Guest blogger Philip Cooney explores the techniques banks need to deploy to make it easy for customers to open a bank account in the digital age.

I’m sitting in a cafe having a cup of coffee and sharing a muffin with my five-year-old, when I overhear two teenagers at the next table talking about banking, of all things. What they are specifically discussing is the Revolut account and how impressed they are with the overall customer experience and features (I’m paraphrasing a bit).

One of the things they remark on as I casually eavesdrop while munching my muffin is how easy it is to open an account with Revolut in the first place.

This got me thinking—in the Instagram and Facebook era of instant online gratification, just how important is the ability to create a relationship with a bank at the swish of your mobile? How does a new generation—who are not just digitally savvy but are likely to be constantly comparing the online experience of banking against the likes of Amazon—value their “instant banking gratification”?

From an Irish perspective, the challenge is here now. As of December 2018, Revolut had 200,000 Irish customers, an increase of fourfold in just over a year. And it’s not just millennials who are thinking of jumping ship. So, when it comes to the onboarding and origination journey in this new and evolving digital age—what is important for banks to get right to appeal to the digitally native customer? Does everything have to be all singing and dancing online and in real time or is it more subtle than that?

The Know-Your-Customer (KYC) conundrum

One of the most frustrating things about opening a bank account for a digital native is the higher bar set on proving your identity (and continuing to prove it) particularly when comparing against almost any other product or service you buy. However, this isn’t just a frustration for your average millennial. Research suggests 12 percent of companies changed banks as a result of KYC issues and, on average, European banks spend $20 billion per year on KYC and anti-money-laundering regulatory compliance, for seemingly limited impact. When onboarding a new customer, there are a few techniques to combine the best customer experience with meeting regulatory expectations which can be used in tandem.

Tips to combine customer experience with regulatory compliance

Digital ID & verification: Numerous tools, such as Trulioo and Jumio, can be integrated to auto-validate customers as part of their online journey. These can leverage multiple methods such as selfie-based authentication and biometric facial recognition.

Digital document uploads: Where identity documents are needed, digital copies are uploaded, validated automatically and details used to pre-populate the rest of the online application form. Combining AI techniques can also mean straight-through success rates and the number of accepted document types increase as the machine learns.

External data integration: Using APIs linked to trusted external data sources to validate customers, such as Ireland’s Companies Office or the Central Credit Register, to corroborate required regulatory information demands.

Adverse media screening: Banks can use online vendor software to look for adverse mentions of the potential customer across a variety of traditional and social media.

Complexity needs the human touch

In banking, the more complex the product and the customer, the harder it is to create a fully online journey that meets their needs and desires. Our research has consistently shown that for complex products banks need to have a “phygital” approach, where digital and physical channels are fully integrated.

Our previous Financial Services Customer Survey found that 63 percent of customers said it was important for them to open an account with a human advisor, and 59 percent indicating it was important to them to have human advisors available in person to give advice about products such as mortgages.

Provide instant gratification—and if you can’t, let them know

The last thing an online application should do is replicate the paper experience: fill in the form, wait a week with no updates from the bank, only to discover that the wrong documentation was provided or the credit application has been refused. Instant feedback wherever possible is key, whether by using tools like those mentioned above to validate the customer online, reuse of data where the customer has provided it as part of previous interactions, enhanced credit scoring models with appropriate credit policies to give real-time credit approvals, or simply by validating each piece of new data customers enter it to minimise exceptions.

Ultimately, the aim of the game is to make the customer experience of applying for a bank account engaging, intuitive and as hassle-free as possible.

Where it’s not possible (and this particularly applies to more complex products), give the customer an easy digital mechanism to both interact with the bank and understand exactly where in the application process they are. For example, the nCino business lending origination platform offers a “customer portal” capability that allows customers to save and resume complex applications, interact with the bank to provide and receive digital documentation, provide access to other parties involved and provide exact status of where the loan is in the application process.

Ultimately, the aim of the game is to make the customer experience of applying for a bank account engaging, intuitive and as hassle-free as possible. Having helped many banks around the world to design such experiences, we’ve found that the common feature is putting the needs of the customer at the very centre of everything.

One thing is for certain—opening a bank account will never be as simple as uploading your next photo to Instagram. That said, with the prevalence of customer-centric design and with the advance in digital technologies, I suspect it’s going to get increasingly easier—even by the standards of the teens I overheard in the coffee shop.

Now, back to my coffee and muffin!

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