Learn how banks can make onboarding both efficient for customers and effective in safeguarding against financial crime and other risks.

In brief
  • Streamlined onboarding is key to compliance and client loyalty.
  • Banks must balance risk management with efficient client experiences.
  • Tailored onboarding strategies can set banks apart from FinTech’s.

A bank’s first interaction with corporate or SME- Small and medium-sized enterprise clients is critical to a lasting relationship.

Yet for too long, the industry’s cumbersome, manual and lengthy onboarding processes have left clients mired in paperwork, delaying their access to banking services and adversely affecting their business operations and planning.

While heightened regulatory oversight is essential to thwart financial crime and other risks, the resulting controls and solutions have too often created disjointed journeys that leave customers dissatisfied and frustrated – with many choosing to abandon the process and go elsewhere rather than wait for an outcome.

For banks, the fundamental question they need to ask themselves about their clients is, “Do I want to provide you with banking services?” If yes, then they have to understand the risks of doing business with that client and satisfy the associated regulatory requirements. But that frequently causes many banks to lose sight of the fact that their clients start their journeys with a different mindset: “I want to do business with you.” That disconnect has resulted in banks failing to demonstrate any value, understand a client’s needs and establish a foundation of trust.

Additionally, commercial and SME banking clients are looking for more than just a financial services provider; they want a partner who can offer valuable advice and support their business. Their perception of a bank’s ability to meet these needs hinges on a transparent onboarding process that clearly communicates required information, minimizes time to value, and is transparent about next steps (if required) and the benefits they will gain.

FinTech challengers

FinTechs and challengers have raised the bar by delivering rapid, data-driven onboarding experiences that meet regulatory standards without compromising client satisfaction. These nimble competitors have set a new benchmark for efficiency – prompting banks to re-evaluate their onboarding strategies.


The challenge for banks is to balance the need for comprehensive risk management with the demand for a streamlined client experience. This doesn’t mean indiscriminately collecting less data but gathering the right data at the right time for the right reasons.


To achieve this, banks should adopt a more nuanced approach, one that recognizes diverse client profiles and tailors the process accordingly.


A progressive decisioning framework that profiles clients quickly, and then continuously adjusts the depth of inquiry based on client responses, can streamline the process for straightforward cases while providing a detailed path for complex or higher-risk scenarios.

Next steps

Banks can begin transforming client onboarding by taking these steps:

  1. Profile for success: Align the onboarding channel and eligibility criteria with the bank’s risk and commercial appetite, routing clients to the channel most suited to their needs or risks.

  2. Prioritize time to value: Ensure each step of the onboarding journey contributes to delivering value to a client. From reducing time to decision (even if contingent) to providing immediate access to account, clients should see the benefit of sharing their information.

  3. Leverage data intelligently: Use external data sources such as public records to pre-fill information, simplifying the process and focusing on collecting only what is necessary.

  4. Enhance transparency and convenience: Develop a clear, transparent and accessible journey with appropriate and convenient support options, keeping clients informed of their onboarding status.

  5. Commit to continuous engagement: Onboarding does not end with account activation. Use collected data to proactively offer insights, create specific nudges to drive early engagement, and provide services that support a client’s business and deepen banking relationships.

In conclusion, banks that successfully navigate the onboarding challenge will not only meet the regulatory demands but also win the loyalty of their clients. By transforming onboarding into a strategic advantage, banks can set the stage for long-term partnerships that drive mutual success.

Kazalay Kimmins, Manager, Technology Consulting, Ernst and Young LLP, have also contributed to this article.


Banks must overhaul their onboarding processes to ensure a balance between meeting regulatory requirements and providing a smooth client experience. Time-consuming procedures often lead to client dissatisfaction and lost business opportunities. By adopting FinTech-like efficiencies, personalizing client journeys, and focusing on transparent communication, banks can transform onboarding into a strategic advantage. This approach not only satisfies regulatory demands but also fosters client loyalty and long-term partnerships, ultimately driving better outcomes for banks and their clients.

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