Tech Bytes: Paperless storageMike Vernoncomputers, technology, storage, organization Mike Vernon is the National Association of Mortgage Brokers Technology Committee co-chair, as well as the vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Mortgage Brokers. Every month, Mike will be on hand to help establish a baseline of knowledge, relative to technology, for anyone within the industry - from the tech-savvy to the technologically challenged - who wants to know. When I scan a newspaper over a morning cup of coffee or walk past a rack of magazines at a supermarket, I can't help but think that even with all of the electronic media outlets we have at our disposal, there will never be a day when we are completely paperless. I see this even more when I walk into an office. There are always bits of information coming in from all over the place, and to constantly be scanning and e-mailing when you could simply be looking at and reading a piece of paper, well ... it just doesn't seem to be a realistic endeavor. What you can do, however, is switch to paperless when an item needs to be put into storage. The first step, as a mortgage professional, is to contact your state banking commission and determine if this is even a feasible option. Most states do allow this. This is due to the fact that most lenders, the leaders of our industry, already allow information to be electronically transferred to them. We have come a long way from thermal faxes and dot matrix printers. The all-in-one unit (copier, fax machine, printer and scanner) has been around for years. Most of these, if they don't already have one, can be upgraded by the addition of a scanning card. This card simply allows you to instantly convert your paper documents to Portable Document Format (PDF). Once these bits of information are formatted, the next step comes into play. These PDF files will need to be organized. Your in-house information technology person, as well as the person who sold you the scanning card, should be able to offer you guidance regarding this matter. You could store them by date, alphabetically or in whatever other manner you desire. All that you are doing is creating an electronic filing cabinet. You may initially ask yourself why you would take these extra steps when you could be spending your precious time closing more loans. The reasons are many. If you are not already backing up your files electronically, then you should stop reading this right now and schedule time with an information technology professional. Assuming that you are already backing up your files electronically, this is the next step in the electronic process. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act dictates that you take every precaution to keep your borrowers' information secure. So if you are a broker or banker who keeps files in an unlocked filing cabinet, you are not doing everything you could to keep this information safe and secure. By storing as much of this information in a paperless manner as you can, you are minimizing potential security issues. As your business grows, more and more physical space will be needed if you decide to not go paperless. Not only does a four-drawer fireproof filing cabinet cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, it takes up an enormous amount of space. Assuming a standard file of 120 pages and multiplying that by the number of loans you may close on a monthly basis, you can see how you can run out of room very quickly. That same 120-page file would only take up approximately six MB in your electronic filing cabinet. You could fit more than 100 files on a single CD and probably 800 files on a DVD. That is a huge difference. You would also have quick access to complete files without having to fumble through pages and pages of documents, boxes of files and bulky cabinets. Imagine being able to locate a HUD-1 or HUD-1A from a transaction you completed last year without having to leave your computer. Lastly, let's discuss security. All it would take to shatter the security of the office you are sitting in right now is a broken window and crowbar. All too often, the only time a broker does anything about security in his office is after there has been a break-in. By keeping your computers password protected and securing your electronic data (either on- or off-site, but always under lock and key), you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your customer. Mike Vernon is the Technology Committee co-chair for the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Mortgage Brokers and president of FollowYourCustomer Inc. He may be reached at (877) 365-5692 or e-mail [email protected].
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