Paperless Financial Services

When we think about the future of financial services, a paperless environment is a likely outcome. But transitioning from a paper based to a paperless i.e. electronic environment is not as easy as it looks.

Here’s a lesson from the past. During the Second World War, Allied agents dropped into occupied France took huge crystal sets with them to send secret intelligence electronically back to England. Initially, these messages were lengthy, requiring operators to spend a long time transmitting. The crystal sets were large and had to be constantly moved and carefully hidden. The lengthy transmission times and the difficulties of concealing these devices exposed many agents to the risk of capture.

As the war progressed, messages became shorter, and coded. Radio broadcasts became an alternative method of exchanging information. Jean had a green thumb sent over the wireless could summarize an entire battle plan.

So the lesson learned is simple. Electronic communications are better kept brief and content needs to be protected. If we communicate electronically as if we were still using paper, the results may not be what we intended. It would also help if content was structured rather than unstructured. Regulators hate unstructured data. The right technology can make a major contribution to solving this problem.

As firms shift from paper to electronic communication, not only must they rethink their approach to content management, but to communications as well.

Take file transfer for example. It may be more secure to exchange URLs than files. Documents contained on secure sites can be more easily protected. Entitlement processes can be put in place to determine who is eligible to access those sites and edit the content. Audit trails can be implemented to track changes. Security can even be established on an event driven basis, so that when a project ends so does access to its IP.

The market is moving us more towards greater collaboration and communication, and that means electronic, not paper based. But while that creates opportunity, it also carries with it certain risks.

The answer is to make sure the process and the technology are closely aligned which means a fresh approach to communications and content management across the enterprise.

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