practical skills necessary to understand, apply, and explain the theoretical concepts related to ESG, ethical, responsible, sustainable and impact investing. It should cover how to be prepared for client conversations, how to build a robust sustainable investment proposition and how to meet compliance requirements. Crucially for me, it should also take a very honest look at things like greenwashing and the authenticity of all the talk about how much finance can save the planet!  We should ask these questions of ourselves, before either a sceptical colleague or a client raises them.

Roots and branches

Following the Big Day Out of this World, I exchanged a couple of messages with Alyson Brooker of The Paraplanners and want to thank her for the insight she gave me into what type of learning would interest her.  It was really encouraging and informative. I have therefore asked the Paraplanners Assembly if they would help me connect with the wider paraplanning community to explore what you would like a text/ course / training to look like.  If we go back to my tree obsession, lets take a roots and branches approach and then we can all reach the canopy of sustainable investing expertise together.

I have already enlisted the help of Alan Whittle to work with me on delivering the learning materials and we are both keen to start on this rewarding project. Alan is a former Paraplanner and Compliance Officer who now works as a researcher, lecturer, trainer, and provider of external compliance support for financial planning firms.

We would be delighted to gather your thoughts on your learning needs and see what we can do to help meet them. Please answer 12 simple questions here 

Thanks Rebecca and good luck with your new venture. We’d encourage anyone interested in this topic to share their thoughts with Rebecca.

Our friends at Aegon are doing a lot of work around financial wellbeing. Dr Tom Mathar, Centre for Behavioural Research, Aegon UK and one of the experts on this online assembly, would like to share some thoughts with you.

Life is unpredictable and changes constantly. But what remains is our need for financial security and peace of mind. And with the rise of DIY platforms and robo-advice breaking through an industry focusing on three things – alpha, asset allocation and charges – the value of advice needs to go further. That’s where financial wellbeing can play its part.

So what is financial wellbeing?

Financial wellbeing is how people feel about the control they have over their financial future – and their relationship with money. It’s about focusing on the things that make their life more enjoyable and meaningful – both now and in the future.

What we focus our mind on matters

Everyone’s idea of financial wellbeing is different – from having enough money to live comfortably, making large purchases (planned or unexpected), to being able to repay outstanding debts, as well as being on track with savings and pensions to cover later life.

But you can easily break financial wellbeing down into two things for your clients:

Financial wellbeing building blocks

We found that money building blocks and mindset building blocks are necessary to build financial wellbeing.

As part of our latest research[1] we asked people about their financial resilience and their ‘mindset’ – how they think about money, and  we created a scale to help clients picture it:

5 money building blocks
  1. Income
  2. Rainy day fund
  3. Manageable debt
  4. Smart long-term savings
  5. Valuables that make us feel secure long term, like property
5 mindset building blocks
  1. Knowledge of what makes us happy
  2. A solid picture of our future self
  3. Savvy social comparisons
  4. A long-term plan
  5. Strong nerves in a crisis (resilience)

But it’s also about balance. Even if your clients have their money building blocks nailed, they won’t achieve optimal levels of financial wellbeing without a well-considered and focused mindset too.

What was clear from our research was that mindset scores were lower than money scores, and the mindset scores didn’t improve at the same pace as peoples’ incomes were.

Find out more about our building blocks and what our research tells us about them in our digital flipbook

Common mindset problems

Lower mindset scores were a result of several factors including:

Five tips to adjust your client’s mindset and improve their financial wellbeing

Use the tips below with your clients to reframe your conversations and check-ins and encourage them to think about what gives them joy and purpose.

  1. Ask them to put happiness first – alert them to be conscious of the things that give them sustained happiness – be that joy or purpose. And that they’re spending time, energy and money on those things with their future happiness in mind.
  2. Savvy social comparisons – if they’re making social comparisons, encourage them to be healthy and realistic, instead of them comparing to people whose financial lives appear better. Or even suggest they use their past self as a comparison to measure how far they’ve come.
  3. Help them picture their future self and lifestyle – encourage your clients to spend time regularly visualising their future self and what they might be doing. By paying attention to the life they want to live, pension and investment goals to achieve that lifestyle, can keep them on track. It’s also important for your clients to think about what protection they have in place if something unexpected derails them.
  4. Make a long-term plan together and write it down – people who write out a financial plan save more regularly and do better financially.
  5. Reassure them to hold their nerve in a crisis – if your clients are tempted to change their long-term investments, get them to remember why they started saving so they don’t panic and do anything they might regret.
Get started

We’re committed to working with you to help identify advice opportunities and support your clients throughout their lifetime.

To read our research in full and share with your clients, download our digital flipbook – How you can improve your financial wellbeing

We’ve also created a summary guide of the research – Our insight into the nation’s financial wellbeing – designed especially for intermediaries, paraplanners and employers.

For other financial wellbeing support and research, visit

[1] Research conducted in August/September 2020, based on 10,466 nationally representative UK residents

Did you nearly get RSI writing down all the research and analysis tools paraplanners rate in this online assembly? If you missed a few or just couldn’t keep up, you are in luck as we have popped them all down here.

Plus if you missed the actual live event, watch it here to find out more on why we rate these tools and what we find them useful for.

Fund research

Wrapper and product research

Technical researcH

Financial planning

These are sites to find out general information and do analysis and planning research.


Remember, you can watch the show here and if you have any more questions, people are always happy to help on the Big Tent.

The online assembly about starting out in paraplanning proved so popular, we didn’t have time to answer all the questions people raised in the hour. So, experts Caroline Stuart, Tony Bates and Benjamin Beck, kindly got together after the show to answer them.

Before you get stuck in to reading their answers, make sure you’ve watched the show here.

Over to the experts

Question 1: I am a year into a junior paraplanning role, I’ve just finished my R0 exams, but I am quite wary that I am still inexperienced and have a lot of areas to develop in the day job. Would you recommend jumping straight into the AF exams or would it be more important to take some time off studying to focus on building up my skillset at work?

Benjamin: I have not yet embarked on the AF exams so it is difficult to answer. What I would like to say is, if you take a study break it can be difficult to get back into the rhythm. Perhaps consider Practical Investment Planning (PIP) qualification as this qualification seek to develop you further for the day to day job.

Tony: My experience working with clients is that If attitude is the same they would always go for someone less qualified (as long as on course for level 4) with more experience than more qualified with less experience so build up as many skills as possible. Don’t be shy to ask the best person in the business how they do things as most people enjoy talking about themselves ! 😊

Caroline: This is a tough one, as it really depends on the type of work you are doing in your day job and how you feel about exams. The change from the R0 papers to the AF papers can feel like quite a leap for some people, particularly if they are still quite new to the job, but the things you will learn from them will help you in your role. The difference between the R0 papers and AF papers is that the R0s are all about learning the information and the AF papers are all about how you apply that knowledge. You would find it difficult to complete the AF papers without the knowledge you’ve gained from the RO papers still being fairly fresh, so the longer you leave between them, the more you will have to potentially revisit and refresh yourself on.

Also, as Ben noted, once you get out of the ‘habit’ of exams, it can be difficult to get back into them. I know I left a couple of years between finishing my diploma and moving on to the Advanced Diploma and in hindsight, I wish I’d just kept going! The information you learn in them will always be useful, even if you are still fairly new to your role, so if you are able to, my advice would be to maybe have a little break to give your brain a well deserved rest but then get back to it as soon as you can.

Question 2: What does PIP stand for?

Benjamin: Practical Investment Planning (PIP)

Question 3: Should I take a paraplanning qualification or do the main financial services ones?

Benjamin: Not sure if you mean specially the paraplanning qualification within CII or the ROs? I would recommend achieving the Diploma as a lot of paraplanning roles have advertised as Level 4 qualified minimum. (Never hurts to have extra qualifications)

Tony: I can only base it on my experience. I think because the paraplanning qualification is not as well known to firms /hiring managers it does not yet have the level of credibility that it probably should. Job market wise then hiring mangers would prefer the main FS ones.

Caroline: Many paraplanners want to be the same level of qualification as the planners they are working with and lots are more qualified. The paraplanning qualifications are a useful add on but they will largely require the knowledge you would learn with the R0 exams to pass it, as there is a certain amount of assumed knowledge with these.

Once you have done your Diploma, this will give you a good foundation to build on, with a really broad knowledge base. As paraplanning is such a wide field, the requirements of your role will largely depend on the business you are working in, and unfortunately, a qualification can’t cater for individual business processes. A paraplanning qualification will give you a good understanding of the role in general, but on the job experience will also build the knowledge and skills you need. I would stick with the main ones initially and then once you have those under your belt, you can choose whether to go for a paraplanning qualification or the advanced ones, depending on where you want your career to go, of course!

Question 4: Are there any decent job search sites specific to financial services perhaps? More general ones I find tricky as specific searches often return completely irrelevant jobs. I have a spreadsheet with a lot of local (and national) firms on with notes which I’ve used to approach speculatively

Tony: I would seek advice. A good recruitment consultant will advise /not sell so research and ask for advice from a consultant. Sometimes the opportunities are not advertised. People have financial advisors to advise on money, and you should see your career as a long term investment and work with a consultant in the same way.

I would also advise to look at companies that match your values, sign up to their careers page and connect with key people on linked in. You will be amazed the opportunities that come your way doing so.

If you are seeking a new role be sure to change to “open to work”on LinkedIn as this means that resourcing teams and recruitment firms will see that you are but not your employer so you are safe!

Caroline: I’ve only used Tony and Idex for the last 10 years! 😂 Approaching companies speculatively is a great idea as they may not have all the jobs advertised and they may not even know they are looking for someone like you until you contact them!

Thanks to Caroline, Ben and Tony for taking the time to answer these questions.

In November, Susan Pringle was joined by Dr. Tom Mathar of Aegon UK to explore behavioural science. You can watch the replay. We enjoyed the Online Assembly so much that when the team at Aegon shared an article about the effect of working with clients in an online environment, we thought it would make an interesting follow up.

So…once more, over to Dr. Tom..

The online encounter 
Why clients are more comfortable with an online relationship than you may think

Coronavirus forced many of us to move out of our carefully arranged offices into a home environment and made video calls more prevalent. And with that move, advisers and paraplanners are now faced with the challenge of trying to acquire new clients from their own homes.

The physical cues normally used to get messages about themselves and their business across may be lost. Clients, however, will continue to look for these cues that ultimately encourage them to build trust. So, it’s important to carefully think about the messages the background of video calls can convey.

Subliminal messaging works

The norm of reciprocity means clients are more likely to give away something personal (their concerns, requirements, hopes and aspirations) if you share something personal too – either implicitly or explicitly.

In 2020, we asked 2,100 members of the Aegon Feedback Community what should present itself in the background of a video call – most of our respondents said it should be ‘clean’. Although references to achievements and professional background (for example, awards and certificates) are considered acceptable too.

But subconsciously, sharing deeper personal references such as family connections, seems a more powerful way to enter a reciprocal relationship.

Our study also suggests that using references to your personal wealth or social status (for example, exclusive art or interior design) could stop prospective clients from entering a relationship with you[1]. Similarly, blurring the background could also put you at risk of not building an open, trusting relationships with clients. This, however, may differ with the client segments your firm typically serves.

Share and share alike

The TrustedAdvisor’s Trust Equation[2], uses four variables to measure trustworthiness:

  1. Credibility (which has to do with the words used in client interaction);
  2. Reliability (which has to do with actions);
  3. Intimacy (relates to the safety / security we feel when engaging with someone), and
  4. Self-orientation (refers to your focus and, more specifically, if you seem focussed on the client or yourself).

Of all four, intimacy is considered the most powerful component. Intimacy refers to the sense of security that someone gets when they engage with you. They want to know that everything they share with you will be treated with respect and propriety.

In our report Building trust with prospective clients, we look further into the Trust Equation – how only by giving something will you likely get something back, and by sharing your own hopes, fears and aspirations you will invite the same from your clients – and how this can help to develop a deeper understanding of their financial motivations.

How you and your clients adapt

Pollster Opinium[3] found that the majority of advisers (59%) said that ‘working with clients remotely’ is the main challenge they’re currently facing when adopting to Coronavirus disruption.

Before the pandemic, 84% met their clients in a face-to-face encounter ‘often’ or ‘very often’ and only 7% used video calls. Going forward, 70% assume they’ll meet their clients face-to-face ‘often’ or ‘very often’ – and 38% say they’ll meet clients using a video call.

Opinium’s research also found that clients would now prefer to meet their adviser in a video call after the pandemic, rather than return to face-to-face meetings as they become increasingly more at ease with the idea of an online relationship.

And in our own research, crucially, those who think this are the Career-driven families and Upper Echelons customer segments, who have significantly higher assets than average and are more likely to work with an adviser.


It’s likely that video calls will continue from now on, so it could be worthwhile thinking about which supportive cues are right for your clients and business’ brand.

And it’s worth noting the variables in the Trust Equation have become much tricker to manage with the move from office to online meetings. In a video call it’s a careful balance between conveying the right levels of intimate messages about yourself without seeming as if you’re pushing your own goals onto your clients. Getting the right blend can have a significant impact on client trust and your business.

You can read more about the research and our findings in our two reports:

Increasing client trust during video calls

Building trust with prospective clients

[1] Aegon Feedback Community, 2,100 respondents, 2020

[2], the Trust Equation, 2020

[3] Understanding the impact of Coronavirus on the investment landscape. Opinium, 2020.

Thank you Dr. Tom and Aegon UK. 👍