Simon Edwards, Manager, Investor Relations
Transitioning to digital reporting for clients can be a daunting prospect but while there are challenges along the way, the benefits far outweigh these. In the following blog, we discuss the pros and cons of setting up an online portal to access data and documents, as well as setting the groundwork for providing more information to multiple stakeholders.
All of the documents relating to a client can be put in one place and made accessible by any number of people that you setup to have access, primarily their advisers, accountants, associates, etc. This makes administering the documents straightforward and allows users to save time as they can quickly get to everything that they need. You may also be able to display facts and figures relating to specific clients directly onto the platform, thereby removing the need for documents to be created in the first place.
- Notifications & clutter-free
As a result of the transition to digital reporting you should be able to notify end users of new updates or documents via email, rather than through the post. This can be done either by including functionality as part of the platform you use or having a process to do this off the back of your document creation.
- The Environment
Using a digital reporting tool can boost your company’s green credentials. You will inevitably reduce the use of paper and ink every time you need to communicate information, not to mention reducing the amount of postage and therefore emissions. It’s also worth being aware of what documents clients or other end users actually use, read and keep and which receive less attention. If these documents are online, you will significantly reduce the amount of waste being produced.
Whilst there is a cost associated with getting a digital reporting platform setup and running, you will make savings in the long term on printing and posting costs. Additionally, if you print documents in-house (that are still required), you will be saving on the amount of time required by your staff to get these documents printed and posted which can be better used on tasks that add more value to your business.
- Room for improvement
As your offering will be online, you can look to further develop what you are providing, how you are communicating and how to make the reporting platform easier to use. You can further integrate it with your database, other software and website. This can result in even greater efficiencies and service levels once you have made these changes. You could argue that this is something which would either not be required or would still be possible with hard copy documents, however it’s likely that your costs would increase exponentially (i.e. more documents, more paper, more work to produce them) and you just wouldn’t be able to achieve the same efficiency, service level or both.
- The end user
One of the biggest challenges is getting the end users on-board. Be it financial advisers, accountants, clients or their associates, there is usually some initial hesitation because they haven’t used it before. Additionally, some clients simply don’t have access to wifi, particularly if they are elderly. This brings us on swiftly to…
- Be flexible to client needs
There will inevitably be some clients that will not be able to use a digital reporting tool, even if it has been provided, you will need to retain some flexibility when it comes to reporting. The objective of transitioning to digital reporting should be to both drive a reduction in the amount of hard copies you are producing whilst improving the service you offer.
- Time Management
Transitioning to a focus on digital reporting requires a fair amount of effort on behalf of the company providing it. If you don’t have a platform for providing documents and reports already, you will have to either find a vendor or build it yourself. The setup can take many months and will also require some investment by the business, but the benefits far outweigh this cost. A business must also allow time to train up its staff who will be supporting its clients in registering and using the platform.
- Updating your records
Depending on your platform, this can be both an easy and challenging obstacle to overcome. For example, you may want your end users to be able to update their details via the platform which can involve integrating it with your database, how this is done can be complicated for AML and technical reasons. Alternatively, you may also just be at the stage of obtaining your end users’ preferences for receiving hard copies or using the platform in which case, for most scenarios, it should just be a matter of adding a record to your existing database.
Once you have started capturing responses around the end users’ preferences, you will also need to adapt any processes which would create some form of hard copy document. In most cases it’s likely that you are already creating a soft copy document and it’s simply a matter of ensuring that it gets uploaded to your platform. How you determine which records to print must also be a robust process using the field(s) which you have used to record the preferences in your database.