Digitization: It starts with customer onboarding


Digitization is sweeping every aspect of the financial industry today. It is changing the way we communicate, how we access our financial data and where we transact with our banks and insurance companies. Brick-and-mortar institutions are now competing with all-digital banks and fintech firms for the consumer.

In our last post, we discussed the Digital Banking Report’s finding that only 16% of financial organizations offer their clients the ability to open a new account entirely online or on a mobile device.

Known initially as the Online Banking Report, the Digital Banking report covered online account opening for the first time in 2009. At this point, the option to open an account online was in the early stages of moving into the mass market, and was largely seen as a convenient bonus feature, but far from necessary.

By the time the second report on online account opening was published in 2014, the landscape had changed. It had grown from a luxury add-on to an important differentiator for customers shopping for a new retail banking account or credit union. It was also around this time that the feature moved from desktop only capability to being functional on tablets and phones. The move to mobile had begun.

Three years later, the ability to preview an account or service offering from a mobile device has become necessary for financial institutions hoping to stand a chance of attracting customers who shop, check their bank account, and research products and services all from their mobile device. The ability to electronically sign, quickly navigate an interface, and to prove customer identity have all become points of competitive differentiation in the race to digitize.

New features like document and ID scanning with optical character recognition is helping improve accuracy, reduce friction, and manage operational risk. These, combined with machine learning and robotic process automation are starting to transform error-prone manual processes into fully automated or semi-automated tasks.

In the long term, mobile onboarding will become even more important than opening accounts with desktop software. According to Niti Badarinath, Senior VP of U.S. Bank, “Imaging features are the most positively reviewed features by customers. Data entry is painful. Every phone has a camera. Customers like convenience and dislike apps that don’t use features their phones have.”

The 2015 Digital Banking Report titled “Digital Account Opening”, identifies some key functionalities of digital account opening, on a basic level:

  • Capture and auto-fill of basic personal identity information
  • Qualify applicants from a risk / fraud perspective
  • Verify applicant identity (usually through third-party data sources)
  • Fund accounts digitally in real-time (usually with either a debit / credit card or with mobile deposit capture)
  • Integrate and sync information to core banking systems

The importance of these findings is especially relevant in the insurance sector. In Canada, Institutional firms like Humania and Industrial Alliance are starting to position ahead of competitors thanks in-part to building digital account opening services for current and prospective clients.

Humania recently launched their new term life insurance platform called HuGO, which aims to approve 65% of clients within one hour. Advisors using the platform will be able to offer up to $1 million in term life insurance, which will be distributed online and won’t require paper or signatures.

Digital tools like HuGO are especially attractive to the insurance professionals familiar with the pain of paper onboarding. The time it takes to complete all the components of an account opening for a new insurance policy could be better spent acquiring new customers or servicing existing clients.

Making the switch to paperless is becoming an ever more daunting but necessary task, and there’s no better place to start than the very first interaction with a new client.