Prioritising first impressions

Needless to say, we are living through the worst public health crisis in a century. The travel bans, physical distancing and lockdown measures necessary to control the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down normal life and, with it, entire sectors of the world’s economies.

In doing so, it has rapidly driven online service providers to embrace digitisation and prioritise customer experience in order to build more personal, engaging, and positive customer relationships. Examples include doctors taking virtual appointments and stores enabling customers to book a slot for seamless click-and-collect. This rapid digital transformation is particularly acute in financial services, where access to products and services is often critical, particularly for the most vulnerable people in our societies.

Disruption accelerating change

The consequences for the financial services industry will run deep. While established players such as Western Union and Moneygram remain open for business, visiting a brick-and-mortar branch has become significantly less attractive during lockdown and may remain so afterward – for both staff and customers. In light of this, revenues will likely drop across most business lines, so any income will be highly valued – even more so than it always is.

Yet we’ve also seen a massive acceleration in digital payments as well as the acceleration of support and security services offered by traditional banks. And while the economic and financial ramifications of 2020 have been well documented, companies that have invested heavily in digital and mobile technologies are beginning to thrive with the shift from commodity products to intelligent services likely to permanently reshape the financial services industry.

While it has taken a massively disruptive pandemic for the financial sector to scale, the offline-to-online switch has been a long time coming, and now it doesn’t seem that it will ever revert back.

Winning and keeping customers

At a time when the reliance on digital financial services is heightened, winning and keeping customers truly is the name of the game, and first impressions count now more than ever. Customers are seeking a secure, seamless and relatively quick online account opening process. In fact, in research that we recently commissioned, consumers claimed that the account opening experience can make or break their relationship with a financial services provider. According to Trulioo’s Consumer Account Opening report, less than half (43%) of consumers in the UK and US are fully satisfied with their recent experiences when opening new online accounts within banks and insurance firms – the implications of which are both profound and long-lasting.

Consumers simply won’t tolerate poor account creation experiences. Nearly half (44%) say they would give up if a financial services site was unable to verify their identity after multiple attempts, and 41% would walk away if there was a lack of transparency about why certain personal information is required.

In such a dynamic and competitive environment, financial services providers simply cannot afford to deliver anything less than a first-class account opening experience for customers, one that is both fast and safe. It doesn’t make sense for banks and insurance firms to put so much focus on campaigns and incentives to attract new customers to their sites, only to let these people slip away due to slow and cumbersome account creation processes, especially in an environment where switching providers is only one click away.

A clear directive for financial services

The report also revealed that the 2020 consumer takes security and identity verification extremely seriously, and expects financial services providers to protect them from fraud and identity theft while they are using websites and mobile applications. In fact, 90% of respondents believe that online financial services providers have a responsibility to reduce cybercrime through whatever identity verification is necessary. It’s worth noting that these concerns about online security are higher within financial services than in any other sector, with more than half of people (51%) reporting that they are ‘very concerned’ about identity theft when using financial services sites.

Taking these findings into account, financial services providers need to recognise that security and identity checks during the account creation process are not simply a compliance, tick-box exercise. It’s a golden opportunity to build trust and loyalty by providing a streamlined  account opening experience that combines speed and security, using real-time identity verification. In fact, more than 80% of people report that they are less likely to abandon a financial services firm that uses real-time identity verification, while 84% have greater trust in the brand and 71% are more likely to share more personal data.

Get the account creation process right and account creation becomes a huge competitive differentiator for financial services brands, driving revenue and profit, and establishing meaningful and long-term relationships with customers, built on trust and transparency.

World-class customer experience starts with the account creation process. This is where real-time identity verification can play such an important role in meeting demands for both security and speed when signing up for a new account, and in forging stronger, more trusted customer relationships that will last a long time after the spectre of COVID-19 has passed.

This post first appeared on Fintech Direct.