Softjourn

Online Account Opening and Onboarding

For Business Bank Accounts

November 07, 2018

Softjourn has developed a proof-of-concept solution that enables financial institutions to offer end-to-end online account opening and onboarding to their business clients. 

The goal of the solution is to give financial institutions a competitive advantage in attracting new business customers. It accomplishes this with a fully digital account opening and onboarding experience that meets business customers’ high expectations and speeds them through the setup process—without the time and hassle associated with traditional account opening/onboarding, which may start digitally but requires a branch visit for completion.  

Although the current proof-of-concept solution focuses on business accounts and online account opening/onboarding, it can be expanded for consumer use and/or the mobile channel. Additional functionality also may be added for financial institutions that wish to further enhance the basic business account opening/onboarding process with added features.  

Background

Sometimes it takes a consultant to state the obvious. And, sometimes it takes two.

A recent Deloitte study asked why financial institutions need to do a better job with account opening. The research found that a superior account opening experience can be vital for financial institutions to remain competitive and ensure loyalty. Further, it found that customers who think their financial institutions’ account opening process can be made better are, in hindsight, “much more likely to think about taking their business to another bank” and “less likely to purchase additional products or services at the bank and were less enthusiastic about recommending the institution to their family and friends.”1

That’s a high price to pay for a mediocre account opening process. 

Although both consulting firms were addressing the consumer experience of opening bank accounts, it’s not a big leap to recognize that the same comments apply to financial institutions’ business customers. 

Payments innovator Bottomline Technologies confirmed this point of view, claiming: “Business owners are now demanding the same convenience they experience as consumers. The pressure is on to make business account openings and onboardings easier, faster and better.”2 

Softjourn took up Bottomline Technologies’ challenge, developing a proof-of-concept solution to support financial institutions in offering online account opening and onboarding to their business customers. 

Online and mobile banking … represent the primary banking channels for two-thirds of Americans. The trend toward digital banking was widespread across age groups. Nearly half of younger Americans—those aged 18-29—use mobile banking the most, and online banking was the first choice of more than half of those over 64.3

The Need

Today’s consumers have been conditioned to sign up for anything and buy anything with a few clicks on their computer keyboard or phone. This click-and-complete mentality applies to banking services, evidenced by the near-universal popularity of online and mobile banking. 

Because of consumers’ love affair with the digital channel, financial institutions, increasingly, are making the consumer relationship digital from the start—with digital account opening and onboarding. 

Yet, fewer than 9 percent of consumers make it all the way through a digital account opening and onboarding process—despite the desire of 33 percent to do so, according to Novantas Research.4 

Banks that fail to optimize their account opening processes to ensure that new customers can be pulled through digitally from start-to-finish, are likely to see their acquisition rates decline over the next two-to-three years as fintechs and more digitally savvy competitors sweep up the growing share of digital account openers.

But, what about businesses?

The research isn’t as robust on the business side of banking, but a late 2015 Barlow Research study confirmed that online and mobile banking are growing in importance to small business owners (of which there are an estimated 27 million in the U.S. alone), who, it said, “are likely accustomed to using digital banking channels for their personal accounts.”5  We also know that 55 percent of small business owners consider technology when choosing a financial account  and 70 percent of small businesses consider ease of onboarding/account opening to be a factor in their decision to switch banks.”6 

Clearly, business owners’ digital expectations are growing. And, these growing expectations represent an unmet need that financial institutions can fill to satisfy existing business customers and attract new ones. 

 

The Solution

The Softjourn proof-of-concept solution for online opening and onboarding business bank accounts includes: 

  • Bank onboarding interface. Interacting with the financial institution’s APIs, the onboarding interface enables business customers to create any type of bank account by providing all the information and signatures required.
    • To open a business account online, the customer starts with the landing page, where he/she accepts various disclosures, provides required information, creates a signature specimen via DocuSign and uploads necessary documentation. 
    • Once the customer completes the account opening process, he/she receives a message acknowledging receipt of the application. The customer may check the status of the application online anytime. When the account application is verified and approved, the customer receives another message that includes the account number. 

The online process cuts the average time to open a business account in half by logically grouping information, adding autocomplete for duplicate data and significantly improving the process UI and UX and eliminates the need for the customer to interact in-person at a branch by using a digital signature specimen and providing an easy-to-use document uploading capability. 

  • Widget. Financial institution partners—such as payments systems and accounting companies—may include a widget on their website to redirect customers to the onboarding interface.  
  • Configuration tool. This tool enables financial institution managers to customize the UI of the bank onboarding interface widget, according to the financial institution partner’s stylesheet. 

Javelin7 has identified three areas that present key opportunities for bankers to help their valuable small business customers better manage their business finances and run day-to-day operations in 2018.

  1. Opportunities offered by artificial intelligence.
  2. The ability for banks to differentiate and demonstrate omnichannel competence in small business digital account opening.
  3.  Exploration of the small business implications of various faster payments initiatives. 


1Sriniva V., Fromhard S., Goradia U. (2017, September 6). First impressions count: Improving the account opening process for Millennials and digital banking customers [Blog post].
2Bottomline Technologies (2018). Bottomline Digital Banking Report: The Future of Account Opening 2018 [Report].
3ABA Banking Journal (2017, Septeptember 21). Two-Thirds of American Use Digital Banking Channels Most Often [Blog post].
4Welch S., Sharp M. (2017). Omni-Channel Shopper Survey: A Digital Inflection Point for Banking, Novantas Research [Report].
5Miller J. (2018, May 31). Small Business Survey Points to More Payments via Digital Banking [Blog post].
6Bottomline Technologies (2018). Bottomline Digital Banking Report: The Future of Account Opening 2018 [Report].
7Benton I., Jegher J. (2018, February 13). Small Business Digital Banking & Payments Trends [Blog post].

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