Originally published April 2, 2015
Thirty years can go by very quickly. And for us more mature folks, it can seem like yesterday. As I think about those years, I am struck by the changes to the financial planning and investment world, specifically changes at PDS Planning. Our very basic and very large computers had less ability than today’s smart phones. We had no internet service, no email, no online trading and pricing. Investment research was done with subscriptions to monthly services like Value Line.
Fund information came via Morningstar, but unlike today’s daily downloads on thousands of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and funds, we received a booklet each month for the funds in a specific asset class (municipal bond, international stocks, domestic small cap, etc.). We were required then to make hard copies of these reports (no scanning existed), attach hard copies of fund prospectuses (we had half of a storeroom dedicated to this!), and mail this to our clients with every recommended change in their investments.
We had a binder for every client (another big part of a storeroom), and these travelled around the office each month when the client had a quarterly investment report or financial plan update. It was not unusual for other staff to think I was not at my desk, because I was hidden behind stacks of these binders!
Investment trades were a nightmare. First we had to fax a list of trades to each custodian, follow up with a call, and pray they were done as requested. Later, with the arrival of early computerized trading, a hard-copy trade ticket had to be completed for every single transaction. These were used to do the trades – one at a time, of course – and were then checked by the trader and passed to in-house compliance for review and sign-off, then retained for at least seven years.
There was no downloading or uploading. We had to hand-input into our data base every transaction, every price, and every bit of data for every client holding. And we were required to keep hard copies of everything. Monthly filing took 1-2 full days.
Financial planning software was totally inflexible, and we were forced to print out client reports that were sometimes more than 100 pages long (can you imagine!).
Fortunately PDS embraced new technologies as they became available. This allowed us to move from a transaction/labor-intensive model to a personalized service model. We can now access information with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. Rummaging through basement boxes and file cabinets full of paper is a thing of the past, thank goodness.
Thirty years have indeed flown by. Sometimes it would have been easy to resist these technological changes. Fortunately we did not. And fortunately our staff has always been quick to look for ways to become even more efficient. While I won’t be at PDS when it celebrates the next thirty years, I suspect the changes to daily operations will be just as dramatic as were the first thirty.
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