Look around your office and what do you see? In fact, let’s start a little closer to home – look at your desk and what do you see?

I’m guessing that there’s quite a bit of paper on it. Now, look around the office. It may not be piled high but I’ll warrant there’s plenty of filing cabinets and cupboards filled to the brim with paperwork. Not forgetting the reams of files and documentation that are probably archived away in your basement or in a storage facility somewhere.

In these days when the regulatory mantra, ‘If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist’, seems all-encompassing it’s perhaps not surprising that most advisory firms are still printing the actual paper rather than just having an electronic version of those documents. Case files for many are still actual files in most cases which means that an industry-wide halcyon dream of the ‘paperless office’ still seems like pie in the sky.

Whilst becoming ‘paperless’ might be an utterly fanciful notion for many, there is still much we can do to help move us closer to this office ‘nirvana’. Indeed, if we as an industry, work in a more efficient and technologically-savvy way then there is a good chance that not only can we get away with all the unnecessary printing and duplication that many offices undertake, but we can also be confident that our necessary record-keeping is all in hand with no chance of losing documents to either filing cabinets or cyberspace.

To reach this point will however require a firm understanding of the technology systems and processes you currently use and whether they are fit for purpose now and in the future, in order to deliver such paperless benefits. It’s a sad fact that printing and duplication seems like a necessary evil for most advisory firms because they have zero trust in the ability of their technology to keep those files and paperwork ‘alive’. If that’s the case then you should certainly start looking at systems where this type of benefit is a matter of course.

Our Revolution system for instance has been designed in order for advisers to cut out the need to keep paper records completely. Now, we fully understand that some firms will still feel the need to print and physically file away but the point is that with our system, there really is no need to. To achieve this the user has to be completely confident with the system which means that at any time they can call up the full audit trail of documentation to see what was produced and when. This document management feature is crucial if we are to see advisers moving away from, what can be, a ‘click to print’ default setting.

With technology contributing so much at the front end and cutting down the time for re-keying, it seems a natural progression to have documents generated and sent out using these systems. If we could move to a point where lenders were completely comfortable with e-signatures then we would also be pushing further down the road to full paperless mortgage applications and completions. We’re not there yet but if brokers are raising the issue then hopefully we can see lenders much more willing to go down this route. After all, electronic submission takes away much of the need for any sort of paper documentation and it should be a natural progression to therefore have offer and application documents signed online.

A complete lack of paperwork is probably unachievable – at least at this stage in the office life cycle – however it is not a huge leap to get close. Systems like our own are continually being developed to take us closer to that goal and undoubtedly there are cost and quality benefits for firms to be had by utilising such technology. If your system isn’t giving you those benefits, then a change might well be the best course of action to take.