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Exponential advances and increased availability in cloud technology, in combination with open banking regulatory initiatives, are dramatically changing the competitive landscape of the financial services industry. For financial institutions that have not yet tapped into these advances, attracting new customers is becoming increasingly difficult. Designing and marketing innovative financial products can bring competitive advantage and attract new customers, and the value of a seamless, comprehensively digitized customer onboarding experience should not be overlooked.

Challenges in onboarding today

Customer onboarding begins with the application for a new product or service and continues through engagement on various topics until the customer is, ideally, actively using that product or service. While most financial institutions have digitized some of their application process, the requirement that an applicant engage with a physical channel, such as visiting a bank branch or office, is still commonplace. This flies in the face of research indicating that two in three consumers dislike being required to visit a branch as part of onboarding (Signicat Onboarding Report, 2016).

In other words, it is becoming less acceptable, from a consumer perspective, to have “broken processes.” The consumer expects ease of completion, such as pre-filled personal data, and access to digitized security, authentication, and documentation capabilities. With research indicating that 40 percent of consumers have abandoned a bank application (Signicat, idem), it makes commercial sense to reduce friction points where possible.

The length of time that a financial application takes to complete, for example, correlates strongly with consumer sentiment, with longer applications much more likely to result in negative experiences. Indeed, one in three application abandonments are due to the application length (Signicat, idem).

Innovations in digital onboarding

There is a significant opportunity attached to innovating the customer onboarding experience. Research suggests that more than 50 percent of consumers are more likely to apply for a financial product and buy additional services if a branch visit is not required and the process is completely online (Signicat, idem).

Companies like Onfido are rapidly innovating in this space, addressing these issues head on through digital innovation, which can then be leveraged by financial institutions. Onfido’s mobile identity verification technology, for example, allows users to prove their identity and access services securely online, via their smartphone.

Typically, opening a bank account requires consumers to take their identity document in-branch for face-to-face identity verification. Onfido enables users to complete this process remotely, by simply uploading a photo of their identity document along with a “selfie.” Unique and specialized features such as blur and glare detection ensure image quality at the point of capture so that consumers’ applications aren’t unnecessarily delayed, aborted, or recommenced. Additionally, cross-device functionality enables consumers to switch between mobile and desktop effortlessly.

It’s this ease of user experience that’s helped leading online bank Revolut amass nearly one million customers in only three years. Indeed, the use of Onfido’s identification technology has helped Revolut increase the number of consumers onboarded by 12 percent, reduced the time taken to verify users by 38 seconds, and allowed users from 138 countries to access Revolut (see Onfido’s Revolut case study). In an age when consumers expect a seamless onboarding experience, Revolut and Onfido demonstrate that accessing financial services can be robust—without being painful.

Five key considerations for innovation

Here are the essential considerations in how to innovate the customer onboarding journey:

  1. Consider all parts. Onboarding is so much more than an attractive interface. It’s about bringing together a whole ecosystem that connects all the parts of the bank and optimizes the customer experience. It spans the entire user experience and a host of back-end systems and procedures.
  2. Map your customer journey. Identify personas and their journey mappings to their touchpoints, wants, and needs. The maps are the basis for building your customer understanding. Create the analysis artifacts that build deep insight about your customers’ current experiences. The result is a comprehensive view of the end-to-end customer journey, which you can then use to identify gaps and opportunities.
  3. Align your strategy and measure improvement. Align the business strategy with the customer experience improvement opportunities. Highlight where potential gaps exist between the current strategy and customer insights. Then reprioritize the improvement opportunities and/or redefine the strategy. Identify key measures to set the current baseline and allow you to track and report on the improvements, such as average time to complete the application and abandonment rates.
  4. Research and evaluate fintechs. “Born in the cloud” fintechs, such as Onfido, are offering innovative, virtually frictionless, utility-based solutions that can easily be integrated to improve the customer onboarding experience.
  5. Stay customer-led not technology-led. Let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, customers want a straightforward experience that allows them to apply easily for your financial products, whatever methods you use to achieve this.

In a world where first impressions count, and consumers can access most personal services almost instantaneously, what are you doing to optimize your customer onboarding experience to make it as frictionless and appealing as possible?