Living in a paperless world

01 February 2017 Old Mutual Wealth
Jason Bernic CFP® , Financial Planning Coach at Old Mutual Wealth

Jason Bernic CFP® , Financial Planning Coach at Old Mutual Wealth

In today’s tech-age it would seem logical for financial planning practices to have an interest in going paperless, but then I walk into advisery offices and see piles of files and am told that there is no way that they can go that route - not in this industry – it is impossible.

Then I speak to the owners of three practices: one in Johannesburg, one in Durban, and one in the United States. Two of them are completely paperless and the third relies on either one or two pages of paper per client. Printing costs have fallen away, processes are shrinking and efficiencies are realised beyond expectations.

No looking back

Grace van Zyl of Aspire Wealth Management went paperless a year and a half ago and has not looked back. In fact she is now creating a virtual office with an off-site server and switchboard. Grace saves R3 000 per month on printing costs alone, not considering time and space saved, and the eradication of cluttering files and bulky cabinets.

Dhevan Naicker,  of The Retirement Specialist, stumbled upon an electronic signature solution on his new Apple Mac and wondered how he could use this in his practice to move away from paper. It was not long before he removed paper from his office altogether, to the extent that when one of his administrative assistants resigned, he did not need to replace her because so much time was being saved by not printing, scanning and pushing paper.

Readers may remember Kate Holmes from Belmore Financial who spoke at the FPI Convention in June last year. Holmes went paperless from the outset and clearly states that electronic communication is a prerequisite to working with her. In fact she advises, “Do not underestimate your clients. Many of them have already moved activities online from bills and shopping, to travel and news, and might be wondering when you will do the same.”

Lead and they will follow

If you are considering going paperless, you will need to embed the process and be patient as you initially assist your clients to embrace a new way of doing things. Van Zyl describes the learning curve as a ‘natural progression’ referring to the ease of adoption. Of her all her clients, five retain paper files due to their age and lack of resources.

Naicker says that once he “wrapped his head around the new process”, his clients followed. He had to be comfortable and confident himself to communicate his requirements.

Holmes says that electronic paperwork and communication are a criteria for working with her. “You must be comfortable with technology and a paperless relationship.” Looking at her website, she is quite explicit in this regard. It also allows her to live her nomadic lifestyle, with clients all over the world.

Seeing the beauty of it

Most practices have been heavily paper based since inception and some staff training should be expected, but Holmes does state, “That is the beauty of so much new technology – it is intuitive and easy to adopt.”

As you explore electronic solutions to accompany going paperless and streamlining your process, consider taking photos of IDs and proofs of address with your smart phone. Use Skype, Google Hangout and Facetime to communicate with your clients and even share documents and take them through presentations remotely if it is not possible to meet face to face.

Take a stance

Most financial planners I meet have a desire to reduce their paper, but your decision needs to be to remove it. You have to scan in and dispose of all existing files and draw a line in the sand: from this date on, no paper.

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