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Outside-INblog

Outside voices and views for advisers

Making your office paperless is the way to go

If done in steps, going paperless can be relatively pain-free

Jul 8, 2014 @ 9:41 am

By Sheryl Rowling

I love having a paperless office. At first, I was skeptical: Was it too ambitious to try to be totally paperless? Would we sacrifice efficiency? Could everything be documented without keeping any physical files?

It took only a couple of years to become fully paperless. We did it in steps.

We decided to limit scanning existing documents to just "permanent" items such as clients' living trusts and prior financial plans. Hiring an intern relieved our staff from this tedious job (while giving him some needed extra money). Each scanned document was electronically filed in the client's "documents" folder in Junxure. From that point on, the rule was "no paper!"

All paperwork brought in by clients was (and is) immediately scanned and filed in the appropriate Junxure folder. Work papers and other internal notes are saved as well. If prepared in Word or Excel, there's no need to ever print a hard copy. Handwritten notes are scanned and filed but we discourage that because it's easier and more efficient to type notes directly into Junxure during a meeting.

Financial plans and "client copies" of tax returns are printed out but our copies are strictly electronic. Tax returns are e-filed to save trees. We even started using electronic organizers to collect clients' tax info. Lacerte allows us to review each tax return online, recording nice green check marks when we've approved a number. If the number is changed post-review, the check mark turns red.

In addition to the Junxure CRM and Lacerte, we use an online risk tolerance questionnaire (Finametrica), Outlook, PortfolioCenter (we are soon switching to Orion) and TRX. Beside freeing up an extra office — we no longer need a file room — we can easily work remotely. We get voicemail on e-mail, appointments synced on iPhones and remote access. Without papers that can only be viewed in the office, there is no disadvantage to working from home or anywhere else.

Perhaps the nicest thing about being paperless is that everything we need for a client is right at our fingertips. By only scanning permanent documents and then enforcing a hard cutoff moving forward, the transition was painless.

If you're not paperless yet, I strongly recommend it. Paper is a thing of the past!

Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.

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