Licensed accountants have been warned not to underestimate the importance of adequate file notes, with ASIC routinely inspecting these notes when performing checks on licences.
The Fold solicitor Jaime Lumsden Kelly says it is important that records, of interactions with clients, that are kept go beyond statements of advice.
“Obviously there are statutory obligations in relation to that document but meetings, telephone conversations, emails should be saved and saved to a central location so that they can be accessed along with the client file, because with emails that aren’t saved, people move on or emails get deleted and you need those emails,” she said.
Ms Lumsden Kelly said these emails may be needed to establish when the advice was given, if the advice was accurate, whether you collected information from the client – “all those sorts of things that got into the service you’re providing to the client”.
“I have [seen] instances where ASIC has gone in and done a spot check on a licensee, and the feedback that ASIC gives is not that the advice that was given was inappropriate or appropriate, but that they couldn’t determine whether it was appropriate or inappropriate because of the lack of record keeping,” she said.
“That’s obviously from a financial services compliance perspective but the same goes for a dispute. If you’ve got a dispute with a client and your records are actually so incomplete that you can’t demonstrate if what the client is saying is right or not, you’ve immediately got a dispute on your hands, and a dispute that you potentially can’t win because you can’t actually produce the evidence to show what you said, what you didn’t say, what you did and what you didn’t do.”
“Accurate record keeping goes above and beyond the statement of advice.”
Ms Lumsden Kelly said the firm may require emails to establish when the advice was given, whether that advice was accurate and whether you collected information from the client.
“If you don’t actually keep a record of it, then you have no way to establish, in the event of a dispute, whether there was a problem.”
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