Profile image of Sam Patterson Paraplanner.
Profile image of Sam Patterson Paraplanner.


Sam Patterson is a consultant and Head of Mentoring at the Paraplanner Club, a free mentoring scheme for paraplanners around the country who want to develop their career. Through consulting at a wide variety of financial advisory firms and mentoring paraplanners at all stages of their career, Sam has built up an expansive view of the current state of the paraplanning profession.

This is our second instalment in a series of three interviews with Sam, spanning various issues affecting paraplanners right now. This time, we explore the role of technology within paraplanning and the potential impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could have on the role.

Sam, thanks for joining us once again. Could you give us a brief idea of how important new or emerging technology is in the daily life of a paraplanner?

I think the main point here is that paraplanners need to embrace technology – especially in terms of leveraging their time. You’ll often hear advisers say they’re too busy to take something on, which is fair enough considering their workload, but you’ll never hear a paraplanner say the same thing. I don’t think that’s because paraplanners aren’t as busy, I think it’s because they don’t value their time in the same way. Many paraplanners may not realise the additional value they could be adding if some of their time was freed up, and technology is a very effective way of doing that.

What kind of technology, or specific tools, come to mind when we talk about freeing up paraplanners’ time? Are there any tools that you think are essential?

You have top-slicing tools, carry forward calculators, investment proposition calculators … these are all things that can save paraplanners time and free them up to add more value in other areas – or simply have more time to enjoy a more comfortable work-life balance.

In terms of what I believe is most important, I think it comes down to what the client values the most. Advisers are very good at this and can identify where they need to focus their attention to show the most value to clients. I feel that paraplanners could often use more guidance here if they want to get the recognition they deserve.

And when it comes to showing your value to a client, in my opinion, there’s nothing that has more impact than cashflow modelling software. It truly is a game-changer. It reassures clients and gives them peace of mind by visualising their goals, strategies, and attitudes to risk. Some cashflow software will also let clients have remote access, to securely share information or important documents, which makes them feel more in the loop.

If I was asked what technology every paraplanner needs to master in the next 5 years, I would, without a doubt, say cashflow tools.

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The potential for AI software to revolutionise the workplace, any workplace, is immeasurable. But I think this is more exciting than it is scary.

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And could any of this technology be a threat as well as an asset? What is the general feeling towards AI tools, such as ChatGPT, within the paraplanning community?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a single profession that’s 100% safe from technology like ChatGPT, or AI in general. Only a year ago, ChatGPT was seen as little more than a novelty, and now it’s everywhere.

The potential for AI software to revolutionise the workplace, any workplace, is immeasurable. But I think this is more exciting than it is scary. The paraplanning community is as safe as it could be and certainly as safe as anyone else.

Paraplanning is a mix of science and art. The science is the financial knowledge, knowing the tax rates or knowing certain planning strategies to manage CGT, which is where it looks like AI will add the most value for the moment. The art is taking those strategies and making them fit with the client. Paraplanners challenge advisers, and that’s not something ChatGPT can do. It could conceivably, one day, be able to offer credible financial advice, but would an adviser be willing to have his opinions challenged by AI? Would they trust a piece of software to be able to see all the nuances that a human would take into account? I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

So, how do you see paraplanners working with AI?

AI is another tool for paraplanners to put to use. It has the potential to save them a lot of time and to do a lot of the grunt work, letting them focus on the areas where only a human can add true value.

When I talk to people outside the industry about financial planning, they usually assume my job involves lots of numerical calculations, but that’s really not the focus of what we do. Financial planning, whether you’re an adviser or a paraplanner, is about coming up with the right solution based on the thoughts, aims and emotions of the client.

If, for example, you had a client who was nervous about running out of money while looking at long-term care, and they wanted to build a strategy to manage that going forward, AI could probably put together a basic plan. But to adjust that plan to the specific client concerns and then reassure the client they’re making the right choices; you need the human element, from both the adviser and paraplanner.

Thanks Sam, it sounds like it’s an exciting time to be in paraplanning. Next time, for our final interview, we’ll take a look at some of the support that’s out there to help paraplanners advance their career.

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White icon of man inside magnifying glass

Sam is the Director of The Patterson Group, which offers specialist CII exam support and a range of consultancy services to those in the financial services profession, both individuals and firms. Sam is also a Director and Head of Mentoring at The Paraplanner Club, which is a free mentoring scheme for paraplanners nationwide who wish to develop their careers.


Missed the first interview with Sam? Click here to read it now.


Read the latest interview with Sam. Click here to read it now.