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Your 10-Minute Pre-Vacation Checklist

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August has arrived! Generally speaking, particularly when markets are cooperating, August is a quieter month for advisors. The children are still out of school, many clients are on vacation, and there aren’t any significant deadlines on the calendar—which gives advisors an opportunity to take a break also. However, there are a number of quick technology tasks that you should consider prior to hitting the road. If everything is in good order, these tasks should only take about 10 minutes each to complete.

Double check data security. It is always top of mind, and many tasks in this area require significant time and planning. However, one that you can do quickly is review user IDs and access credentials. Do you have any that are old and should be deleted? For example, have you stopped using a particular product or custodian, but your access credentials are still active? This might be necessary to access historical information, but remember to follow best practices and update your password and security questions.

Clean up your desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. How many apps and programs do you have on these devices that you no longer use? Have you stored any data locally that you don’t need anymore? Perhaps you downloaded a client report or saved a spreadsheet that no longer should be stored on the device. Just like cleaning out your garage at home, you should have a similar process for your devices. You might be surprised what you have retained, especially when you have used them for years. The performance of the device might also improve.

Check that your data back-up plan works. For many advisors, enjoying their vacation is partly accomplished by knowing everything is stable back at the office. You don’t want to have any “fire drills” occur while you are away. One way to provide a little assurance is to confirm your data back-up plan is working. Take a moment and review several files from multiple time periods that are stored on your external hard drive, cloud-based server or other back-up device.

Review your technology contracts. Frequently, advisors sign a contract and then don’t look at it again until they want to get out of the deal or the term expires. Regularly review your technology contracts and make sure you understand the terms of the deal and, more importantly, are being charged correctly. I have heard story after story from firms that were incorrectly charged for months because the individual paying the invoice didn’t understand the terms of the deal.

In addition, as your firm continues to grow, it is helpful to understand how this growth may impact technology costs. It might be advantageous to renegotiate the deal in anticipation of accelerated growth.

Test who is in charge while the primary leader is away. This next task can create a little stress for the team, but it will be worth it. We all have different levels of expertise, and invariably some things don’t get done while certain individuals are out of the office. This is understandable, but can become a big problem. For example, if your role is to lead the business resumption plan, make sure everyone knows who is in charge when you are not in the office. Hoping that nothing will go wrong is not a good strategy! Too often, firms end up relying solely on one individual and everyone struggles when that person is away—especially when something unexpected happens. One way to address this is to not only have multiple people trained, but to test their abilities when the main person is away.

Taking the time to ensure your firm’s “technology house” is in good order is a great idea before you leave for vacation. Even if you don’t have any vacation plans, completing these small-scale technology tasks will be a productive use of your time during this often quieter time of year.

Remind Staff to Watch for Fraudulent Emails

We have discussed many times the importance of being on the lookout for fraudulent emails due to identity theft. The risk to your firm increases when you have staff on vacation and the remaining members of the team are expected to cover the workload. Sometimes the work is rushed and the individuals completing the work may not have direct familiarity with a specific client request. Therefore, be deliberate in reminding the staff of your policy and procedures—especially as it relates to any client requests that are received via email.