Taken from Policy Manual Part D: Professional Practice.
Clause 1.3a of the code of conduct requires an adviser to ensure that any personal documents belonging to or relating to clients are held securely whilst in the adviser’s possession. Clause 1.3b of the code of conduct also requires an adviser to return passports and other personal documents to clients on request, without delay and in a secure manner.
Issues that have been identified in this area of professional practice include advisers:
Advisers must ensure the security of all documents, in order to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client, and protect the documents within reason from theft, vandalism, natural disaster, manmade catastrophes, and accidental damage. There are arange of means available for an adviser to protect client records, including having a secure files room, a lockable safe or filing cabinet.
Where original documents are retained by advisers, care must be taken to ensure that they are not damaged in any way (e.g. date stamped or hole punched to be inserted in the client’s file). Many advisers store original documents in heavy duty envelopes or re-sealable plastic packets, and use these methods as interim solutions to ensure that original documents remain on the correct client files, while they are in the adviser’s possession.
As the volume of records kept expands, advisers and other professionals are increasingly keeping financial and personal documents in digital format. If an adviser chooses to keep documents digitally, it is imperative that back-up systems are put in place to mitigate the potential effects of unforeseen events or circumstances (e.g. a fire at the office or a computer virus). Ideally, consideration should also be given to storing back-up records in another location.
Within New Zealand, the Electronic Transactions Act 2002 authorises advisers to retain information that is in paper or other non-electronic form in electronic form, if the electronic form provides a reliable means of assuring the maintenance of the integrity of the information; and the information is readily accessible to be usable for subsequent reference.
Advisers must also be aware however, that if they are using the services of an electronic storage facility provided by an external supplier, the information that they store may also be subject to disclosure requirements under the laws of other jurisdictions. It is the individual responsibility of advisers to ensure that any electronic storage of documents adequately protects the personal information of their clients, and should seek independent legal advice in the event of any uncertainty.