Let’s roll back in time a little. In the early 1990s, to open an account, customers had to go to the bank’s branch and manually fill out the documents with their signature and with an occasional thumb impression. Today, times have changed, for a seamless digital customer onboarding experience, correct? Wrong!

Digital Onboarding is a much talked about ‘disruptive’ buzzword surrounding the banking landscape, but it surrounds more as a haze than as a mist. The number of banks and customers who have actually adopted digital onboarding are in frugal numbers.

Banks and customers alike have tested the digital waters with much restrain and trepidation. Banks face challenges which are regulatory, technological and business in nature. Now, let us analyze the friction points faced by customers in the onboarding process.

Incumbents are attracted at the disruptive face of technologies and extend a limp handshake to the technology led approach which holds a steady variance as a sustainable business model. It flies in the face of the customer led approach. Trend lines and insights have proven time and again that a customer first approach is worth its weight in gold, and is the foundational roadmap of any trend setting business revolution.

When we analyze the customer experience barometer, we find that onboarding experiences are decisive ‘make or break’ factors in being competitive differentiators.    Lack of an efficient onboarding process which is time consuming has become the most common customer experience breakpoint in recent times. Customer loyalty and attrition are at an all time low during the first quarter of the onboarding process.

Though many incumbents traverse the ‘silk route’ of digital onboarding, there are still some pitfalls of manual intervention. For instance, the customer has to physically visit the branch for relatively inevitable reasons like ID verification and signatures. There is a stark disconnect between customer expectations and their actual experiences. Reports indicate that more customers would consider applying to these banks if the road laid for the onboarding journey traverses a 100% digital trajectory.

Since the onboarding processes on both online and mobile platforms require manual intervention, it becomes a sub optimal, time consuming process. The time taken for the onboarding process is like watching grass grow. Though the online onboarding processes take less than thirty minutes, the need for physical presence, or presentations of identity documents through branch visits, adds several days to the wait. And if the waiting customer is a business or owns a business, time is a key value proposition. Each day of wait is seen as an impediment to financial and business growth. The more often they have to come back, the less sense of urgency they have about becoming the bank’s customer.

Such semi digital offerings make the customer wait for days to complete the manual part of the onboarding process. Most incumbents do not offer a “Resume Later” option which allows the customer to continue where he left off. When a manual intervention like physical validation of ID cards or signatures become a mandate, it is imperative to have the “Resume Later” option. Also, a well-rounded Omni channel offering can reduce the bandwidth of an application capture. The lack of it implies, customers cannot work across devices at a later time.

Both the above challenges imply that the customer has to fill in the online details once again resulting in redundant data within a superfluous timeframe. Starting the whole digital process again is like a long walk in tight shoes. The painful journey doesn’t get you anywhere. This is a major customer experience breakpoint and drives serious attrition challenges to the banks.

There are companies which provide solutions to such posing challenges. For instance, Aspire has partnered with Temenos to provide digital onboarding solutions with a “Save and Resume” option. It is as supportive as a good recliner. One can recline on its Omni channel maturity to ensure that he can self-onboard at his own pace, time and device.

Today, nearly 50% of users browse through mobile devices, with the numbers all set to hit a peak over time. But the onboarding solutions do not offer a fully responsive webpage which is compatible across all kinds of mobile devices, tablets and desktops. When the layout is scattered across the mobile screen, users can make no head or tail of the onboarding process.

Intrinsic challenges like regulations and internal inefficiencies, make banks take up to 3 months for a client onboarding practice. Add to that slower processing times and the inability to transact and onboard in multiple jurisdictions, time zones and repeatedly asking for the same data. Not to mention changing laws and regulatory compliances across geographies, which continually change with time. All this has made customer onboarding a difficult undertaking.

Remote customers are often expected to visit a branch. But they might face ominous transit challenges, besides being out of town or country. There have been brave attempts by banks to overcome these challenges. Customer service representatives fill out the paperwork for the customers through phone calls and then email the forms for signature. But this yet again is an insecure, cumbersome practice which delays new account openings, resulting in customer drop offs.

Unencumbered by the challenges faced by the customer, onboarding will have a quantifiable impact on key variables like customer trust, new customers, reputation and brand equity. Such incumbents will have excellent customer retention numbers which is as direct and unwavering as the course of a homing bird and paves way for a royal road to business growth.

Adithya Soundararajan

Senior Research Analyst at Aspire Systems
Adithya is a passionate senior research analyst with a first class Masters degree in Business Administration and has avid interest in learning new technologies. Management by education and technology by passion, he holds a steady mix and treads the golden mean.