In the spotlight – Roger Barlow

by admin on 7 May 2008

This is the second in our series of interviews with a paraplanner to gain an insight into his or her career, working day and top tips for the rest of us. This week features Roger Barlow, the first paraplanner interviewed providing an outsourced service. If you would like to feature in this section in the coming weeks and provide useful information to your peers (as well as raising your own profile) please contact us.

Name – Roger Barlow

Current Role – Freelance Paraplanner

Employer/Company – Outsourced Paraplanning Ltd

Qualifications – FPC 1,2,3. K10, J05, CF9

How long have you worked in Financial Services? – 19 years

Have you always been a paraplanner? – No, my first job in financial services was a mortgage administrator at Confederation Life where I worked or 2 years, I then left the industry for a couple of years before returning to General Portolio (then became Gan, now Windsor Life) here I worked for 7 years, initially in customer services administration hen onto complaints investigator in their Customer Relations team. I left General Portfolio to become a paraplanner and have been for the past 10 years, 9 of which were spent with medium sized IFA’s in London, and for the last year I have been working from home as a freelance paraplanner.

How would you describe a typical day as a paraplanner for you? – 90% of my time is dedicated to writing reports. I try to work strictly in date order although those inevitable requests for urgent cases throw a spanner in the works from time to time) and I always plan a few days in advance. It’s difficult to plan further ahead as I never know precisely how long a case will take or whether urgent work will come in to disrupt my schedule, so I have to be flexible. I start at 7.45 every morning, and will know which cases I need to work on through the day. I always try and start complicated cases in the morning when my mind is fresh as I find I am more productive in the morning. Any smaller jobs, like annual reviews or research I tend to fit in later in the afternoon. If the day goes to plan, I normally finish off around 6.30-7pm and I spend the last half hour or so preparing my schedule for the following day and having a quick look at The Paraplanner to see what is happening in paraplanning world.

How do you fit into the overall paraplanning support within your company? – As a freelance paraplanner that’s all I do.

What aspect of paraplanning do you enjoy most? – I really enjoy starting a new case from scratch where the adviser is happy for me to come up with the recommendations. Some advisers need a report to fit the advice they want to give, so its just a case of structuring a report around decisions that have already been made. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recommendations for products, providers and investment portfolios on behalf of the adviser, it’s far more satisfying.

In what ways can you add value as a paraplanner? – As a freelance paraplanner, I can take the report writing function away from the adviser so that they spend more time concentrating on what they do best, advising clients. If advisers are free to spend more time advising clients, they can increase their profitability. Also, in my experience advisers don’t always make good report writers so I hope that I can provide an improvement to the quality of the report that they present to their clients, which goes some way to justifying their fees and improving their service standards.

What tips would you offer any other paraplanners? – Challenge yourself. I spent years working on pension reports because that was my comfort zone and I started to get bored. As a freelance, I need to have a much broader knowledge and it’s amazing how quickly you pick up on things when thrown in the deep end! So don’t be afraid to take on a report that covers subjects you are not so familiar with. It will be a challenge, but you will learn quickly and it will keep you interested in the job.

What websites do you regularly use? – The Paraplanner of course! My work requires using sites like Synaptics for provide selection, SelectaPension for comparisons, Exchange (although I use the FSA website for annuity rates), Analytics is excellent for performance related work. I also use insurer websites for technical information, such as Standard Life and Scottish Life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? – “You should check out this new website, Ebay, it’s fantastic!”

What exam are you taking next? – J04. Most of my exams are pension based as my previous paraplanning roles have been for companies who specialise in pensions. Once I get through this one, I need to diversify into other areas, although I’m not sure which direction to go in yet.

What one thing could make your job easier? – Having another 5 hours in the day.

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