You only need 11 file notes categories for a new client

I won’t lie. I have lost many hours of my life trying to document every single engagement in fine detail to compliantly protect myself from a “he said, she said moment” once the advice is completed. When I reviewed my files, there would be file notes everywhere. I thought to myself, “why do we need so many file notes all over the place for every category?”

When it comes to documenting the advice we provide to clients, we focus on detailing what was said at every engagement such as trade-offs. By documenting the advice process with our clients, we are protecting ourselves and our business against unexpected changes such as a denied insurance claim after the advice has been completed or clients who may show signs of future risk to your business.

Our File Note Guide provides you guidance on how to have conversations, and file note each area of discussion with your client. This guide has proven invaluable when explaining the level of detail you should go into with your file notes. Our File Note Guide is a valuable tool for onboarding of new staff so they can follow an organized and simple file note process.

The file notes are as follows:

  1. Initial Engagement – this file note documents your initial phone call with your new client and the discussion where you convey your services and proposition them for a first meeting. Any additional phone calls prior to your first meeting will be placed within this file note, as you haven’t actually met the client yet or provided any services.

  2. Fact Find – this file note comprises of your initial meeting where you meet the client to discuss your services, collect information and agreed on the scope of advice. You would store your first, second and even third fact find meeting note here, depending on how many meetings you require. Instead of having multiple fact find notes for each meeting, document it in one file note only.

  3. Contact with Client – this file note is used for all contact with the client by phone or email after the agreement to proceed with advice from the fact find meeting. Instead of documenting each contact in separate notes for each medium such as email, phone call, or text, have one file note for all contact.

  4. Research – this file note is broken down into sub-categories for each area of advice i.e. super research, insurance research, estate planning research. You would create an additional file note for each area. Once you have a file note for each area, save all the Product Disclosure Statements and other resources related to each area including the product information checklist for the client’s current holdings.

  5. Trade-off with Client – this file note serves as the back up plan for your recommendations and holds in detail all the phone calls, emails or texts that you have with the client when coming to the decision on how to proceed with their advice.

  6. Strategy Documentation – this file note stores your fact find, working papers, paraplanning request, product comparison checklist, insurance quotes, cost benefit analysis. This is the file note to store all the required documentation for you to deliver advice and acts as a single point of reference for paraplanners to access information. I found that I would save documents into multiple different file notes, after having implemented this process of all required documentation into a single file note it made it easier for staff and auditors to audit the file. It made it easy for paraplanning and was an easy access point if I needed to reference any material for the client.

  7. Statement of Advice – this file note stores the completed Statement of Advice and associated Product Disclosure Statements for the recommendation. You would document the Statement of Advice Meeting and any follow up meetings with the client for the Statement of Advice.

  8. Implementation – this file note stores all the signed applications and forms required to implement your advice. The implementation file note is broken into sub-categories, similar to the research file notes i.e. super implementation, insurance implementation, estate planning implementation. You would save the applications and forms for each phase of the implementation and the method of sending to the product providers in each file note. Any follow-ups completed by your staff is also file noted within the related file note i.e. your staff are following up a super rollover, then save the follow-up call in the super implementation file note.

  9. Finalisation and Audit – this file note is where you include a summary of the advice that was implemented. You note that it the advice has been fully concluded and implemented as per the Statement of Advice. You would also document any loadings/exclusions or modifications in this file note that occurred and sign off that you have audited the file. If you save and document the whole advice process as your progress through each stage, you will have a significant reduction in the audit at the end.

  10. Opt-In and FDS – this file note is where you document the Opt-In and FDS for each client over the coming year.

  11. OGS – this file note is where you document the provision of your ongoing service agreement. From phone calls, email marketing, reports, and meetings. You would do file notes within this file note for all engagements so you can track your services, the times provided and rely on a sole source of confirmation for your OGS.

Of course, if additional services such as a Record of Advice of Investment Portfolio Review are needed during the year, you would duplicate the file note categories listed above. It provides a streamlined, easily manageable, and efficient way to complete your file notes.

I hope this article has provided you with some guidance as to how simple file noting can be. With our File Note Guide, your file note related anxieties are a thing of the past.

 

Scott Miller