Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Do You Put into Your Client Notes?

By Gissou Gotlieb, Field Suitability Compliance Officer

Most inventions seem like a good idea, initially, until they are not. The time it takes to go from good idea to bad is often imperceptible. While it may be exciting to learn of solutions that make our lives easier, it is also prudent to be familiar with the proper way of using the new solution and understand for whom it was designed.

For those in the financial industry “file notes” and documentation have long been a part of the sales and prospecting process. While not everyone is in the habit of documenting, most financial professionals have some sort of notes associated with their clients. Some may have scribbles on folders, a few words typed out in their electronic contact management system, fully handwritten notes from each meeting, or actual forms they (or their financial institution) have created just to capture and document what was discussed. Yes, file notes are important and for some, even required. But just as much as they can help you recall a conversation and justification for a sale or recommendation, they can also get you into trouble if you are not mindful of how you are documenting your discussion with your client.

Now, the advance of technology has brought us a new option: voice transcription systems designed to type your notes for you as you dictate. It sounds like a fantastic idea. How wonderful is it to be able to have your meeting summarized and memorialized for you by you just talking rather than having to sit down and type or write? How can you multitask if you are sitting down at your desk and writing? Such technology most definitely can help you make better use of your precious time by allowing you to speak, even while doing other things.

But let’s take a step back and think through this. While I am not going to discuss the merits of the actual technology and what it can and can’t do, I do want to talk about some of the likely scenarios you may encounter when using such technology. Some tasks were meant to be hard, or annoying even. You took the time to meet with the client, you were there, they were there, why do you now have to take the time to write things down?

Taking the time to write notes may be tedious, but it should receive your full attention while you are doing it. You should ensure that you are focused and recalling your discussion with the client correctly and completely. You want to be sure to include the particulars of what they said about their goals and situation that helped drive your discussion towards a particular product or strategy, and also capture any out of the ordinary concerns and how you addressed them. The notes should be factual, not opinion-based, and should not include your possible frustration with the client or the world. Your notes about a client’s financial profile should match the information you provided on applications/account opening forms that were completed with the financial institution(s). Also, if you say you will follow up on something, be sure to include your follow-up and the results in your notes too.

While you may think the notes are just for you, such documentation may be used in court, arbitration, or by a financial institution against you, and should be very succinct, objective, and clean.

So, if you are disciplined enough to not dictate your notes as if you were talking to your good friend or spouse and blowing off steam, then go ahead and consider using a service that can type your notes for you. The notes are your protection, so write them with due care even if you choose a process that makes it easy.

Gissou Gotlieb | Field Suitability Compliance Officer
Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange
Ph: 800.321.3924 x134 | Dir: 734.786.6134

Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange and its representatives do not give tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax advisor or attorney.

Designed for Financial Professionals.