After the howwows, what’s next for paraplanning standards?

Personal development

Earlier this year something like 80 paraplanners gathered together – at real-life and online ‘Howwows’ organised by Paraplanners Powwow volunteers – to answer the question: ‘Should there be common professional paraplanning standards?’.

It’s the kind of issue that’s tailor-made for the Paraplanners Powwow – for two reasons: First, because Powwowers don’t have to negotiate the policy-making processes of the professional bodies who, inevitably, will have a big stake in the result of the debate.

And, second, because the new single-issue – workshop-style – Howwow format lends itself to kick-starting a debate while keeping its eye on a practical outcome.

And so it proved at three real-life Howwows organised by Dan Atkinson and Richard Allum in London, Claire Goodwin in Leeds, and Claire Scott, James Macaulay, Keith Boyes and Susan Pringle in Edinburgh.

The appetite for common standards

Practically speaking, these initial Howwows were a great way to gauge the appetite for common professional standards among paraplanners and the barriers to their establishment.

And as far as appetite is concerned, there’s no shortage.

At the conclusion of the hour-long online Howwow, 70 per cent of Howwowers were convinced that common standards were a good idea and 82 per cent thought that Level 4 was a minimum standard.

Nearly 60 per cent (59%) thought that continuous peer-based assessment of professional standards – like the mentoring model adopted by UK nursing – was preferable to employer-led assessment of professional competency.

Questions, questions, questions

But the Howwow posed just as many questions as answers.

If mentoring is adopted to raise and monitor standards, who would become mentors and how would they qualify?

Will accreditation be the best way to demonstrate professional standards and, if so, will financial advice practice bosses recognise it?

And what role – if any – should professional bodies play in the establishment of commonly recognised standards?

Pivotal role of professional bodies

What has become very clear from the debate so far is that, for paraplanning to establish common professional standards, the role that professional bodies play will be pivotal.

But because many paraplanners expressed ease with the idea of ’peer-led professionalism’ the role for professional bodies should be more as a facilitator of common standards rather than the dictator of them.

For that kind of approach to work will take a meeting of minds.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’d like to try to bring together paraplanning colleagues from the PFS and CISI paraplanners groups, and organisers of the Howwows and Powwowers who have expressed an interest in helping shape professional standards.

We’re really interested to see whether, by getting together either online or in real life, we’re able to begin to sketch out a framework for common paraplanning professional standards.

If you’re a paraplanner who’d be interested in joining in this next stage just get in touch.

And if you’re a paraplanner who’s curious to see how we get on – just watch this space!

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