Monday 19 September 2016

Going paperless can be well worth the effort, with the effects going beyond the bottom line

Altus Financial is an advice firm with a difference – one that’s evident from the minute you walk in the front door. Clean lines and striking artwork project the image of a contemporary and future-facing business. But it’s not just the décor that sets Altus apart.

The office’s uncluttered lines are a result of a transformative change that’s been taking place at Altus over the past two years, culminating in a workplace that’s almost completely paper-free

Initiating change

Valerie Alexandrova is the Business Support manager for Altus, and has been overseeing the shift from paper to digital records. She says that Altus sees itself as a modern and progressive company – so they’re always looking for new and improved ways to do business.

Going paperless was something that Valerie could see would deliver tangible efficiency benefits to the business: making it faster and easier to access client information, while slashing printing and archiving costs.

At the beginning, she says it took a little time for everyone to embrace the change.

“People were used to having the physical file in front of them – and it was initially hard not to be able to physically touch all the papers.”

But it didn’t take long for everyone to become used to the new way of working – particularly when they started enjoying the efficiencies the new system brought.

Going paperless

For Altus, the paperless journey began with replacing physical customer records and files with digital records on a document management system.

“Once we got rid of the files, we no longer had to waste time filing, storing and retrieving files from our archives – and accessing client information became much faster for our client managers.”

“With the physical files gone, we could get rid of all the shelves. So now, we have a beautiful picture where the rows of folders used to be. What’s more, the office looks clean and modern – which is exactly what we want our clients to see.”

Altus has also replaced most of the hard-copy documents they provide to clients with digital versions that are digitally signed – saving time spent chasing the director for physical signatures – then sent by email or accessed online via their client portal.

In terms of efficiency, everything is now much more straightforward. The workflow is easier and there are fewer steps to perform, so the work is completed faster and at less cost.

“We used to print out and bind documents like tax returns and financial statements, and mail them to our clients. We’ve now replaced these documents with PDF versions, saving us money on printing and postage,” says Valerie.

“We’re also working to make it possible for all our clients to digitally sign documents – that’s the next step. That way, clients will be able to review, sign and return documents to us completely online, without having to print, sign, scan and resend, as many do now.”

Valerie says that the response from clients has been largely very positive. “We have some clients who still prefer to receive things on paper, but we’ve had more say they love what we’re doing.”

Streamlining processes

While putting the practice’s records online has been a big job, Valerie says that it’s just the beginning. Altus has already implemented Xplan Fact Finder to help gather the information for new clients online. Before this, clients had to fill out and return the information manually – often resulting in lengthy delays.

 “The digital form is faster and more convenient for the client to fill out – and means less time chasing paperwork for our client managers.”

Altus has also recently introduced a client portal for their wealth clients, giving them the ability to access information about their investments online, without having to go through an adviser.

“Our clients can often find what they want to know themselves, reducing the everyday administrative requests that come through the office, and giving clients a better and more up-to-date customer experience.”

In the future, Valerie wants to get their document management and CRM systems working together to automate client emails.

“When we receive an email, it will be automatically linked to the customer’s file. We’ll also be able to automatically send system-generated emails to clients – ensuring consistent communication at all times.”

The results

Valerie says that the benefits of Altus going paperless exceeded the initial expectations.

“In terms of efficiency, everything is now much more straightforward. The workflow is easier and there are fewer steps to perform, so the work is completed faster and at less cost.”

“We’ve improved our service in terms of time and also performance, and most importantly, the client experience has improved.”

“To have all the information at your fingertips and be able to review and approve it from your laptop or tablet is a big improvement. And for our wealth clients, it’s amazing to be able to log in and track their portfolio whenever they choose.”

But for those clients who aren’t comfortable with a fully digital experience, Valerie says the business isn’t forcing them to change.

“We have a number of older clients, and not all of them are up-to-date with technology – so we make sure we’re still able to cater to their needs. When it comes down to it, the client’s experience is the most important thing, so we always keep sight of that.”

However, Valerie points out that these are in the minority, with just 10 out of their 150 wealth clients requesting paper copies of their correspondence, statements and reports.

The company spends significantly less on printing – going from five printers in the office to just two, which are mostly used for scanning. Archive costs are lower, and productivity is higher, with less manual chasing and processing of paperwork required.

But Valerie says that one of the greatest benefits is how the business sees itself – and how it’s seen by its clients.

“There’s a sense of endless possibility – we’re willing change, and open to finding new and better ways to do things. There’s a real energy in the office, and that is reflected in our dealings with clients.”

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