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 third and final instalment in a series of three interviews with Sam, spanning various issues affecting paraplanners right now. This time, we explore the different ways in which paraplanners can develop their career, what support is available, and how to balance CPD, professional qualifications and daily work.

Hi Sam, thanks for joining us once again. When we talk about Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in paraplanning, what kind of courses or programmes are most paraplanners looking at?

For most paraplanners that are just starting out, the professional qualifications alone meet their CPD requirements. This can be a bit of a trap as it lulls a lot of paraplanners into a false sense of security, where they think they’re getting everything they need by simply ticking that box. They don’t necessarily look for anything more.

Personally, I’ve picked up a lot more practical advice through attending CPD events, whether they’re live events, webinars, or online short courses from external providers. You don’t really learn how to apply the knowledge you’re gaining from the qualifications by taking a string of exams, that process of implementation has to come from somewhere else.

Podcasts are a really good place to start. The Real Adviser Podcast (TRAP), for example, gives a great overview of what’s going on in the sector and how others have built their careers. If you’re looking for free modules and more technical webinars, Paraplanners’ Assembly has some great content as well, not to mention your own Scottish Widows Paraplanner Hub. There really is so much quality content out there if you look around.

And how important is networking for paraplanners? Both online and at live events.

A lot of people, particularly those that are just starting out or are still in their first few years of paraplanning, think of networking as just a way to find bigger and better career opportunities. I cannot overstate how valuable it is, even if you’re perfectly happy in your current position and have no intention of looking for a new job, to network and share experiences with your peers. The inspiration and support that networks like the Paraplanner Club or Next Gen Planners can offer is invaluable.

I’ve personally found it extremely rewarding as well, being able to share my experience and help guide others as I’ve transitioned from mentee to mentor through the Paraplanner Club. Becoming a mentor could be the next step in your career if you decide not to become a team leader or an adviser.

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Podcasts are a really good place to start. The Real Adviser Podcast (TRAP), for example, gives a great overview of what’s going on in the sector and how others have built their careers.

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What are your thoughts on balancing all of that with taking professional qualifications AND maintaining a full-time job? How can paraplanners achieve a work-life balance with so much going on?

I saw a post not long ago from a paraplanner who had just failed an exam and the comments were filled with recommendations for training providers and ‘why not buy this or that?’ But if you think about it as if it were a client that had a problem, you wouldn’t start by suggesting new products and further investment. You would zoom out and try to understand what they need and what’s missing. You need to treat yourself the same way and find out what works best for you. Your time is valuable, and it is a lot to balance, so learn what works best for you and what gives you the best return for your time invested.

You can start by browsing resources in your lunch time now and again, rather than scrolling general news sites or social media. Test some things out and you might find something that’s really useful.

In terms of work-life balance, everyone is different, but for me a good balance is simply not having the Sunday fear. When you’ve got it, you know it – going to bed already thinking about all those emails waiting for you the next day. Recharging and clearing your head is just as important as any other part of the job. It’s like a glass of water constantly being emptied – work-life balance is refilling the glass. The first question I like to ask is ‘how do you recharge?’ and if you can’t answer that then you needed to seriously think about it.

Thanks Sam, any final advice?

I’d just reiterate that everyone learns differently, everyone unwinds differently, and everyone has their own journey. Don’t be put off if you don’t match what everyone else is doing. Go out and find what works best for you and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice along the way. The paraplanning profession is so varied and there are so many opportunities to explore.

White icon of man inside magnifying glass
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.


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