We continue 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 Heidi Witham who runs her own freelance paraplanning business. 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 – Heidi Witham
Current Role – Senior Partner
Employer/Company – Absolute Paraplanning
Qualifications – Certificate FP- awaiting results J4- pension funding
How long have you worked in Financial Services? – since 2001- 7 years
Have you always been a paraplanner? - no, I began as sales support for Royal London Insurance Society, then a sales consultant for the same company, then worked in sales support for Lifesearch who are protection specialists and a subsidiary of Baigrie Davies, then financial administrator at Carrwood Macintyre who were integrated within Macintyre Hudson- a national accountancy practice. Then in 2005 I became a paraplanner for Michael McCroddan at his firm, The McCroddan Partnership. Following Michael’s sale of his business, I decided to make the jump into freelance paraplanning and established Absolute Paraplanning in August 2008.
How would you describe a typical day as a paraplanner for you? – As I work from home there is no commuting, so I step into the spare room. My usual business is pension transfers- reports and fund research to back up the advice given. I also do ad-hoc work such as file organisation for a local adviser and contacting insurance providers for information and chasing transfer monies.
Once a week I harass my collection of insurance company and fund management broker consultants; getting myself invited to any seminars or events, as this is my ideal chance to meet IFA’s and promote my company, as well as keeping up with industry gossip. Once a week I send a “cold” letter to 10 IFA’s, whose details I source from leads from the broker consultants/recruitment agencies or by postcode on the FSA register. I also set aside time on a weekly basis for my business paperwork; filing invoices and receipts and keeping my business spreadsheets up to date.
How do you fit into the overall paraplanning support within your company? – My role predominantly is paraplanning and support as mentioned above. I also have other paraplanners available to me for overflow work, as well as access to a fully qualified pension transfer specialist, mortgage adviser, accountant and IT specialist, who all work under my umbrella.
What aspect of paraplanning do you enjoy most? - I enjoy getting stuck into a report and seeing the report finally coming together. I am paranoid so I tend to check my reports the day after completion before sending to the IFA; otherwise I wake up in the night in a cold sweat thinking I have missed a major point! I enjoy getting the feedback from the advisers when they finally read the reports. It’s also a good feeling when my clients contact me saying they have another few reports for me. It is good to know I have a positive impact on other people’s businesses.
In what ways can you add value as a paraplanner? – Being proactive and ahead of the game, anticipating the adviser’s needs rather than waiting for the needs to be told. The IFA can then be confident his/her world won’t come crashing down if him/her is not around. The fundamental reason of our existence is to allow the adviser more and more time sitting in front of a client.
What tips would you offer any other paraplanners? -
- Pay attention to detail, it’s the most important aspect of our role. Double check everything you do, no matter how small the task.
- Never leave valuable paperwork on the advisers desk- it will invariably get lost!
- Always maintain good relationships with visiting broker consultants and any other industry professionals you come into contact with, as they can provide valuable advice both now and in the future.
What websites do you regularly use? - Citywire, Trustnet, The paraplanner, IFA Life
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? – Michael McCroddan was full of tips, the best one being to be confident in yourself. He firmly believes in self promotion. It’s all about the image you portray to your clients. It’s ok to say “I’m not sure”, so long as you follow with “but I’ll find out” rather than guessing.
Personal Mantra: “Only a fool thinks he is a wise man; a wise man knows when he has been a fool”
What exam are you taking next? – J5- Retirement Options/Pension Income
What one thing could make your job easier? – Having access to provider websites, which I cannot do as I have no FSA number.