When six portfolio managers left their former firm and formed Palladium Registered Investment Advisors in 2008, it gave them the opportunity to break away from their paper-based office.
As Jennifer L. Litchfield, IT Manager at Palladium, remembers it, onboarding more than 1,000 accounts all at once left almost no time to learn a new electronic document management system in their new Norfolk, VA, offices—even as the need to implement one to ensure the breakaway firm could hit the ground running was clear.
“We added $1 billion in assets under management within three months, so we needed to have everything come together very quickly,” Litchfield recalls. Experiences from a prior firm had proven how cumbersome and costly paper was, from the staff effort to file and find information to the yearly accumulation of paper that took up valuable—and expensive—space. “We used to have six or seven employees spend two full weeks every year just merging each client’s file with the historical files, purging information where appropriate, and making room for the next year’s paperwork,” she says.
As owners of their new firm, Palladium’s principals knew that the right technology would make a long-term difference. “We wanted to start off our new company with smart decisions when it came to technology and electronic document management,” Litchfield says. “We made decisions that required upfront commitments of time and money, but produced ongoing savings of both.”
“We needed it to be user-friendly, customizable to our needs, and manageable on-site.”
The search for a document management system began with three criteria in mind—and one given: value. “We needed it to be user-friendly, customizable to our needs, and manageable on-site,” Litchfield explains. “Cost is always a consideration, so we were looking for a balance between use and cost while considering long-term scalability.”
Litchfield was referred to Laserfiche through the Advent Users Group, a resource made up of companies that use the portfolio management products from Advent Software. John Caso, solutions consultant at Laserfiche reseller One Source Document Solutions, Inc., showed Palladium how Laserfiche:
- Enabled users to process and store documents according to customizable template fields.
- Offered multiple searching options using those templates as well as full-text keyword searches.
Litchfield invited users from each department to the demonstration for their feedback. Each, she says, agreed Laserfiche was the most user-friendly solution they’d looked at.
“Managers wanted to be able to answer client questions over the phone, so they liked how we could set up the Laserfiche system to feel like their paper files, with the same tabs as the old paper files. The client service administrators really appreciated the advanced search capabilities that helped them find documents quickly and easily,” Litchfield recalls. “Other solutions seemed like they had a pretty big learning curve; Laserfiche is a product that you can open up and it’s immediately apparent how you use it.”
The advanced searching, Litchfield adds, would play a significant role from a compliance perspective as well, allowing easier auditing and monitoring of documents. “Our compliance officer really needs to be able to slice and dice information, and it was clear Laserfiche was the right choice. Plus everyone would be using the same system, on the same server, so everything’s in one place. From a technology, disaster recovery, and business continuity standpoint, this was important.”
Long-term, Litchfield and fellow staff agreed Laserfiche was flexible and scalable enough to grow with the firm. “We liked how we could set up the folder structure like our paper files and then change it at a later date,” she says. “We have ever-changing needs and it was important to have a product that could grow and change with us.”
Palladium purchased Laserfiche in May 2008; implementation took place over a two-day period. “We opened in late January, so by then we already had the bulk of the accounts on our portfolio accounting system,” Litchfield explains. “We had onsite support for those first two days to get Laserfiche up and running and train users and administrators. We didn’t have a backlog of information, so that helped.
“We just set the system up, set up individual scanners and got the users trained so that they could start working in the system right away,” she adds.
Improving the Day-to Day, Keeping Pace with Compliance
Since then, Litchfield says, Laserfiche has been instrumental in streamlining the day-to-day operations of the firm. “I hear all the time from our client service administrators how much they love using Laserfiche as opposed to the old way of filing paperwork. Every day, they scan all account documents into the system so all the original paperwork and correspondence is in a single location. We don’t have to worry about the storage space and cost for paper documents, or the annual clean up and purging of those documents,” she explains.
“Besides our client folders, we also maintain other folders within Laserfiche with information that cannot be changed, including marketing and compliance folders. Because we store copies of custodial statements in Laserfiche, we don’t have to keep those hard copies onsite. The only hard copies we keep are our original signed agreements,” she adds. “Our onsite storage is minimal.”
In the future, Litchfield says the firm is looking forward to the advanced search functionality that will come with upgrading to Laserfiche 8. “Everything is changing in our industry, and compliance is such a huge part of that,” she says. “Our compliance officer is one of our biggest Laserfiche users. Because she needs to be able to search for multiple criteria, being able to search throughout the file structures , as well as the further capabilities that are available with upgrading to Laserfiche 8, will be a big step forward for compliance.
“We use Laserfiche a lot for in-house verification, so having what we call that ‘wildcard’ capability to search according to a manager’s code, that’s a great oversight tool for auditing,” Litchfield adds. “Also, if we have auditors in house, we need to be able to get information to them immediately—not in three days or four days. Having these features available shows us that Laserfiche is keeping an eye on the changing environment and is adapting to keep pace.”
Along with their upgrade to Laserfiche 8, the firm is investigating implementing Workflow business process management. “We’d love to automate a lot of our processes that cross departments. Where we currently use Outlook or walk paper around, each person could sign off on a section of a document in the workflow and automatically the next person would get an e-mail saying it’s ready for them. We could move paperwork through much more effectively and efficiently,” Litchfield says.
“The ability to integrate [Laserfiche] with our portfolio management software is a big step forward. This will make the opening of new accounts a single point of entry, where fields will be populated automatically directly to Laserfiche. Additionally, allowing us to monitor personal trading within the firm from a compliance standpoint is another improvement. Automating that process will save time and money,” she adds.