Getting Tough About Records Management: Your Upgrade Checklist

Topics: Store and Protect Information

Rigorous compliance and discovery demands for financial services firms, as well as increased merger and acquisition activity, are just some of the reasons you might be thinking about a records management upgrade. Here’s what to consider.

Sure, a well-planned records management system upgrade could give your financial services firm the productivity, compliance and bottom-line boost it’s looking for. But before you sink time and resources into a new strategy, consider your current system’s strengths and weaknesses. You and your colleagues need to ask some tough questions. Here’s a list to jump-start your upgrade process.

Area 1: Policies and Procedures

1. What constitutes our vital records?
Which information is critical to your company’s operations? Ask your firm’s leaders—across all departments—this question. You may be surprised at the wide variety of answers.

2. Have we considered both paper and electronic records?
Many companies have a policy in place for paper but not electronic records. Since your critical data most likely lives on both, consider a hybrid records management approach.

3. Is our records management policy actually current?
Make sure your update provides for the latest records formats and all possible data sources (both inside and outside your firm). It should also address all compliance demands, including those particular to your business category.

4. Do we have social media and email covered?
Even the most robust records management program may not be up for the one-two punch of high email volume and the rapid ascent of social media as a business tool. In fact, market researchers at Gartner project that by 2014, social media will replace email as the primary means of interpersonal communication for one in five business users.[1]

5. How accessible is our information? 
A 2010 Department of Labor study found that a business could spend as much as $11,500 annually per administrative support person and about $28,500 per manager on simple hard-copy management.[2] At those rates, you want to make sure that your staff is spending as little time as possible playing hide-and-go-seek with company records.

6. Has our disaster recovery plan been tested?
Monitor and test data backup and recovery systems regularly for their ability to respond to a business interruption—and make sure a tape backup system is part of your recovery plan. According to recent Aberdeen Group research, more than 75 percent of all Best-in-Class and Industry Average organizations use a backup tape recovery system.[3]

7. Can we handle an M&A-fueled records management uptick?
According to a recent KPMG report, 67 percent of financial services respondents expect mergers and acquisitions to be on the rise worldwide.[4] Although mergers and acquisitions create new revenue streams and can potentially expand existing ones, you need policies in place to streamline and merge records. You also must check for compliance issues and conflicts of interest.

8. Are our applications and systems up to date?
Ensure that your hardware and software systems are current. Make sure that both have been updated along the way to include new features and controls. Check performance metrics, too, for their relevance today, and update accordingly.

Area 2: Audit and Accountability

9. Who’s in charge here?
Is your records manager up to the task of understanding not only technology and business processes, but also what data is important to your company and how it’s all used? Tip: A master’s degree or a completed diploma program in archives and records management is a good start.

10. How secure are we?
Consider locking down your records from cradle to grave. Establish permissions and encrypt where necessary—even when data is stored offsite.

11. Do we have a well-trained staff?
Your employees need to understand the company’s policies and procedures for accessing and protecting records, particularly those pertaining to regulatory requirements, and should be well-versed in retention and destruction schedules.

Area 3: Privacy and Disposal

12. Are we compliant­and can we prove it?
Lawmakers have imposed wide-ranging regulatory reform on the financial services industry through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. But how well do your records, even those in storage, meet the demands of ever-shifting regulations?

13. Do we have inclusive retention and destruction schedules?
Financial services institutions must be able to provide up to five years of historical records of their daily transactions, typically in a very short time frame. Can your system do this?

Area 4: Retention Best Practices

14. How do we back up and store information?
You might think the best way to guarantee having the data that a regulator, auditor or citizen might request is to save every last scrap of information. Wrong. Storing everything may result in high-price-tag reams of information that your employees could spend time (and money) searching through to answer a discovery or audit request.

Teaming Up

A trusted partner can help you manage critical information consistently across all departments and locations, while also showing you how to build, implement and maintain a successful, businesswide information management program. You’ll gain peace of mind knowing that your new system is unified, cost-effective and compliant.

[1] Gartner Reveals Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond, a February 2010 press release at

[2] Getting the best out of your contracts: Six ways to improve consistency, confidence and profitability. Cost estimates: Employer Costs for Employee Compensation, December 2010, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

[3]Offsite Storage and Computing: Keys to Successful Disaster Recovery,” Aberdeen Group, September 2010

[4] “The Architecture of the Deal,” a KPMG report

The Records Management Upgrade: What You Stand to Gain

Examining the strengths and weaknesses of your current records management program is an important step in developing optimal information management processes and practices. By assessing the current state of your program, you’ll:

  • Understand how your program functions across five key best practices, and identify any deficiencies and risk-exposure points.
  • Record the location of paper and electronic information across all business units and offices for quicker retrieval.
  • Classify all records down to the specific type, so individuals from across the company are able to find exactly what they need when they need it.

Do you have more questions about your firm’s records management options? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges.   

Related Content:

The Makings of a 2012 Records Manager

Tweeting for Keeps: Financial Services and the Social Media Archiving Conundrum

How Records Management Could Protect Against Lawsuits

The Why and How of Creating an Entirely New Role in Your Organization to Master Records Management