Financial firms offer more paperless options

Many businesses are trying to do their part for the environment by reducing the amount of paper they use.  Financial firms are no exception as many are trying to reduce costs and be environmental friendly by introducing paperless record keeping.

You have an opportunity to help out.  There are many paperless options available when dealing with their investment accounts, though there is still some information that firms are required by law to mail out.  Here is what you need to know if you are considering reducing the amount of paper that gets mailed to you from your financial institution.

  • Monthly statements are generally sent to you from your financial firm, provided there is activity in the account.  If there is no activity in the account then quarterly statements are sent.
  • Trade confirmations are required to be sent to you for all purchases and sells.  It is important for you to maintain a system to keep these documents, especially for non-registered accounts.
  • Annual trading summaries are a useful document that is not required to be sent to you.  Most full service financial firms send this summary at the end of each calendar year to clients who have non-registered accounts.  It lists all the buys and sells that occurred during the year.  Some accountants staple the annual summaries to the inside of their clients’ tax files.  This is a condensed summary that occurred during the year and is also useful to maintain for tax purposes.
  • Realized Gain (Loss) Reportsare not required to be mailed to you.  Investment advisors individually choose whether they will prepare this document for you.  In our opinion, if you are paying an investment advisor to manage your investments, he or she should be sending this report to you annually to assist your accountant.  If your advisor does not send this to you, then accountant will likely bill you additional time for its preparation. 

We encourage people to recycle paper that they no longer need.  The exception to this is documents that contain your confidential information.  These should be shredded.   The advantage to receiving documents electronically is that you never have to worry about disposing of confidential documents.

It is important to understand that financial institutions can’t just switch over to paperless record keeping – such a move requires regulatory approval.  Self-regulatory organizations must approve the controls and systems to ensure that security is sufficient.  This is important for both you and the financial institution.  However, as time goes on, more financial institutions will be offering a paperless option.  This will reduce the number of documents being sent by regular mail, such as monthly statements and confirmation slips.  In the future, we may find that the default option for receiving statements and confirmations is paperless and that a charge may apply if you would like paper copies.  In our view, this is a good thing, both from the point of view of efficiency and protecting the environment.

Other tips to reduce paper consumption:

  • Establish an Epass with Canada Revenue Agency and provide your representative access to view this information.  This will eliminate the need for you to photocopy your tax return and notice of assessment each year for your investment advisor.
  • Online access is also offered by most financial institutions.  This enables you to pay bills and complete other tasks electronically.  No cheques need to be printed and no mail is sent.
  • Organize your computer files the same way you would your paper files.  Ensure you are backing up your important personal and financial information.  External hard drives are becoming inexpensive and they are small.  Periodically you can back up your information and store the hard drive in your safety deposit box.

There are many ways to be more “green”.  If you are interested, check out www.thegreenpages.ca.