Sponsored by Laserfiche
An interview with Linda Ding, Director of Strategic Marketing at Laserfiche
Taking a step back, it is important to see how document management, the category, has evolved away from simple search, retrieval and archiving into enterprise content management, and how it has now morphed into a workflow management platform as well. Our category is about so much more these days than simply how you import paper documents or PDFs, but also how you categorize them using metadata.
This requires intelligent tools — after all, each RIA, wealth manager and broker-dealer firm is different and has different workflow patterns — and this is where RPA comes into play: Robotic Process Automation.
Whether you are using legacy systems or the latest in open architecture systems, we can intelligently capture any incoming content and categorize it. This is the foundation for using Laserfiche Vault.
We have seen that there are additional opportunities to manage and leverage the increasingly large volumes of digital content that firms of all types are wrestling with.
Simply put, a firm no longer has to dedicate someone to do a lot of manual, repetitive work processing paper documents, handling them, making sure they are physically routed appropriately, signed by the right person or prioritized by them. With RPA, staff can record themselves performing these manual, repetitive tasks across application screens and this provides you, in essence, a software “bot” that can repeat the recorded actions.
Laserfiche has added artificial intelligence: primarily machine learning to help handle these manual data capture as well. Of course, you still have all those essential document management features built in. And there are a lot of stringent requirements when it comes to auditing. For example, how do you go about measuring completeness? And everything has to be readable under the “write once, read many” [WORM] requirements.
For many years firms relied on tape backup and later maintaining their own storage servers, but those devices simply cannot scale to meet the needs of most firms today. It would be incredibly expensive in today’s world, not to mention the need for redundancy and backups.
Having a cloud native solution makes it easy to scale at a reasonable cost. But it is not just scalability but also business continuity that is critical these days, whether you are talking about natural disasters or the pandemic.
This is one of the other things that sets Laserfiche apart from others: We built Vault to work in tandem with Laserfiche Cloud, which is hosted on AWS [Amazon Web Services]. Netflix, for example, runs on their servers. One of the key FINRA requirements is that the data has to be backed up constantly and by building on AWS, we are able to monitor data health in real time. If there are any signs of potential corruption, there is not a problem because the data is widely dispersed across multiple locations, enabling us to ensure performance levels are maintained.
While several of our major competitors are focused more on the backend, we are an end-to-end solution: from initial capture using Laserfiche Scanner, to audit trail to archival WORM storage. We do it all in the cloud using a cloud native architecture. I don’t think anyone else is able to handle business content as comprehensively as we are in the cloud today.
The good news also is that Vault is a FINRA compliance solution that support the needs to meet the requirements of SEC Rule 17a-4, from easily setting preservation and retention of records, to WORM format, to being able to easily read records in multiple viewers, to setting of quality, easily generating indexes and robust audit features [Download Laserfiche Vault Compliance Guide].
I think all of this is what the judges considered in giving us the nod for the fifth time in six years as the best in document management.
What about forms?
Electronic forms have been a game changer for everyone. They have been so successful that we are telling all our customer firms to move to using Laserfiche Forms and finally bite the bullet and move away from paper, if they have not already done so.
There are so many aspects that make this important process management a way of improving a firm’s efficiency, especially for client-facing services. For example, with Laserfiche Form we can easily identify who you are [as a prospect or client] and then match and bring in or retrieve all the other related data from a firm’s client database.
Laserfiche Forms can work with an existing client, or just collect key digital information needed to fully identify a prospect. And then it can collect other available data and put it into other parts of the system through automated workflow technology.
What are some of the challenges that have been simplified by the technology?
Updating of addresses, for example, has always plagued wealth management firms. There is no dedicated API for an address update. And RPA is able to get the job done pretty easily. Let’s say a client has moved; a firm can simply put the new address in on their firm’s portal via a Laserfiche Form, and this will kick off an automated workflow that follows the internal procedure to update that information to the custodian or RIA backend, however your firm has set it up to do. This is just one example of how powerful RPA can be at filling in the gaps.
As an example, one of our clients has to keep track of a very mobile population, something that in the past used to require a lot of tedious, manual work to update all of the required documents. The procedure today? Laserfiche is set up as the source of truth [that other applications and documents would be checked against]. We advise and recommend that firms internally have a clearly mapped flow of information.
Once that is set up, a submitted address flows quickly through the system populating records and on the backend, we have an audit trail that time stamps and also clearly identifies who did what.
This might not seem like a big deal in the abstract but consider that a typical firm might be using 50 or so different applications and dozens of forms, all of which would have required a lot of manual cutting and pasting in the past. And now robots can populate all that information across all those different areas.
Are there other areas of a firm’s business needs where this type of automation can be helpful?
Mergers and acquisitions are a big use case. The traditional way was to literally bring in all the boxes of forms and then repaper all those accounts. Now a firm can start with Laserfiche Scanner and Import Agent to batch scan the paper stacks. Then the combination of RPA and workflow takes over the document sorting and creating client folders without you having to do so manually. The system labels the documents and the data on them and subsequently populates all the different required electronic forms with the data extracted.
This is carried out by a series of Laserfiche Workflow tools. Basically, you just have to have an employee put the documents into the scanner and then monitor it for red flags, for example, if a social security number has too few digits.
The Laserfiche Form has Workflow logic embedded in the form itself and knows the chain necessary for review. We have seen RIAs with 50 or 60 different workflows and forms. Different people will be notified and required to take actions on those forms before those workflows are completed. There are other intelligent features built into the logic as well --- for example, out of office triggers that can be set to reroute to your team to continue the workflow, so you don’t delay the client service activities.
The pandemic has really accelerated the use of workflows and forced everyone to handle matters in a digital way to better track where processes stand and predict what needs to be done before we reach out to the client. This goes not just for RIA firms but broker/dealers and banking operations as well.
And despite being forced to work remotely, managers can easily see how many workflows they have running at any given time. That is a powerful testimony to the improvement RPA can have when it comes to business intelligence automation.
When it comes to workflow automation, many advisors, the sophisticated technology users among them, are likely to think of their CRM system --- What is the difference?
First of all, CRM applications are not document management solutions, and in our world documents remain king. CRM systems are not built for flexible and secure document handling that RIAs need. In addition, CRMs don’t handle video and audio in addition to documents. In practice, Laserfiche workflow complements CRMs by picking up many streams of workflows that are not typically handled by complex CRM workflows.
Like invoice processing, or onboarding of an advisor, marketing compliance review, or many aspects of money management — adding another owner to an account, from the client side — there are so many things that are not managed by CRM. There are so many examples, like how do you archive custodian statements every month?
That is why we have integrations with leading CRM platforms, so nothing falls between the cracks.
To learn more about Laserfiche Vault, visit info.laserfiche.com/laserfiche-vault-for-broker-dealers.
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