Paraplanners Powwow 2017 host, Caroline Stuart, talks about her new role

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By Caroline Stuart, Paraplanners Powwow 2017’s NEW host

So we are now approaching the fifth National Powwow, one of the best professional events I’ve ever been to and my personal favourite.

Roll back four years and I think that if you had told those first intrepid Powwowers that not only would it still be going strong for the fifth time, but there would also be a whole range of mini local Powwows, online Powwows, (Howwows for those not familiar with the lingo!) and an online forum ‘The Big Tent’ , there may have been a few raised eyebrows, but not many.

I, for one, am not surprised at the popularity or longevity of the Powwow. It is fantastically organised by Richard and his team, who have taken it from an idea to an event to virtually a movement.

It doesn’t surprise me because the evolution of the Powwow has been largely driven by the demand for what it offers and the people demanding it. I don’t want to get all evangelical extolling the virtues of paraplanners because there are high-quality, dedicated people in all parts of the financial planning profession; but this is the group I am most familiar with, and my experience is a group of professional people with a real passion for what they do and the clients they are working with. They are always striving to improve how they do things and then sharing that with their fellow paraplanners. The Powwow gives a perfect forum and platform for that learning and sharing.

The originality of the Powwow means it is a completely unique event. For many years, I went to conferences and seminars to learn about a tax or legislation change or new product offering, and to maybe try and meet some of my peers in the breaks. However, how these would often turn out, in reality, would be me standing in a corner enjoying the finger buffet, reading some piece of literature I had been given whilst avoiding eye contact with all people at all costs. I would certainly never have spoken up or asked a question.  As I was not an adviser or sales consultant, who were predominantly the attendees of these things at that time, I would quite often feel like a peanut in a packet of crisps, very much like I didn’t belong or had secretly snuck in for the free bacon sandwich.

But then came the Powwow, and this was something new and very, very different.  I found myself in a teepee in a Northamptonshire field with a load of like-minded people and an awful lot of chocolate. I don’t know whether it was the campfire, the lovely new Moleskine notebook I had been given or whether I had just had a little too much sugar, but for the first time I spoke up and joined in. To me, this is what I love and what is so great about the Powwow; it embodies all the good qualities you find in the paraplanning community; it is warm, welcoming, friendly and fun, and enables anyone to get involved.

Since then, I have helped run a mini Powwow and sessions at the main Powwows. Having been at all of them, I have seen new faces come over the years, and like myself go from someone who is attending – taking everything in but perhaps staying quiet, to the following year questioning and commenting, and then to finally participating and helping.

I have seen so many different subjects covered at the Powwow, from Compliance to Design Psychology, DB Pensions to Efficient Technologies and ‘The History of Investing’ also known as ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’ There really is something for everyone, whether you are a pensions nut or a techno-geek, you will find something that floats your boat, and did I mention the chocolate, (also see sweets, ice cream and barbecue!)

I personally have got so much out of the Powwows; they have without doubt helped me develop and progress professionally. But more than this, I have also met some really great people and made some really good friends, so when Richard announced last year could be the last one and he would no longer be hosting, I knew I had to volunteer and get involved. I wanted to do whatever I could to help make sure that the Powwow wagon continues to roll, and continues helping and supporting paraplanners the way it has me.

It feels like the Powwow has almost become a force of nature; it is an annual fixture in many paraplanners’ calendars including my own, and so hosting it is, of course, a bit daunting. I am not worried though because I know that I will be amongst some of the most friendly and supportive people I know, and it will be brilliantly organised by seasoned experts!

The Powwow embodies everything positive in the paraplanner community and I just want to help it be around for as long as paraplanners want it to be. I just hope that I can help make this year’s as much of a success as the previous four and that people get as much out of it as I and others who have been through that wonderful Teepee have!

This is the original version of Caroline’s article for Financial Planning Today and was published June 2017.

Tickets are on sale for Paraplanners Powwow 2017 now – just click this link!

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