Documents are obviously a key aspect of any agencys business, so managing those documents becomes a critical function in day-to-day operations.

While document management software can help increase efficiency and cut costs, however, Pat Borowski, senior vice president of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, recommends that agents do a risk analysis on the kinds of documents they handle before jumping in with such software.

“Agencies as businesses and insurance operations have certain record and retention obligations that involve organizing and handling a lot of documents,” says Borowski, who is head of Alexandria, Va.-based PIA Nationals business issues and technology committee. “Its important for agents to identify a plan for areas of records they are obligated to keep.

“How long do you need to keep documents in case something occurs [and you need] the appropriate document to defend yourself?” Borowski asks. Doing a risk analysis can help answer such questions.

Borowski says agents must also be able to identify original documents from copies. She also notes that “corporate documents should be kept in perpetuity and personnel documents should be kept for a long time.”

Regarding conversion of paper documents to electronic form, Borowski says, “There are certain circumstances where we certainly would encourage [agents] to convert documents, but with certain documents we would encourage agents to retain the original, particularly where signatures were required.”

She notes that due to legal decisions in some states, some electronic representations of documents will be accepted as genuine, “but in some instances, the courts have not matured to that level.” She advises that any document related to reducing benefits in particular should have a paper and ink signature. “I would still say to scan such documents so you have both [forms], but make sure you retain your original document.”

Borowski recommends that agents determine how the transaction filing capability of a document system works before deciding on such an application. “You want a system that will memorialize when you make changes, and that makes that permanent.” Its also important that when a renewal comes into the system, it is capable of retaining both the new document and the previous version. “A lot of agency management systems are capable of doing this,” she points out, “but you want to understand exactly how that works so you can access it when you need it.”

Storing historical documents in an agency “is probably the trickiest part,” says Borowski. “You really need to understand the system you have and create an archive index that will let you retrieve files efficiently. Thats a big issue.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 3, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.