Skip to content

Customer onboarding in a COVID-19 world

Aravind Narayan
Aravind Narayan
Performance Director Europe, Middle East & Africa, Refinitiv

Customer onboarding during the COVID-19 lockdown highlights the advantage of remote digital solutions over paper-based processes. How else do banks and financial institutions benefit from digital onboarding? By improving customer experience, but being compliant at the same time.


  1. In-person onboarding using hard copy documentation results in a high percentage of customers abandoning the process.
  2. Secure digital solutions that allow remote customer onboarding are growing in popularity, including as a solution to managing the COVID-19 global lockdown.
  3. Other benefits of digital onboarding include lower costs, improved compliance and an enhanced customer experience.

For more data-driven insights in your Inbox, subscribe to the Refinitiv Perspectives weekly newsletter.

Onboarding a new customer offers an invaluable opportunity for any bank or financial institution (FI) to showcase their efficiency and commitment to customer care, but very often onboarding presents challenges that create a poor first impression.

Deloitte research, from Inside Magazine Issue 16, reveals that at least 38 percent of customers drop out of the onboarding process, often as a result of frustration with the sheer volume of touchpoints and paperwork involved.

Watch video: Combined digital identity verification and risk screening with Refinitiv Qual-ID

Finding new ways to improve the customer onboarding experience is therefore vital, and the digital revolution is stepping up to the plate, offering innovative digital onboarding solutions.


Remote customer onboarding

Traditional in-person onboarding using hard copy documentation is increasingly being replaced by secure digital solutions that allow customers to be onboarded remotely, improve the customer experience, lower costs, and speed up processes.

Moreover, the digital approach offers a perfect solution to current global lockdown pressures as a result of COVID-19. Banks and FIs can continue to onboard new customers without breaching lockdown regulations.

Of course, there are challenges surrounding the adoption of digital onboarding solutions. For example, organizational culture may be a stumbling block, particularly in those banks and FIs where established processes are entrenched.

Changing regulations, such as the European Union’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive or the Payment Services Directive (PSD2), may encourage innovation and the digitalization of onboarding processes.

However, choosing the right partner is always a challenge, a partner who is compliant to these ever changing regulations and is adaptable.

But a word of caution: Prior to adopting any new technology, banks and FIs should ensure that any proposed changes comply with both existing and incoming regulations.

Security is also a key driver for increased digitalization in onboarding, as paper-based systems are often insecure. Digital solutions offer enhanced security, but of course compliance teams should investigate any proposed solution, and ask questions about such things as where servers are located; how data is stored; and what encryption standards are used.

Join the Identification and Authentication in our Digital World webinar with the EPA

A typical digital onboarding process

A typical digital onboarding journey involves the following key steps, although not all solutions will include all steps:

  • Data and document collection.
  • Screening against anti-money laundering and anti-bribery and corruption databases to detect potential risk.
  • Identity checks, in which customer identity is checked against digital databases, such as credit bureaus, to verify their credentials and legitimacy.
  • Document proofing, in which the authenticity of documents (such as an ID card) is verified.
  • Anti-impersonation checks to ensure that there is no identity theft at play. A submitted image of an individual is compared with the picture on the document ID presented.
  • Other checks vary between industries. For example, a bank may enquire about credit-worthiness and proof of funds before entering a business relationship with an individual.
  • Risk credentials. A risk score is assigned to an individual at the time of onboarding. Several factors can contribute to this score, and the score may change at a later point in the relationship as transactions take place.
  • Enhanced due diligence. Not all cases require this step, but where higher risk scores are assigned, further due diligence is warranted.

Lower costs and enhanced compliance

Digital onboarding offers a host of benefits, including lower costs coupled with better compliance.

Digitalization offers the chance to automate all or parts of the onboarding process, in turn reducing costs and improving compliance.

For example, Refinitiv’s Qual ID offers a powerful solution that leverages market-leading World-Check Risk Intelligence so that customers can verify identity against trusted sources, proof legal documents, and screen for regulatory and financial risk, in one transaction via one API.

Importantly, digital solutions also offer a better customer experience.

Digital-savvy customers today expect seamless, efficient onboarding and an omni-channel experience. Digital onboarding reduces touchpoints, lowers frustration levels and increases the speed of onboarding.

As customer needs continue to evolve, every customer is now looking for new ways to interact with their service providers. The agile, digital-savvy market players are the most likely to attract and retain these customers in the digital age.

Need to know more about Qual-ID? Find out how it combines digital identity verification, document proofing, and risk screening via API technology


Refinitiv is now on Telegram! Receive daily updates of critical and timely market analysis to your mobile. Subscribe to t.me/Refinitiv

Subscribe to the Refinitiv Perspectives Weekly Newsletter