Paraplanners discussing anything what we’ve got on, what we’re thinking about, what’s worrying us.

Learning objectives

In this session we covered…

A chat with some of the Australian paraplanning community. We’ll be looking at the state of paraplanning in each country and what we can learn from each other.

Learning objectives

In this session we covered…

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!

Mike Dyke at the Powwow
With his nuanced combination of hat, sunglasses, t-shirt and shorts, Mike Dyke (above) subtly blends in with other Powwowers at September’s event.

by Mike Dyke

It’s probably one of the best, if not the best, event for Paraplanners that has ever been created.

It takes all the normal rules of a conference – smart dress, delicate nibbles, polite conversation and technical sessions – and throws them out of the window.

This is an ‘un-conference’, which means the delegates get to choose pretty much everything that happens, from the topics to discuss to the very generous helping of sweets to the music in the background. What makes it even better is that the sponsors there are not allowed to promote their products! Woohoo!

The topics we chose were, of course, close to many Paraplanners’ hearts. To kick off with we had three group sessions that covered suitability reports and what we should/shouldn’t put in them; an equation on ‘trust’ from Cofunds and what technology do we use hosted by the always brilliant Jo Hague.

As the weather was so nice we all then got to sit outside on the grass – a bit like last day of school on a warm summers day – to discuss two of three offerings in the Pick ‘n’ Mix sessions – how can we keep up-to-date with industry knowledge and the sunset clause, cashflow planning and client reviews. The only problem was picking the two out the three you wanted to go to.

The Powwow wraps up with a session from Chris Darbyshire, which began with the history of futures (which dates back to 1700BC when they were used for trading slaves). This led on nicely to the Powwow itself where we discussed whether paraplanning should be regulated or not, whether there should be a minimum set of qualifications and, finally, whether paraplanning ever be automated – a notion widely and correctly described as RUBBISH!

The best bit of the Powwow is the ability to mingle with like-minded individuals over the course of a day to share and swap ideas.

As it turns out we are a very sharing bunch and everyone was very willing to explain how they do things. It’s also very good for getting new followers on Twitter and LinkedIn 😉

The Powwow boasts the best range of food I’ve ever had at an industry event. The pre-Powwow Chowwow at The Cartwright Hotel went down a treat for those who were there. The morning brought us some mouth-watering bacon butties which were followed by burgers, sausages, fajitas and even ice-cream for lunch. (Yum yum!) The range of drinks was equally impressive. They even had a long forgotten favourite of mine: Lilt!

What’s more, there was a box of chocolates on offer for the best-dressed for an unconference. And I can rightly say: They are very nice. (So I expect to see more people in shorts and t-shirts next year, weather permitting.)

By Claire Goodwin: So you’ve been to a powwow, you’ve read the blog posts and you think you might fancy organising a mini powwow of your own?

The interest in organising regional powwows has been so great that I thought you might like to know a few home truths about just what goes into these things. Although I’d like you to think we did a little charm dance and a powwow appeared, in reality it was quite hard work.

Powwow Up North 02

After you’ve read this, if I haven’t managed to put you off then dust yourself off, make yourself a cuppa and go plan powwow brilliance. You can do it!

So, let’s start at the beginning – why did we organise a regional powwow?

In all honesty it was a bit of a fluke. Jo and I are both passionate about paraplanning – we’ve been to the conferences, the meetings, embraced the social media thing and got the t-shirt.

We know how much of a difference it can make for paraplanners to get out there and network; the great stuff we all learn from it. We also know how important it is to raise awareness of what a paraplanner does.

We’ve been talking about arranging some kind of best practice discussion for almost a year. So when a sponsor approached us and offered to support us we almost bit his hand off!

But what then? How would this event look? How would we get people to go along? We were stumped. We tried to start organising but we didn’t get very far; we just didn’t have the structure or the systems.

By chance, out of nowhere, along came this. Ahhhhhaaaaaa a Powwow! A gathering of like minded individuals who were to meet to learn things, share things and fix things.

This was exactly what we were trying to do, just on a smaller scale and without the teepees, totem pole, or campfire (we decided to keep the chocolate idea, we could manage that one).

So the concept of the first regional powwow was born.

After some suitable flattery to the organisers of the main powwow we joined forces for the good of paraplanning and chocolate. Hurrah!

Powwow Up North 06

Now down to the serious business: what did it actually take to arrange Powwow Up North?

Well let’s start with a word to the wise shall we?

We are paraplanners; it’s our job, not our life.

Occasionally we might think or talk about our jobs outside of work but other than that we have families, friends, a social life, a whole other world. Organising a powwow seriously encroached into this.

Unless you are some kind of paraplanning automaton I’m guessing you have a life too. So ask yourself if you are willing to sidestep this real life for a few months. Prepare to eat sleep and drink the Powwow, because you will; you just can’t help it.

At ten o’clock one Saturday evening, Jo was overheard uttering swear words at the online ticketing system when she got a little frustrated with it. I woke up at 5.30 one Tuesday morning having had a nightmare because we all had exams coming up and we would have to spend three days away from the Powwow – what if something happened while no-one was available? – what about our powwow? It was quite traumatic!

Powwow Up North 09

It was probably equally traumatic for our loved ones and let’s not forget our employers in all of this.

If you are thinking of organising a powwow you will spend the majority of time outside of office hours sorting it out. But in all honesty, there were times when we had to do things IN office hours: conference calls, replying to emails, speaking to journalists etc.

This cannot be done without the support of an understanding employer and for this we are both grateful. You need to make sure that you have their support before you decide to put yourself forward for this. It’s great for personal development and CPD; there will be things that you learn that you can put into practice in your normal working environment but this will impact on you at work. There’s no getting around this fact.

Speaking to journalists can be fun too. One of my personal highlights was when Jo was misquoted in an article – ‘Clive Goodwin and I are organising a best practice meeting.’ – oh it was a sheer joy explaining to everyone that I was in fact ‘Clive’!

The logistical bit was actually quite easy once we had the support of the main Powwow; it was the emotional attachment that we hadn’t bargained for.

So Powwow Up North was not like speaking at a conference or writing a blog. Yes, we had to muster up the courage to stand in front of twenty-odd people and rouse them into a lively debate, to tap into what they wanted to talk about. We had to be prepared to improvise. More than that though, Powwow Up North was our baby.

Powwow Up North 04

For this reason, on Tuesday the 15th of October, I transformed into some kind of weird character that no-one recognised; a kind of cross between Christoph Waltz and Miranda Hart (yes, that weird).

When Jo saw me at the venue for the first time she said “Claire, are you ok? You seem a little…wired!”

Of course, she was spot on. I was a little ‘wired.’ But I didn’t need to be – thanks to the commitment of the people that turned up to powwow.

Everyone was happy to participate, share ideas, be open and honest in their discussions. Some people even brought their own chocolate! They were an awesome bunch.

The emails that we have had since, and the thanks on the day from our fellow Powwowers, have made it all worthwhile.

And that’s it.

That’s the spirit of the Powwow.

That’s why we did it; why we dreamt about it and why we lived Powwow Up North for a few months.

It was bloody well worth it.