In 1975—a full five years after the first Earth Day, and 15 years before Earth Day would become a global movement—an article published in BusinessWeek magazine introduced the world to the then-revolutionary concept of the “paperless office.”
For businesspeople and office workers in 1975, the very idea of completely digital office processes that would eliminate the need for printing and faxing/mailing paper documents fell under the realm of science fiction. To them, this sounded like the way futuristic offices in reruns of Star Trek or The Twilight Zone would conduct business.
The BusinessWeek article predicted that all office processes would become digital by the mid-1990s. In hindsight, we know this was a stretch. Although many companies and industries have embraced digital technology and communication solutions, and made great strides toward becoming paperless, the predictions in the magazine article still have not become a reality—and the financial services sector continues to struggle, lagging behind other industries in initiatives to become paperless.
Fortunately, as we prepare to partake in activities to repair our planet on the 47th annual Earth Day, advisors have access to technology solutions that can significantly decrease their use of paper—which helps them streamline and grow their practices over the long term as well as benefit the environment.
The Joy of Straight-Through Processing
The digital technology platforms available to advisors in today’s marketplace can facilitate the seamless processing of all documents related to a transaction from start to finish across an advisor’s entire organization. This capability, known as “straight-through processing,” doesn’t just save advisors time on processing transactions. Modern technology solutions streamline all of an advisory practice’s business workflows in order to set up straight-through processing—helping advisors run their entire business more efficiently.
As part of this holistic efficiency, modern technology platforms enable all transactions to be processed, and transaction-related documents affixed with all necessary signatures, in a single digital cloud environment—which also includes a centralized document vault that consolidates and organizes all of an advisor’s books and records in accordance with SEC and FINRA regulations. The vault also serves as a secure archive where advisors can easily locate documents for all clients across their practices—and also post digital copies of quarterly and annual reports, and other account updates, for clients to access safely at any time, and in any location, using state-of-the-art client portals. Imagine how many trees your firm could save every year if you never had to print and mail reports and updates to clients?
In addition, the digital solutions available today enable advisors to communicate and collaborate with all parties to a transaction—including custodians, clearinghouses, or fund companies—in a secure digital ecosystem. And they can connect with these parties to complete all parts of the transaction digitally, from start to finish, without having to print out even one sheet of paper.
This isn’t Star Trek or The Twilight Zone. This is the kind of digital wealth management technology platform that advisors can take advantage of today.
Paperless Systems Reduce Paper Usage—and NIGO Designations
Digital solutions that facilitate paperless straight-through processing also come equipped with cybersecurity features that help advisors safely process and store documents digitally while reducing document errors that can result in transactions being declared “not in good order” (NIGO).
Some technology vendors have developed “smart” forms that automatically flag fields that are filled out incorrectly, missing information, or don’t meet regulatory standards, giving advisors the opportunity to correct them before they are processed. These smart forms utilize a complex validation engine to ensure that documents are completely in line with the complicated regulations that govern financial transactions.
On average, between 30 percent and 50 percent of transactions are declared NIGO in a manual environment. However, by adopting digital technology applications that work together to help advisors facilitate paperless straight-through processing, advisors can reduce those NIGO rates to single digits—significantly reducing the turnaround time on transactions on behalf of clients.
In light of recent technological innovation in the wealth management industry, advisors that reap the benefits of paperless straight-through processing don’t need to be subdued on Earth Day 2017. They can proudly tell both clients and prospects that their practices are saving the lives of countless trees over the long term by using digital solutions that reduce paper—while enhancing each client’s wealth management experience, and securing their account documents and data.
Michael Pinsker is CEO and President of Docupace Technologies, LLC.
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