The digital battle for customers

Are you prepared for the digital battle for customers?


nChris Corlett is head of business development with MBS, a technology services business with over 300 clients in 40 countries. He replies:

Winning new customers is the lifeblood of business – yet many businesses are losing potential customers and don’t even realise it. Why? In short, they have not understood the scale and pace of the shift to digital.

Customer attitudes and desires are changing: all generations increasingly want services online and now. Covid-19 has acted as a huge catalyst for this trend. Businesses that require manual, paper-based processes are increasingly viewed as slow, bureaucratic and not customer-oriented.

A pre-Covid survey of European consumers by Signicat found:

l72% want an all-digital onboarding system for financial services.

lOver 50% had abandoned their attempt to sign up for new financial services.

l40% cited the amount of information required as a key reason.

lThis was followed by 34% saying the time it took to complete the application was a deterrent.

lThe need to send identity documents by post or visit a branch in person was third on the list with 28%.

There may be people who say that this trend does not affect their business, as they provide financial services to older, wealthier people who often have staff to do their paperwork. Here are some facts to help you guard against such complacency:

lWorldwide we are experiencing the largest ever transfer of wealth to a new generation with very different views and desires from their parents. 90% of heirs are changing advisers, according to Deloitte.

lAnalysis by Forbes Insights found the new generation want ‘personalised service enhanced by technology’.

lAn EY survey of wealthy individuals in 2019 found 50% preferred contact via smartphone applications and 10% by face to face.

lForbes found over 60% of wealth managers see the Mass Affluent segment as highly important to their future growth. The most important factor to winning business in this segment that they identified is technology.

Don’t panic – affordable, scalable technology solutions are available

There are increasingly proven solutions available that you can buy based on the number of transactions you require and which can be integrated with the leading business systems to give a rapid, seamless experience for the customer while reducing overall costs and improving compliance.

In a past article I wrote about the importance of e-signatures. I will now cover e-ID (electronic identification of your customer), which is very closely related to e-signatures. Together, they can be very powerful, as is now recognised by leading regulators.

The Financial Action Task Force is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. In April FATF published a major report on digital identity. Its president said: ‘FATF encourages the fullest use of responsible digital customer onboarding and delivery of digital financial services in light of social distancing measures.’

In the EU and UK eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services) provides clear legal and technical standards for e-signatures and e-ID. eIDAS has quickly become a global benchmark for e-signature and e-ID in a similar way to GDPR for data privacy. While GDPR can be seen as a cost to business, eIDAS provides the clear standards businesses need to conduct digital business with confidence.

eIDAS specifies three levels of e-signature, all of which are legally binding, which provide increasing certainty of who the signatory is and associated legal protection:

lStandard E-Signature.

lAdvanced E-Signature, where e-ID is conducted by appropriate IT systems.

lQualified E-Signature, where e-ID includes in-person checks, including via video-ID. Legally a Qualified E-Signature must be accepted by courts, regulators and others with the same weight as an ink signature, giving businesses the best of both worlds.

The systems I know best are DocuSign (the world’s number one e-signature system, with over 60% of the market) and IDnow (the leading e-ID services provider in Europe).

lDocuSign Identify meets the Advanced standard. At the right point in your onboarding process you can call up this web-based system for your customer, who can then hold up their identity (say passport) and answer some questions. The process is complete in typically two to three minutes.

lIDnow’s Video-ID service meets the Qualified standard. Again, at the right point in your onboarding process you can call up this web-based system for your customer, who then goes through IDnow’s patented Video-ID process. This includes Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, access to national identification databases for 193 countries and specially trained staff. The process is complete in typically six to ten minutes.

For both systems you then receive a digital certificate confirming the customer’s identity details. DocuSign retains this information for both systems and so all subsequent e-signatures by that person meet the relevant standard for the next 2 years.

As a result your customer gains exceptional speed and service while you gain a level of effectiveness, efficiency and compliance very few businesses could achieve.

Other providers are available, for example, GBG is a global leader in identity verification, fraud and compliance plus location intelligence services.

An example closer to home is Tiller, based in Jersey. Its systems enable wealth managers to provide customer onboarding by computer, phone and tablet, providing engaging customer-facing onboarding and ID verification for over 4,000 types of ID documents.

The time to act is now

Whatever you do, don’t ignore e-signatures and e-ID – they are here to stay, helping your business through the current crisis and beyond. Even if your business does not adopt them, it will be imperative that you understand them, as you will receive e-signed documents. So I encourage you to act now and investigate these technologies.

lThis is my final article in a series of ten I have provided for the JEP over the last three months. When I agreed to write them back in February I had no idea how dramatically the world was about to change. Covid-19 has added weight and urgency to the point I have been trying to convey: that digital transformation is now essential for businesses to survive and thrive in today’s highly competitive world.

Many thanks to everyone who has commented on my articles and contacted me for more information. If you would like to know more you can find me on LinkedIn or email me at

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