This post over at John Quiggin’s blog reminded me of my first job in a back office. In short, the job was to replace an ad-hoc, paper based settlements “process” with one based on computers – with no budget. The solution ended up being an Access database that not only managed the settlements process but also did full online reporting. It also, in a large part, removed the need to print anything out – saving a lot of paper.

As with a couple of the commenters on that thread, I now print out very little – confining it to large documents I reference regularly and those I need to sit down and read carefully.

Bank regulation, though, often mandates printed documents. In Australia, for example, every time a bank or other financial firm licensed to provide advice, provides that advice or sells you a product, they need to give you what amounts to a mountain of paper, signatures everywhere and normally also a few printed documents. None of this, in most cases, will ever be read again and (in my case at least) normally ends up in the bin as I know I can always get a copy if I really need it off a website somewhere.

Another good example is the need to send a copy of annual reports to all shareholders under the various listing rules.

APRA have just made an important step in allowing the quarterly disclosures under pillar 3 of the Accord to be made simply by posting them on the banks’ websites (discussed here). The use of online form submission to APRA by regulated entities is also very good.

Any other ideas for reducing the amount of paper we have to use – particularly those forced on us

by regulation?