For the first time in three years paraplanners from all over the country were able to gather for real for the Paraplanners Assembly’s Big Day Out at FarmED near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire on 15 September 2022.

Learning objectives

We opted for a blend of small group sessions – which we called Crop Rotations – and all-together sessions.

Crop rotations: Morning

For the pre-lunch sessions, we split the Assembly into three groups: Barley, Oats and Wheat.

Participants were assigned to a group and each group rotated around the three topic sessions. Conversations in each topic session were facilitated by hosts and experts. Each session lasted for 45 minutes. The topic session for rotations 1, 2 and 3 were:

What will consumer duty mean to you?

Experts: the lang cat’s Mike Barrett and Mel Holman from CATS.

The art of challenging conversations

Expert: Becca Timmins from Time to Think and Emery Little led a session on challenging conversations.

Pep up your paraplanning processes

Experts: LIFT Financial’s Jonny Stubbs and Chris Baigent-Reed from Jigsaw Tree.

After lunch, participants were assigned to a NEW group: Apples, Cherries, Pears or Plums.

That’s because we combined two groups for the session on report writing but – by the miracle of organisation – ensured each group gets a technical Q&A all to itself. So the topics for rotations 4 and 5 were:

Technical Q&A

Panellists: Les Cameron and Neil MacLeod from M&G Wealth, and Transact’s Brian Radbone and Barnett Waddingham’s James Jones-Tinsley.

Three things that get in the way of clear, compliant and client-friendly report writing

Experts: Melissa Kidd of Motem with Mel Holman from CATS.

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We all know that research and due diligence is a key skill for paraplanners.

And with discretionary fund management (DFM) services becoming more popular – whether bespoke or model portfolios – the demand for these skills is only going to increase.

In our latest online Assembly, we’re bringing together experts who are able to share perspectives from both sides of the DFM equation.

Learning objectives

During this session we…

Explored the approach and processes you can adopt to carry out research discuss the tech that’s out there that can help Invited DFM guests to tell us what they think paraplanners should ask…but don’t Discover what kind of due diligence DFMs carry out for themselves

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.

FE Analytics is one of the most popular tools in the paraplanning community, so we are happy to be joined one of the FE team to explore some of its features.

Learning objectives

In this session we covered…

The ins and outs of investment research

Learning objectives

In this session we covered…

By James Macaulay

We were back at Aegon’s offices in Edinburgh for our fourth Powwow North of the Border, no scones this time, but lots of chocolate and sweets.


It was difficult to choose from the great suggestions raised in the powwow survey, but after much soul searching, we settled on:

In addition, we helped use the power of the hive mind to help Aegon with their retirement proposition development.

Chat on the day

After an intro from the team at Aegon, we dived right in to due diligence.

This involved looking at the various processes we all follow, key parts of which are:

The discussion then moved onto cashflow with a poll on who used what, with Voyant being the most popular followed by Cashcalc and Xtools (within Xplan). No one mentioned Truth (the first seminar this has happened).

We all agreed that assumptions were key to a “good” cashflow but there were different approaches around the room with some firms sourcing this from Dynamic Planner, while others went for a different approach based around a 5% default growth rate.

Everyone agreed that it was important to build in market falls to make the plan more robust.

Cashflow was used for many scenarios but DB Transfers and drawdown were popular, with a couple of people using it for protection.

Paraplanners built the cashflow across most firms but it was mainly advisers who presented this, although several people had direct experience of doing this.

A discussion then arose around stochastic modelling, safe withdrawal rates and the potential for misunderstanding by clients on how “safe” this was.

We all had different approaches but agreed there was significant scope for clients to misunderstand how safe this was. Royal London was mentioned as having a good tool to help with this.

After a brief break (more chocolate) we resumed with a segment on the future of retirement from Aegon, where we looked at how retirement has changed since pension freedoms and how most people are taking benefits.

The key part of this is that there needs to be innovation in the industry; however, there is little consumer demand at this time.

A market correction may change this as there is no appetite for this when all is going well. This changes when things go badly as people start to look for alternatives when they have lost money (which is exactly what they should not do).

After a brief discussion on the different income options the Powwow was brought to a close with thanks given to all the sponsors, especially Aegon for hosting us.

Everyone was encouraged to look at the Big Tent as it is where paraplanners help each other, and to have a look at the previous Howwows online.

We’re hoping our next Powwow will cross the M8 to Glasgow and we’re looking forward to meeting new paraplanning groups.

By Susan Pringle and James Macaulay

We held our third Powwow NOTB at our host’s offices in Edinburgh (Aegon) where we enjoyed cream scones (jam first if anyone is interested). The survey sent out covered a wide range of topics but top of the list were file reviews, how do you build a relationship, income drawdown and sustainability, and risk profiling.

We covered file reviews first and had a round table discussion looking at what we need on a compliant file and built a list:

It was almost universally agreed that obtaining the client objectives was often the most difficult to obtain from advisers and that discussion with the adviser was so important to get those nuggets of information that makes a paraplanner’s life much simpler.

We liked the suggestion that a file should have a peer review and not just a compliance consultant’s audit, and that this could bring a more consistent approach across a firm. Risk profiling and the various methods firms used to measure this was discussed, and even with the numerous suggestions, it was also agreed that so long as a consistent approach was taken, and that the process was used, the profile discussion that the adviser has with the client can be transposed to a filenote and so into the recommendation.

We also discussed reports and what needs to be included. Several attendees had been along to the Report Writing Howwow in Manchester (100% satisfaction feedback on that) and the content of the report followed the same points we believed made up a compliant file. Using the client’s own words to describe their objectives was given a big thumbs up and ensuring that these were included in the report were a must have along with the risks and costs.

The next topic was Annual Reviews, and MiFID II, and how everyone was coping with this and how it has impacted on what’s required. We did have a good old moan about how it is so difficult to implement the regulations and that no one had a proven method of obtaining the information and keeping the process simple. Everyone agreed that they were adopting a “best endeavour” approach and aiming to get as close to the regulator requirements, but we need platform technology. At this point our hosts wholeheartedly agreed that it was difficult and that they had a lot of sympathy for firms. Continuing suitability was much less of an issue.

We then split into two tribes so that we had smaller groups to get into the nitty gritty of income drawdown and how to build relationships.

James facilitated the income drawdown discussion, and whether there was a need for firm level guidance on what was an appropriate level of income. Most agreed that this was predominantly adviser led. It was interesting to note that natural income was considered old fashioned, and that advisers are now recommending a specific level of withdrawal.

The groups were split over whether a cash reserve was required or whether the whole fund was invested. Use of cashflow was felt key to checking sustainability by several attendees, but everyone agreed that this was a difficult area to get right regardless of the method and technology used. A society of actuary’s report was quoted as having reached the conclusion that 3.5% was sustainable over the longer term, and that Abraham Okusanya’s research was a good source of information for those who wanted to look into it further.

The tribes swapped round and Susan led the discussion about relationships and how to constructively disagree with the adviser and the advice. It was agreed that the relationship with the adviser is so important to be able to challenge and ask more probing questions. Many worked 121 with an adviser, and this helps both parties to get to know the rhythm of the adviser. Where paraplanners worked with a number of advisers, it was important to make sure that you picked up the phone and speak regularly. Ask the questions that might sound silly to ask, but how that often got the adviser to explain their reasoning in layman’s terms and how important that was to the client presentation in a written report.

The attendees would love to spend time in client meetings but it’s not always possible, but that we should encourage the advisers to use our skills in complex cases to allow them to speak to the client. A good point was made about dealing with more junior colleagues, and that explaining what’s required helps our own understanding of what the process is and builds a relationship both ways.

We also thought that providers should be more proactive in addressing paraplanner needs and not just be all about sales. Our hosts Aegon wholeheartedly agreed with this.

The Powwow was brought to a close and wrapped up by encouraging everyone to have a look at the Big Tent as it is where paraplanners help each other, and to have a look at the previous Howwows online. James also put forward the offer by Redmill Consulting to provide AF7 support, and that anyone interested should get in touch with James/Susan.

We’re hoping our next Powwow will cross the M8 to Glasgow and we’re looking forward to meeting new paraplanning groups.

We held a Powwow in the sunniest city in Scotland on the 18th of April and welcomed paraplanners from those far flung places such as Edinburgh and Inverness, as well as gathering up a gang of locals in Henderson Loggie’s offices. The event was hosted by Colin Stewart and Susan Pringle.

Interestingly, the most notable comment was that we didn’t know there were so many of us!

We decided to split the group into two tribes to attempt to cover as many subjects as we could in the time available. Not unsurprisingly, the most requested topics included Report Writing and Risk Profiling/Capacity for Loss.

A number of attendees said they either use report writing software or are considering it. Some offered good feedback of threesixty’s new templates which are more concise and client focussed. Some firms will break their reports down into ‘strategy’ reports, where the broad financial plan is presented and these are supplemented by more focused ‘implementation’ suitability reports.

All firms used risk profiling tools, the most common being Distribution Technology. In the main, this is because many investment managers map the risk of multi-asset funds to DT’s outputs. All agreed that a risk questionnaire and results are just the starting point for a discussion about risk. We discussed the difference between risk tolerance vs capacity for loss and a few firms use cash flow forecasts to assess capacity for loss.

Both groups were interested in the options available across the region to assist with exams and keeping up to date with industry changes. Indeed, post the Powwow, several paraplanners signed up for the PFS Purely Paraplanning Conference in Glasgow on the 4th of May. The use of Twitter and the Professional Paraplanner magazine were highlighted as being good sources of information, especially with CPD being available. Several providers were also pointed out as having paraplanning specific sites, including our supporters. The Powwow Big Tent allows users to post questions to be answered by other paraplanners and came highly recommended.

With regards to exams and techniques, many felt that that the text books were not enough in isolation and each used additional resources such as Wizard Learning, Redmill Advance and Brand Financial Training, with some having engaged with Expert Pensions to provide structured plans for AF exams. Old Mutual have also offered classroom courses. Unfortunately, it’s been very much a case of finding out what’s available through word of mouth.

We also touched on what a good review process involved. We all agreed that reflecting back on the client’s original objectives was paramount, and that having a process in place to ensure these were handled correctly was vital. There was a mix across the group of how involved paraplanners were with regards to attending client meetings. It was agreed that as most are employed in small IFA firms, time constraints mean that it isn’t always feasible to attend a client meeting.

Finally, we discussed the benefits or otherwise of paraplanners holding CF30. A few attendees have CF30, primarily for ‘locum’ reasons – the client would still be able to get advice from the firm in the adviser’s absence. Some argued that CF30 makes you a better paraplanner as you develop empathy with the clients through the advice process.

Edinburgh and Glasgow will be up next.