Have you ever wondered the first time when you started using Google? Or the day you signed up for Gmail, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter? Now try recalling the steps you performed to do it. Easy, isn’t it? Provide a name, maybe a mobile number, type in a password/OTP and you are good to go. It’s so simple and seamless that you probably didn’t even realize when you had become a customer/user on their platform.

Compare this to a process where you want to open a bank account, or apply for a loan, or start a business and think of the number of steps one needs to go through to perform any of these actions. As a customer, ask yourself, if you want to perform these steps. If you were a business, ask yourself, if you need any of these steps. You will find that the ideal experience would generally fall somewhere in the middle of these two questions. It’s about striking a balance.

As a business, customer onboarding is perhaps the most important exercise one needs to perform. It shapes how your customer perceives you and more importantly, how your customer interacts with you. Encouraging your customer to take that first step towards building a relation and ensuring that the experience remains smooth and seamless is imperative towards building brand and customer goodwill.

The current state of affairs

The current processes for client or customer onboarding employed at various financial services organizations involves tedious and manual process of collecting documents, engage customers individually for face to face verifications wherever possible and engaging with multiple credit reference agencies to perform due diligence and verify customer identity against independent data sources.


All of this is not only time consuming but contains various break points which can result in loss of data or are prone to errors and rework. In an era where businesses are moving towards curtailing their costs and lean processes, the customer onboarding experience remains a costly and resource-intensive venture. The customer experience also remains a frustrating one one that involves multiple engagements as opposed to a single journey and delayed fulfilment as opposed to instant and easy fulfilment.

Creation of Digital Identity

The past decade or so has seen governments and institutions, especially in developing nations, start investing and building towards digital data banks such as National Unique ID for citizens and financial databases which maintain information about individual’s credit and financial history.

This digital identity helps not only the citizens to access various government services and benefits but also acts a backbone for regulatory compliance measures such as eKYC (Know-your-Customer) and eIDAS (electronic Identification and Authentication services).

Onboarding Customers for a new era

When the economic downturn subsided at the end of the last decade, few services were hit as hard as financial services. The road to recovery was a long and arduous one, and the industry rallied to improve it’s efficiency and build greater control and compliance in it’s processes. Two developments saw the industry undergoing a revolutionary change during this period:-

  1. A marked rise in internet penetration coupled with high growth of mobile and handheld devices such as tablets, PDAs etc. with users becoming more and more familiar with feature phones and experiencing the convenience and utility of mobile applications.
  1. Creation of digital identities as explained above

Building on these twin developments, banks and NBFCs now have a unique opportunity to shape how customers embark on this journey and how they interact with the organization. A robust onboarding process enables financial institutions to proactively take control of the customer experience during the crucial first impression. However, there are a number of challenges that financial institutions must fully understand and appreciate in order to provide a superior experience. Some of the challenges that need to be addressed include:-

  1. Name and Address validation
  2. Customer identification and identity compliance
  3. Perform regulatory AML and KYC due diligence
  4. Regulatory compliance such as FATCA and e-KYC norms

Keeping in pace with this rapidly changing ecosystem, regulatory authorities have started updating existing norms such as eKYC (enabling real time Aadhar or UIDAI checks, PAN validation, CIBIL or credit checks by integrating core banking systems with central databases), biometric validation (including but not limited to fingerprint, iris, voice, gait recognition etc.) to authenticate user identity. This not only enables stricter control and security of user data but coupled with latest analytical techniques involving AI, ML and Deep Learning to enable faster and more accurate decision making. This helps businesses achieve scale and efficiency rapidly while providing more personalized services to improve the overall customer experience. A number of new age firms working on innovative solutions based on such techniques are now becoming preferred partners for banks and financial institutions. This union of traditional financial services and new age technology is leading to unique solution offerings in the market.

Considerations for Customer Onboarding

A couple of things to keep in mind before undertaking a digital strategy for customer onboarding:-

  1. User-friendly Your customer touch point is critical to managing your customer perception and hence the onboarding process should be geared towards your customers ease of use. Processes should be simple, linear, uniform and easy to follow.
    1. Design a straight-through-process An STP process is defined as one in which the same information is streamlined through a process across multiple points. Such a process is less error prone, reduces costs and overheads, faster and achieves efficiency of services
    2. Clear and concise UI If your first customer touch point is an application (web or mobile), the design language should be clear, concise and non-intrusive. Ask only the questions that are pertinent to your offering. Reduce the journey time and incorporate minimal points of interaction or input from the customer. Users are more likely to be engaged if they find most information pre-filled or readily available.
    3. First time Success Your customer onboarding journey should ideally be a first time success scenario. Customers should be able to fulfil all their objectives at one go instead of multiple back and forth interactions either with the system or with the organization.
  2. Ensuring Regulatory Compliance Your information systems should be up-to-date and curated for easy retrieval and ensure full regulatory compliance at all times, hence, critical information and data should be incorporated into your onboarding process.
  3. Proactive engagement All information related to fulfilment should be easily accessible to the end customer and any updates and changes to existing processes or guidelines should be communicated proactively to the customer in order to prepare them for their process.
  4. Omnichannel experience Ensure a consistent experience for your customer across multiple touch points such as mobile application, web interface, call center or points of service such as ATMs, Kiosks and microbranches.

For the past decade or so, we at Decimal Technologies have been helping banks and financial institutions fulfil their vision of seamless digital customer onboarding by creating beautiful, easy to use applications using the latest digital stack and incorporating best practices such as  Devops and Agile methodologies to ensure Continuous Development and Integration. In the next chapter, we will talk about how our own digital Customer Onboarding Platform helps businesses achieve more and ensure a seamless and unique onboarding experience for their customers.

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