Today's digital account opening landscape has yet to reach its full potential. Consumers prefer the convenience of opening bank accounts online, yet many institutions are still scrambling to catch up. Do you know what it takes to meet customer demands today — and are you prepared to meet their digital engagement needs in the future? 

Why Bottomline?

Bottomline Technologies has helped more than 500 financial institutions implement and optimize digital account acquisition. 

Why digital sales channels matter

The facts make the case. Consumers rely on digital technology every day to communicate, find information, and shop.

The strong preference for digital channels shows the critical role they should be playing. Yet with nearly two-thirds of institutions saying accounts are largely opened in branches, it’s clear that bank channels are coming up short. As today’s tech-savvy consumers will quickly opt for an experience that is fast and easy, the industry clearly still has work to do.

Convenience and access drive sales

Consumers want to open accounts at their convenience — whenever, wherever, and without being limited by branch operating hours.

Whether through a laptop or mobile device, technology is also empowering unbanked consumers worldwide to take control of their financial well-being.

Future of Account Opening 2019 EBO account opening by hour graph

Age No Longer Dictates Digital Behaviors

A common narrative in business-to-consumer markets, such as retail and banking, is that Millennials and Gen Z’ers are driving the move to digital. While this is certainly true to an extent — these demographics essentially grew up using and relying on technology — Gen X’ers and Boomers are also embracing technology in their day-to-day lives.

If anything, this reality merely reaffirms how critical it is that banks and credit unions create seamless experiences across all channels, especially online and mobile. Doing so will help ensure that consumers stay engaged with your institution, even if they’re not in a physical branch. Moreover, it will help you solidify customer relationships and maximize the likelihood that they stay loyal to your bank during all critical points in their lives.

Make no mistake, though. Millennials and Gen Z’ers are driving this new digital era, and it is critical that you adapt to their wants, needs, and preferences, especially as they acquire more spending power and dominate the workforce.

Tech behemoths are putting pressure on banks

Apple, Google, seems like every Silicon Valley giant is offering an alternative payment option. Not to mention new services like Venmo that are swallowing up market share by the day.

Their flexibility, peer-to-peer services, seamless user experiences, and mobile-first interfaces are driving consumers to drop the banks to which they were loyal. Moreover, these disruptive tech brands were born embracing real-time, digital acquisition and engagement practices — something that consumers of all ages now expect.

The financial institutions that fail to embrace these channels will undoubtedly leave money on the table and lose their current customers to providers that do.

The enemies of a great experience

One of the reasons that digital sales in banking underperform is that too many applicants start an application that cannot be completed online, reducing the return on digital investment for the financial institution.

In this section, we’ll explore the enemies of a great experience and discuss what leading institutions are doing to slay them.

1. Interruptions

Real-life is messy. A crying baby interrupts a parent; a Millennial must rush to a job interview; the boss sends an urgent text. If you don’t make it easy for customers to pick up where they left off, you may lose them for good. 

How financial institutions are slaying it:


Retargeting delivers online ads directly to prospects who have already engaged with a website. These ads are displayed on subsequent sites that the prospect visits.


Retargeting can help brands in financial services increase conversions by up to 147%.

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Many financial institutions allow applicants to save and resume an application once the applicant establishes a username and password.

A better solution is to automatically show the previously started application without requiring a username and password.

2. Data entry

The longer an application, the less likely it is to be completed. Many banks and credit unions first started digital account opening by replicating every aspect of the branch process in the online form.

For consumers looking for a fast and easy experience, a lengthy application is a killer, especially if it is not optimized for mobile devices.

How financial institutions are slaying it:

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Applicants can’t complete digital forms quickly and effortlessly if they can’t see or easily navigate them. As a result, many financial institutions have revamped their online account origination design to be mobile-first.


BT_process & representation-119.pngRE-ENGINEERING APPLICATION FORMS.
Sometimes the information that’s gathered isn’t truly necessary to open an account. Review every form that applicants are required to complete to verify that every piece of data collected is necessary.

BT_documentation & messaging-46.pngMOBILE PHONE PHOTO CAPTURE.
Capturing data from a mobile phone photo — such as a driver’s license or credit card number — can eliminate the need for data entry in a digital application.

Better identity verification practices can reduce the need for KBA questions, which are notoriously ineffective and frustrating.

3. Risk and compliance

To comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and the U.S. Patriot Act, financial institutions must verify the identity of a new account holder. Because many digital applications rely solely on credit bureau data, this may lead to younger applicants or others with unestablished credit histories getting rejected. However, financial institutions that require new applicants to visit branch locations to verify their identity are at risk of consumers abandoning the process altogether.

How financial institutions are slaying it:


Many partners will offer pre-configured risk strategies, however much can be gained by having their risk and fraud experts take a deep dive into the account and custom design a risk strategy. This will enable financial institutions to optimize multiple solutions and then create and change workflows and rules in order to fit the institution’s unique risk management needs.


New sources of data are emerging beyond just credit bureaus. Some sources use information like email, phone, social media, and IP-related data to assess risk. Other sources use government and public record databases.

BT_data representation-21.pngTAKING A LAYERED APPROACH.
Financial institutions need to find that delicate balance between providing a seamless experience and preventing as much fraud as possible. The key to doing this is providing a layered fraud prevention strategy that combines several market-leading solutions and integrated technologies as they become available in the market, creating a convenient leading-edge platform. This ensures that the lowest risk applications are quickly selected, and checks and balances are performed seamlessly behind the scenes so as to not add any additional friction for the end user.

4. Failed qualification

One source of frustration for applicants is when they don’t qualify for an offer that a bank or credit union has advertised, especially after having filled out a form and given the institution their information.

How financial institutions are slaying it:

BT_security fraud & risk-156.pngEXAMINING DATA FOR TRENDS.
If financial institutions are seeing a number of “couldn’t verify address” codes returned as failed qualification, for example, this could be solved by sending these applicants to review or by utilizing an advanced digital verification system that authenticates identities via the applicant’s digital footprint, rather than their physical one.


BT_process & representation-117.pngRE-MARKETING.
If the right applicants are targeted upfront, the qualification rate will be much higher. There will always be situations where a prospective customer doesn’t qualify, however. But in many of those cases, the applicant would qualify for a different type of product.

For example, an applicant who doesn’t qualify for a premium interest checking account might still qualify for a basic checking account with fewer perks. Re-marketing to applicants with an alternative product offer can help drive new sales.

5. Moving money

A high percentage of application abandonments occur at the account-funding stage of the process.

People sometimes don’t have the time or information required to facilitate the electronic transfer of funds at the time of account opening. Banks and credit unions that don’t offer more flexibility in this process are more likely to miss out on new business.


How financial institutions are slaying it:

BT_currency & payments-98.pngMAKING FUNDING EASY.
Offering the option to fund via a credit card or debit card gives consumers instant access to funds while easing the burden of information required from the applicant. Capabilities, such as auto-fill and smartphone photo capture, can also make the entire data entry process easier.

6. Lack of engagement

In theory, customers who open their account online should be more engaged — but that’s not always the case. Often the customer never activates the related services that would enrich their experience with a financial institution, such as the mobile app or account alerts.

This ultimately means the customer is not receiving value and is more likely to switch to another bank or credit union down the road. In addition, studies show that highly engaged customers are more profitable than those who aren’t.

How financial institutions are slaying it:

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Leveraing available data, financial institutions may make targeted offers relevant to personal activity or life events. For example, if a customer is making large purchases at a baby products store, it may be a good opportunity to offer a college savings plan.


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Dynamically enabling an applicant to select multiple products through a direct marketing platform, website, email blast, or another marketing medium will eliminate the need to pre-configure product bundles or engage in cross-selling activities later in the process. Integrating the account opening process directly with existing platforms results in improved product-per-customer ratios while optimizing the customer’s experience.

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In-branch tablet computers can provide an opportunity for branch personnel to educate new customers about digital capabilities.

BT_documentation & messaging-41.pngCUSTOMER ACTIVATION CAMPAIGNS.
Reminders to activate additional services and/or one-click access can be included in the new account confirmation email or email campaigns that immediately follow.

Here are our predictions

Predictions for the future

You already know that consumers will only become more digitally savvy and, as a result, your financial institution must prioritize creating seamless and personalized experiences across all channels. But what trends will shake up these priorities over the next few years and how will financial institutions keep pace?

Customer preferences are evolving at a rapid pace and new, disruptive organizations are creating an increasingly competitive and volatile climate. More financial institutions will look to technology providers (FinTechs) as their go-to partners for all things related to innovation. Together, they will work to design and roll out products and services faster that will help them better differentiate themselves in the omnichannel marketplace. Other more traditional financial institutions will begin to prioritize and invest in digital technologies, and also rethink their internal processes so they can be more agile and innovative.

Banks will become more sophisticated in the ways they collect and use data. With the right technology partners, and by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, institutions will be able to create timely and personalized experiences across all channels. By doing so, they’ll better understand and predict customer behaviors, better cross-sell and up-sell products and services, and mitigate risks related to accepting unqualified applicants.

Progressive institutions will realize the ever-changing nature of the customer journey and will look for tools and solutions that will help them better track and respond to new behaviors. Banks will group customers based on specific “buying journeys,” and identify ways to eliminate friction as customers use digital and physical channels to reach their goals.


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