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Waste not

It continually amazes me the amount of waste that my household produces. Even though I use the colour-coded bins provided by the council and make regular trips to the recycling tip, the amount to be collected by my friendly binpeople is, in my mind, far too much.

My house is not alone. In England and Wales, the combination of industry, commerce and household waste amounts to over 100 million tonnes annually and this amount is growing at around 3 per cent a year.

The Government has a national waste strategy in which it states that in 2004/05, English households and small offices recycled 23 per cent of their waste. Sadly, this is one of the lowest rates in Europe.

The cost of landfill and challenging European directives on recycling and composting targets are making landfill an increasingly unattractive waste management option. We must all try to reduce the amount of waste we produce.

Within financial services, the FSA has provided a definition of what media we can use to communicate with clients for compliance purposes. By its definition, “durable medium” can be paper or electronic means except via websites.

The key thing about electronic communication is that the sender needs to be able to prove, at any time in future, the originality, source, date and time of the email. We need to be able to ensure emails and documents are authentic. Earlier this week, I was looking through the business section of the Financial Times (in between flicking through Heat magazine) and noticed a brand name that I was unfamiliar with – Codel.

After looking at, I discovered that is a piece of software that authenticates the contents of email and any attachments. This software can make email more secure than any paper-based communication. This became more exciting to me than the day’s business news.

My 15-year-old godson is so computer literate that, at a push, he could use his computer (which he mainly uses to play real-time competitive PlayStation games with strangers as far away as Russia) to create official documents that look very similar to the original.

Think about your driving licence, which has a bar code which the DVLC and Post Office can scan to check it is authentic.

So why should IFAs and product providers think about reducing the amount of paper used, apart from the obvious environmental issues? Quite simply, we are all disappearing under ever-increasing piles of paper and the costs of sending reams of paper between IFAs, clients and providers is not getting any cheaper under Royal Mail’s new postal charging structure.

A client recently transferred a fairly straightforward personal pension from one provider to another. How many pieces of paper did it take to make this transfer? A total of 217, to be precise. I bet readers can cite many more instances where a product provider has used hundreds of pieces of paper in correspondence on a single case.

With clever pieces of software, we can at last move to paperless office systems. Technology providers can store the digital fingerprint while the email and attachments never leave your computer. The keeper of the digital fingerprint can never reproduce the original data. Dealing electronically, the transaction will take minutes and not days. All instructions and correspondence can be tracked and authenticated, which provides IFAs, clients and product providers with absolute security throughout the transaction.

As a compliance consultant for two well-known companies, I welcome the news that documents can be verified as original and, just as important, I know they have been sent.

How many letters sit on clients’ files that are well written and compliant but have never been seen by the client? More than I or the regulator would care to imagine.

Kim North (kim@techand is a director at Technology & Technical


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