How to Create a Global Record Retention Schedule

Gary Rylander

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Anyone who has ever attempted to create a record retention schedule for a complicated organization of any size knows it is not a simple task. Establishing the business needs of retention requires gathering information from many stakeholders and a significant amount of communication. Determining the legal requirements for retention, compliance, security and privacy in all domestic jurisdictions in which the company conducts business can also require considerable legal research. If the business in question is highly regulated, it must develop an understanding of how regulators view record retention requirements.

As a recent report from Fontis International illustrates, when expanding this undertaking across the globe, these tasks increase in quantity and many additional challenges arise.

Organizational Complexity

If a financial organization’s retention schedule is created around countries and departments rather than functionality, it may be difficult to keep roles and records types manageable. The best practice is to establish a functionally ordered retention schedule and then determine which functions are carried out in which countries.

Number of Retention Schedules

Financial organizations can have a single record retention schedule adjusted for the most onerous requirements they face in any of the jurisdictions in which they do business. But this may result in over-retention and a reliance on paper as a retention medium for certain record classes. This is due to the fact that some jurisdictions have very long retention requirements for certain record types and, even in this day and age, require records to be maintained on paper. The best compromise is to use the business’s primary domicile as the baseline schedule and to adjust particular record classes for different countries where these exceptions are required.

Foreign Law and Custom

For many English-speaking organizations, understanding foreign legal requirements — many of which have not been adequately translated or have an understanding of local legal and regulatory customs — can be an insurmountable difficulty. Financial organizations can overcome this challenge by partnering with a service or software that reports fully cited and summarized retention requirements for each jurisdiction.

When working to comply with worldwide record retention policies, financial organizations can cut down on the amount of extensive research they must perform by working with a service that has experience in researching and reporting laws and regulations in different parts of the world.

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