Using real life client scenarios is a powerful training strategy

Getting the best out of your future financial planners

It’s a well-known fact that the primary reason people leave a job is dissatisfaction with a manager, rather than the company. So, when I was asked to help mentor and train three of our future financial planners in Leeds, with no experience of ‘people management’, I initially found the prospect quite daunting. How would I inspire and get the best out of them?

Fast forward 18 months into the role and it is honestly one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job as a paraplanner. So, I’m keen to share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.                                         

#1 Listen

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”

Stephen R. Covey

This insightful quote rings very true and is one of our biggest communication problems. Interestingly it applies as readily to the adviser/client relationship as the mentor/trainee one. Whilst your job is to guide and impart knowledge and experience, it’s not for the purpose of showcasing your own technical skills and proving you’re the best.

Careful listening is key to understanding and motivating people, providing your mentees with the chance to express their hopes, ambitions, fears and ultimately, making them feel valued. It’s also the key to understanding a person’s unique skillset; everyone brings different attributes and skills to the party.

#2 Build confidence

Give your team responsibility and keep them challenged, but set small goals to start with so they can demonstrate they have mastered a skill, for example getting them involved in administering the annual review process or gathering policy information to develop their understanding of products as part of a solution. Start with simple transactional client report writing, then progressively move on to more challenging and complex client scenarios.

#3 Have a clear, structured plan

People perform better when they know what they’re aiming for. Having a structured training plan in place is paramount, setting out where they need (and want) to be, and how to get there.

The trick is to hold regular one to ones and give feedback frequently, at least once a month but maybe as much as once a week in the early stages, rather than saving it all for the dreaded annual review.

At Mazars we’re fortunate to have an award-winning structured training programme for our future financial planners. The scheme runs for 4 years, with years 1 and 2 focusing on building the foundations of technical knowledge and their understanding of financial planning. A key part of it involves getting to grips with creating their own solutions and ideas to client scenarios through report writing and working alongside a paraplanner and the financial planners.

The final two years are spent focusing on soft skills training to prepare them for engaging with clients, building on their understanding of why we do what we do and the impact that financial planning has on our clients. This is all backed up by completing the financial planning exams to get them on the road to becoming Chartered.

#4 The power of the real-life client scenario

Using case studies based on real-life client scenarios is a powerful training strategy. Alongside day to day client exposure, our trainee planners get to hone their skills through a series of case studies throughout the 4 year programme. They create a holistic financial plan based on a real case file note and a set of questions, designed to encourage them to reason critically about a client’s situation and explore appropriate planning solutions – in particular where and when to apply particular solutions and strategies to solve specific planning issues.

The scenario was fairly complex

Having entered (and won!) the 2020 CISI Paraplanner of The Year award, when the idea was put to me by Mazars’ Training & Competence Manager, I jumped at the chance to facilitate a case study based on the award. The scenario was fairly complex, based upon a later life, vulnerable client situation, addressing income sustainability and the conflict between long term care needs and estate planning.  

Financial Planning sits at the heart of conversations

With cashflow planning an absolute must for these clients, this helped encourage our future planners to think holistically about why financial planning needs to sit at the heart of our conversations with clients, rather than focusing on the investment strategy, performance or on one area of an individual’s finances in isolation. It was great to see our trainee planners really engage with the case in the group debates.

These discussions in my view are where the real value lies, as they uncover a planner’s values, different perspectives and ideas, encouraging them to challenge their own understanding and biases.