Magazine Article | December 20, 2006

ECM System Allows Clients To Access Documents

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Lincoln Financial Advisors implemented an ECM (enterprise content management) solution that gives financial advisors the ability to view data â€" anytime, anywhere.

Integrated Solutions, January 2007

Lincoln Financial Advisors (LFA) represents the financial planning and retail distribution channel of Philadelphia, PA-based Lincoln Financial Group, which sells mutual funds, managed accounts, retirement solutions, life insurance, 401(k) and 403(b) plans, savings plans, institutional investments, and comprehensive financial planning and advisory services through financial advisors/planners. Lincoln Financial Group had $220 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2006.

LFA sought a scalable document management system to support the efforts of its financial planners. "While enterprise content management (ECM) systems existed within our organization at corporate levels, there was no such solution available to financial advisors or branch officers," explains Nimesh Mehta, assistant vice president, IT. "However, there were needs to be met." Financial planners wanted a solution that would allow them to work in a virtual environment, with complete access to their clients' documents anywhere at any time, through a Web portal.

The company issued an in-depth request for a proposal that had been constructed based on planner feedback; quadrant reviews by Gartner, an outside research firm; and compliance and technology requirements. "LFA is governed by NASD, Inc. (formerly the National Association of Security Dealers) and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), so the criteria in the RFP and our search for a vendor were extensive," adds Steven J. Mumby, second vice president. Specifically, the solution had to have attained regulatory approval in all 50 states for document retention and to keep up with changes in the regulatory environment. Having the option to host the solution in-house or use it in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model was equally important.

"Given the critical nature of the client data being stored, we wanted to reserve the option of hosting the solution in-house at any point during our agreement" with the vendor, Mehta states. At the same time, LFA desired the flexibility of building out a distributed app without placing stress on the bandwidth of its WAN; such flexibility, management believed, would be afforded only by the SaaS model.

But that was just the beginning. Other criteria, say Mumby and Mehta, encompassed scalability, the flexibility to integrate with proprietary systems and content delivery applications, workflow components, a user-friendly interface, and quality control during the indexing process (afforded by required fields). Additionally, the RFP mandated the solution be hardware-agnostic, support nonproprietary file storage formats, and allow for single-instance storage (data is stored once and used by many based on authorization). The company also insisted that the solution be available 24/7, with a monthly uptime of 99.95%, and offer disaster recovery features that met internal standards — for instance, providing access to recovered data from more than one source.

LFA evaluated 10 solutions, ultimately choosing OnBase OnLine, an enterprise content management system from Hyland Software. The vendor was the "only one that met all of the requirements" and offered a solution that was SaaS- and non-SaaS-based, Mehta recalls.

Introduced at the financial advisor level in 2004, the system renders scanned and indexed client documents available to financial planners via the Web, from anywhere they sign on. Consistent with LFA's requirements, it employs a multilayered approach to security, incorporating high-security firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encrypted passwords. Transmission to and from system servers necessitates Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to prevent interception of downloaded material. Only approved users with proper credentials can view data, and access to files is logged for compliance auditing purposes.

Mehta notes that by enabling financial advisors to review clients' documents wherever and whenever they wish to do so, the technology has bolstered the company's business processing efficiencies. Web-enabled document access, along with the ability to track who is accessing files and when, has resulted in compliance audit efficiencies. Document search and retrieval have become easier now that individuals need not sift through paper files to locate the required information; providing one is an authorized user, access on the Web is nearly instantaneous. He adds that LFA is also benefiting from a unified approach to content management from an enterprise level; "consistency adds to efficiency." "Overall, the use of the solution has been widely accepted," Mehta notes. "Not only has it proven to meet all of the needs from planners' perspective, it has also shown itself to be a robust, scalable, and flexible system for a large and complex enterprise. Ultimately, the goal is to integrate [the application] with all of our solutions; we are currently piloting integration with our customer relationship management [CRM] and other platforms."