Remote work: linking tech with ethical standards
Videoconferencing, cloud computing, electronic signatures, protection of personal information... The challenges of remote work are many and call for the modernization of practices. “As advisors, we have the privilege of carrying on our business. Currently, our role is both necessary and reassuring for clients... However, it is essential for us to successfully maintain a bond of trust in a virtual environment,” says Ariane Boutin, independent advisor, financial security advisor and mutual fund representative. Her recommendation: to remember that despite the lack of physical meetings, the role of financial services advisors remains the same. Indeed, but how does it apply in practice?
The right tools
From the outset, André Lacasse, financial planner, financial security advisor and mutual fund representative at Lacasse Financial Services, observed that many of his colleagues were not ready to get on the telecommuting train. “They don't have the necessary tools, they've always met their clients in person, all their files are on paper... they were caught off guard,” he remarks.
Meanwhile, Lacasse has remained ahead of the curve ever since adapting his business model for remote practice two years ago. “Apart from the first meeting with a client, I favour videoconferencing. Most people prefer it because it saves them a lot of time,” he says.
In order to share documents, he uses a secure messaging system with a password, which guarantees confidentiality and privacy. “I no longer keep any paper records. Files are stored in a secure cloud server recommended by SFL, which I can access from anywhere,” says Lacasse.
As for Fabien Major, financial planner at Major Gestion privée/Assante, he switched to a paper-free office this year on the 1st of January. “We no longer process any physical documents at Assante, except in odd cases. Our office uses digital signature software that has been approved by the Quebec Bar and the Chambre des notaires. Once documents are signed, they are secured and stored in the cloud,” he explains, adding that videoconferencing has also become part of his practice.
Learning to swim, in his view, simply means to jump in the water: “Contact your brokerage firm and make use of their recommended tools. Then step out of your comfort zone; learn by studying tutorials on the Internet, for example. There are many resources available online,” he notes, emphasizing that clients will turn to professionals with expertise in the technologies that enable a seamless delivery of their services.
While there are many tools that allow for easy and convenient videoconferencing, the practice still isn't fully integrated and may lead to some awkwardness. To avoid mishaps, Ariane Boutin recommends making your surroundings appear unobstructed and professional.
Opt for neutral backgrounds (light-coloured walls, bookcases, etc.), eliminate any trinkets and personal photos, pick a quiet room and inform others nearby that you are in a videoconference to prevent missteps from happening. “Young children should be with the other parent or in bed. Even though people are more forgiving and understanding now, clients shouldn't have to hear screams or be constantly interrupted,” she adds.
Boutin also suggests being particularly empathetic during these times and opening every discussion with the client on a more personal note, while remaining within the boundaries of the professional role. “And do stay positive: telecommuting and technological tools allow you to expand your practice throughout the entire province of Quebec! Seize this opportunity,” she advises.
Your ethical obligations are the same
Please remember that despite the unusual circumstances we are facing, a number of ethical considerations govern your use of information technology. Among them are the following:
- If you are videoconferencing with a client, you must abide by your legal and ethical obligations as if you were meeting the client in person.
- Be especially vigilant about protecting your clients’ personal information, as you remain responsible for it. Take the appropriate steps to ensure the confidentiality and security of client information at the time of collection, use, disclosure, storage and ultimate disposal.
- Your work computer should be used for professional purposes and by authorized persons only. If you need to work from a public or third-party workstation, use a VPN and cover your tracks (history, downloaded documents, and so on).
- The use of electronic signatures and the scanning of documents is permitted, as long as it is conducted in accordance with the conditions provided by law.