With banks steadfastly moving their operations from branches to digital channels, onboarding is a vital stage in the sales process that is benefitting from the latest technology.
Onboarding is typically challenging and time-consuming, involving numerous steps that can impact conversion rates and the cost of acquisition. However, banks must exercise due diligence and vet every new customer to comply with know your customer (KYC), anti-money laundering (AML) and other security regulations.
Fast and secure onboarding is a huge advantage for customers and banks alike. The goal is to eliminate tedious manual processing, avoid the requirement to visit bank branches and reduce approval times, while also enhancing security. All this is now possible through digital innovations that are streamlining the way banks approve new customers.
Angela Byrne, customer goal lead at RBS, describes faster and smoother onboarding as a huge business opportunity, driven by customer expectations.
“Our customers expect things to be simple and easy,” she says, “and opening a bank account is no different. They expect it to be swift and straightforward, and for us to make it as seamless as possible.”
Byrne says that a recent project with HooYu, the bank’s security partner, an expert in ID verification and investigation, is creating big improvements in the customer onboarding journey. A key development is the use of selfies, which, in some cases, enables customers to be onboarded in minutes, rather than days or weeks.
“We’ve enabled selfie technology to help with anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud checks,” says Byrne, “while reducing the time it takes to open an account to about three minutes for a savings account and seven minutes for a current account.”
Byrne says the aim is to enable customers to open an account at their own leisure and in the way that they want. That means that they can go to a branch if that’s what suits them best, but taking advantage of technology. They can also do it remotely, on a computer or a mobile device, such as tablet or smartphone.
“The important thing is the digital journey,” says Byrne. “No matter where customers join us, it will be exactly the same. Being simple and seamless is crucial today; it’s what customers expect, and it’s what we’re delivering through our work with partners such as HooYu. Customer experience is a key focus, which is why we often use hackathons and research to get an inside view on what’s best for customers.”
Adopting an agile way of working within RBS has helped increase the focus on customer experience. It has meant changing the way the bank works, says Byrne, and in particular has strengthened and refined its relationship with technology, regulatory and legal partners.
“We take a minimum viable product approach,” says Byrne, “so we can approve and deliver value to customers as quickly as possible. In order to know what works, we actively test journeys with our customers, and everything is researched and proven before we go to scale.”
Byrne adds that collaboration is the catalyst for improvements across the value chain and that relationships with organisations such as HooYu are mutually beneficial. “HooYu has long obsessed about customer journeys and removing pain points,” says Byrne, “so it’s helpful for us to work with an organisation that’s zoned in on common goals and all the areas where we want to help customers. This includes artificial intelligence and, specifically, technology that allows us to compare a selfie with a passport photo, to prevent fraud.”
NatWest was the first major high street bank to allow customers to open an account using a selfie and one piece of photographic ID, removing the need for customers to visit a bank branch. HooYu’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology and real-time biometrics match the customer’s selfie with a valid form of photo ID, such as a driving licence or passport image, and the identification process is completed in minutes.
As well as significantly reducing the time to open an account, so-called ‘selfie banking’ helps with fraud prevention. With AI and biometric recognition, the identity of customers can be assessed with greater precision and accuracy. It’s a marriage of compliance and convenience that Byrne says is enabling about a million accounts to be opened annually.
On-demand account opening
Convenience is served by asking customers fewer questions during the onboarding process, but without compromising risk profiling and security, autofilling relevant data already held by the bank so there is no need to input the data again. The aim is for customers to be able to open an account on the spot and on the move, and to be able to use it within 24 hours.
With mobile and omnichannel banking on the rise, banks view onboarding speed and flexibility as part of the service they have to offer if they are to remain competitive.
Byrne says that RBS uses many different anti-fraud vendors and always ensures that security and customer experience are in balance, by taking the bugbear and delay out of essential admin.
From a customer perspective, this is helping the bank to improve its net promoter score (NPS), a core metric of customer experience.
In addition to its selfie initiative, NatWest was the first UK bank to announce a biometric credit card at the end of 2019, in partnership with Mastercard and digital security company Gemalto, having previously trialled finger-enabled debit cards and declared them a success. Customer trials began at the end of 2019. According to a study in 2018 by Gemalto, 54 percent of UK consumers would be willing to use biometric payment cards if they were available at their bank.
The cards provide contactless payment using fingerprint verification for transactions up to £100. Considering the current limit for non-biometric contactless payments is £30, this is a reflection of the trust placed in biometric technology.
As with onboarding for new bank accounts, card enrolment is simple and takes as little as five minutes. Once a digital fingerprint is transferred to a card, it remains locked and the biometric data cannot be accessed or used outside the card. It is never shared with the merchant or the bank, and fingerprints are not stored in the Cloud.
Much of the innovation and customer focus that Byrne describes is being generated by NatWest Ventures. This creative team of engineers, designers, scrum leaders and business specialists is using digital technology to meet the needs of NatWest’s customers, but with an emphasis on the business community, which has tended to be neglected in comparison to innovations for the consumer sector.
Notable recent SME projects include Mettle. The digital bank account for SMEs, launched as a pilot in October 2019, is now being fully rolled out to the business banking community as NatWest’s solution for small firms who want fast and convenient access to digital financial services.
Entirely mobile, the Mettle platform was developed in conjunction with Capco, the global business and technology management consultancy, and allows business customers to open an account when they download an app. In addition to a current account, the service includes invoicing, bookkeeping and a debit card.The aim with Mettle is to accelerate digitally-focussed business banking and simplify onboarding in the same way that Byrne says it is being simplified for consumers. To open a Mettle account, customers need to show one of three types of ID: a UK passport, an EU passport or ID card, or a full driving licence.
As well as Mettle, NatWest Ventures has a variety of other projects for the business sector, such as a merchant acquiring business called Tyl and an invoice payments business called Aptimise. Whether addressing the needs of the business community or millions of consumer customers, the RBS Group is committed to making banking easier and safer, says Byrne.
“We can build digital solutions that make things simple for customers, while complying with regulations. And strategically, the great thing is we partner with many different fintechs and other firms to do this as quickly as possible.”