If you have any desire to operate a truly paperless office, your practice should ban printing for all but the most limited of circumstances.
Operating a competitive wealth management practice is not an inexpensive endeavor. Studies by Moss Adams and the FPA show time after time how the most significant operating expenses include employee compensation and benefits, office rent, and technology (including computer hardware and software licenses).
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I bet that after these expenses, many offices may be surprised to learn that another high expense item is the amount the practice spends on office supplies, specifically the cost of ink, toner, and paper.
To drastically cut the amount spent on office supplies, wealth management practices should aim to operate in truly a paperless environment. Naturally, a strong document management system (DMS) must be in place to support the paperless environment.
Instead of diving into the details about DMS, let's first take a look at several processes where many wealth management firms "depend" on paper to conduct daily business and highlight ways the each process can be executed without paper.
- Document Markup: Advisors often print documents for review and add handwritten notes and comments for various reasons? Perhaps two documents are compared side-by-side. All of this document markup can be done in Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat contains an extensive comment and markup toolbar with options to highlight, cross out, or underline text and even add virtual sticky notes to a page. Better yet, audio comments can be recorded and attached to any word or paragraph in a document, so your thoughts and ideas can be expressed verbally. Try writing down all those thoughts on paper and think about which method is faster.
- Faxing: The fax machine, a technology nearly 40 years old, has run its course. Are you still printing documents to physically run through a hard-wired fax machine? Do you receive faxes which are printed on paper, only to be scanned later that day? Recycle the old workhorse and adopt electronic faxing. Providers like eFax and Fax.com offer low-cost alternatives to physical fax machines so you can mange all of your fax needs electronically, often directly from your email inbox.
- Signatures: So perhaps you still have your ancient fax machine because every now and then someone asks you to fill out a form, sign it, and fax it back to them. Printing the form in order to sign it is completely unnecessary. Take advantage of electronic signature options to bypass form printing. Electronic signatures can be as simple as configuring a stamp in Adobe Acrobat that uses a scanned image of your signature (though applying a stamp is not secure, but it gets the job done) or you can purchase signature services from Docusign or RightSignature.com to add better security and document delivery options.
- Report Delivery: Every quarter your office may often be mired in the quarterly report generation process. Often reports are printed, collated, and mailed to clients by support staff. Not only is this process time consuming, it's prone to error (such as placing one client's report in another client's mailing envelope; tell me this hasn't happened to you!). Instead of churning though several trees worth of paper year after year, adopt an electronic report delivery process that includes client vaults and portals. There are many options for client portals these days, some of which are integrated with popular CRM systems. Consider vendors such as Advisor Products, Family Office Network, and Junxure ClientView.
Finally, with these processes replaced with paperless alternatives, you need to make hard copy printing in your firm inconvenient. This means relocating your printers to the supply room furthest away from staff offices. If it takes me 4 minutes to leave my desk to grab a printed document, I'm probably going to think twice about how bad I really need a hard copy.
Also, the default printer setting for all computers should be set to generate PDF files or print directly to the firm's DMS application. In other words, don't make it easy to print in your office.
These new policies, while initially disruptive and inconvenient, are designed to increase the adoption of operating a truly paperless environment. Not only will these new processes allow for increased efficiency within the firm, advisors stand to benefit from cost savings by decreasing the amount of office supplies needed to support large volumes of printing.