Insights for advisers, by advisers

Planning body offers guidance on file notes

•5-Evernote

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) this week released guidance on best-practice approaches to file note records to support more transparent and detailed record-keeping. The changes come in response to consumer complaints that highlighted gaps in records as part of subsequent investigations.

The FPA said “The new guidance provides innovative ways for financial planners to create file notes, including a number of apps that can capture client communications using video or audio recording and convert it to text, such as OneNote, Notability and Evernote. Well-documented record-keeping is crucial in giving financial planners the evidence they need in litigation cases or if they are the subject of a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).”

Note-taking in financial advice, as in many professions,  can be seen as an administrative hassle, deprioritised with the preference to maintain the rapport and established trust with a potential client considered more important to many. Maintaining a professional standard and keeping focused on a client conversation is difficult when taking handwritten notes constantly pausing to scribble down something important.

Quickly written fragments of a meeting can be difficult to recall but critically important in capturing some of the most important details of a meeting. In FPA’s 2014 Trends in Client Communication, the results of an advisor survey pointed out that only a staggering 33% of advisors attach written notes to client files and 41% added them to a CRM.

Good and accurate notes that clearly reflect everything that occurred during a client meeting are an essential component of financial planning, especially when conducting back-to-back meetings throughout the week. These notes act as powerful reminders of the conversations and strategies discussed. They may also act as evidence when things don’t always go the right way.

The FPA highlighted Evernote as a potential solution. Evernote is a cloud-based, note taking app that can be used to capture ideas, notes, documents, images, and track projects. The app is free but with basic functionality. One of the big advantages of the platform is that it allows Google Calendar Integration. Evernote Premium will automatically sync with your calendar and will pre-fill a note based on the meeting information on your calendar.

The beauty of Evernote is that is captures anything that has been scribbled on a notepad, and it translates it into legible characters. It also stores business cards and transforms them into your digital filing cabinet. What else is great about Evernote is the ability to attach and insert multimedia into a note. In other words, a financial adviser film or record any conversation had with a client and attach it to the note. Can’t get any more accurate than that.

The FPA highlighted the fact that, “file notes no longer need to be paper-based. There are new and more efficient ways for financial planners to build a proper audit trail through effective record keeping. This not only gives greater clarity around why decisions are made but could be used when supporting evidence is needed.”

It’s well-known that notes taken at the time of the meeting are far more effective than trying to remember what was said or done. As a result the FPA emphasised that “well-documented record-keeping gives financial planners the evidence they need in litigation cases or if they are the subject of a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).”

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