For many businesses, the vision of a paperless office is often the driving force behind implementing digital document management. For Professional Planning Service of New Hampshire (PPS), going paperless while maintaining the separation between two distinct business interests was giving staff double vision. But by implementing a Laserfiche document management system, PPS has avoided mixing their two business’ documents during their transition to a paperless environment—and improved efficiency and service quality along the way.
In addition to providing estate, tax and investment planning services, PPS is also an office of supervisory jurisdiction (OSJ) of a major national broker-dealer, supervising 37 registered representatives. With a combined 40 years’ worth of account information to manage, it’s easy to imagine the mountainous paperwork that PPS had accumulated. For Business Processor Aimee Ellis, OSJ paperwork alone had become overwhelming. “We have to keep virtually every piece of paper related to each client,” she says, “so we had 24 cabinets full of paper files.”
PPS’ broker-dealer recognizes the challenges of managing so much information, and provides OSJs with a proprietary document management system. PPS could have easily chosen this system, avoiding implementation and maintenance costs altogether. But maintaining compliance—and staff sanity—required a system that could keep OSJ files separate from agreements, correspondence and reviews related to PPS’ other services. It wasn’t until attending a virtual seminar given by another firm facing a similar situation that Director of Operations Cindy Peckham saw the ideal solution to PPS’ problem.
“When we saw what this firm was doing with Laserfiche, it was a real ‘lightbulb’ moment,” remembers Peckham. “We turned to each other and said, ‘These people are in the exact same situation, and they’re doing exactly what we want to do.’”
The key to maintaining the separation between OSJ and independent business activities was the Laserfiche platform’s granular security controls. By creating unique Laserfiche templates for each document type, then defining user-specific template viewing permissions, PPS ensures that staff from one business can’t view the other’s documents. Because Laserfiche access rights are based on Windows® Authentication, implementing and enforcing these security controls has been especially easy.
Dividing the two interests isn’t just a smart business practice; it also makes complying with industry, state and federal regulations much easier. “During our yearly audit by the broker-dealer, the auditor can sit down at a workstation and search the OSJ documents exclusively,” says Peckham. “Meanwhile, if the state were to request a piece of client correspondence, we’d be able to quickly retrieve the precise pages they were looking for.” Naturally, Laserfiche has also helped reduce the physical labor required to produce requested documents.
She has equal confidence in the firm’s disaster recovery strategy. In fact, with regards to compliance, Peckham believes it to be the biggest benefit that Laserfiche has delivered. Federal law mandates that financial services firms be able to resume operations within 48 hours of a disaster. “With Laserfiche,” she explains, “If the building were to burn down, we could be back up and running almost instantly.”
Digitizing active client files has led to a marked improvement in client service. Sondra Perry, administrative assistant, no longer has to keep clients waiting on the phone. “It’s easier and more efficient to fulfill client requests,” she says, “because we can pull up their information right away.” Aimee Ellis can now respond to representatives’ requests more quickly, given that she can retrieve OSJ documents right from her desktop. “In fact,” she says, “it’s faster to bring up documents in Laserfiche than it is to log in to the broker-dealer’s Website and retrieve them there.”
Peckham estimates that 10 to 15% of PPS’ business is now paperless, a figure that includes all new business activity since fully implementing Laserfiche in May 2007. “Whenever new activity occurs in a client file,” she explains, “our staff pull that client’s paper file and scan it into Laserfiche. From that point on, all of that client’s paperwork will be digitized immediately.” Gradually, staff will identify and digitize inactive files as well, until the last truckload of paper files gets driven away for off-site destruction.
When asked for advice on implementing digital document management, PPS staff unilaterally stress the importance of thorough planning, especially with regards to template setup. Says Perry, “If you have your paper-based filing system down pat, Laserfiche can replicate it exactly. That’s the great thing about Laserfiche: It doesn’t force you to change the way you work—it mirrors it instead.”