Books and Records Retention

Books and Records Retention

February 16, 2024

Books and Records - a necessary evil, but also a helpful tool in well developed practices.  There are several efficient ways that you can do this, depending on what your broker/dealer allows, but I'll share my thoughts on what I think are the best.

For a small office, with just one or two people, I recommend Microsoft OneDrive.  It's easy to use, very user friendly, has a great mobile interface, and is portable.  It is a cloud based storage system that is included in your Microsoft Office 365 subscription, so you get the most bang for your buck with this system. There are certain deletion and encryption settings that you have to change in order to be in compliance for record retention rules, but OneDrive has the flexibility to handle all you need and more.  Dropbox also works similarly to OneDrive.  This is great for smaller offices that don't need as much functionality are are just looking for file storage.

For a large office, with seven or more people, I recommend Microsoft SharePoint.  It has similar functionality to OneDrive, but it has another layer of controls, backups, portability and enhanced functionality included as well.  The ability of the Owner or Administrator to control access of SharePoint folders is remarkable and gives larger offices the robust functionality needed in those types of environments.  I recently had a situation where a large spreadsheet of over 3,000 accounts which was housed in Microsoft Teams became corrupted.  Because of the underlying storage location being in SharePoint, we were able to go back and restore a previous version of the spreadsheet down to the day and minute prior to it becoming corrupted.  It was truly a life saver.

There are many more examples that can be used such as Egnyte, Box, etc., but they all utilize the same basic concept - Online Cloud Storage of Electronic Files.  Going digital with your files is an absolute necessity for several reasons.  Portability of your files, safety of your files (ask me about my storage unit being broken into), but also it helps increase the value of your business.  Portability of your business when you are ready to retire and sell to a successor is a very useful component to have in place.  Utilized cloud based storage systems is key to this.

If you don't have time to do this yourself, delegate it out to your staff, hire a part-time assistant to do this for you, or utilize your firm's Virtual Assistant program to complete this project.  It will reap huge benefits for you and for your business.

But there is more to do than to just have all of your files saved in a cloud based storage location.  You also have to make sure that those files are useful and stored in an efficient manner.  The way to do that is by naming your files appropriately.  In my office, we follow a very specific naming system that I train all of my staff to use.  You have to find a system that works best for you, however, it is important to be consistent and detailed when naming documents.  Your successor, potential buyer, or yourself 5 years from now will be very thankful that you did so.

Here are some examples:

  • Doe, John and Jane JT Per Adv, ACH, Margin, StrPro 10.01.21 STS
  • Doe, John IRA DB.NAF, AmFds.CBD 10.19.22 STS
  • Doe, Jane FBO Johnny Doe 529 DB.NAF, John Hancock App 09.30.22 STS

Here is a sample of our cheat sheet on what those abbreviations mean.  But make your own.  Just make sure all of your staff or your assistants on the same page. The STS is my initials.  Because my office works with over 80 advisors, we name every document with the initials of the advisor that the paperwork pertains to.  We also include the client first and last name as well as the registration type for each set of paperwork. If you have any questions, please reach out to and we are always happy to help!

AAAdoption Agreement – This is for all AA’s
ACATAccount Transfer Form
ADVRADV Receipt 
CBDChange of Broker/Dealer 
DISTIRA Distribution Form
NAFNew Account Form
PIFPrivate Investment Form
REG BIRegulation Best Interest
RO A&DRollover Disclosure & Analysis Form
RO DISCRollover Disclosure Form
SGSignature Guarantee 
SISStatement of Investment Selection– This is for the fillable & the report from Accesspoint 
TCIPTrustee Certification of Investment Powers
TODTransfer on Death - you can also have a JT TOD 
TPMMThird-Party Money Manager Form