Easing lockdown makes digital onboarding more important than ever

Martin Cheek

June 23, 2020

Martin Cheek is managing director of SmartSearch

At the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, in the dark days of April and May, it was simply not possible to fully onboard customers without a digital solution to ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) requirements.

There was no way to meet clients face to face to check ID documents, and it wasn’t safe – in terms of either coronavirus infection or data security – to share physical documents remotely.

So without electronic verification, firms looking to take on new clients were, to put it mildly, a bit stuck.

Now, the restrictions are being eased somewhat and the market is beginning to reopen again. With physical valuations resuming and socially-distanced viewings now possible again, there are signs that transactions are beginning to pick up again. Recently-released figures from HMRC show that volumes have now started to rise after a steep fall in April.

As social distancing is eased somewhat, it might seem that those paper-based ID checks can resume again. In reality, the easing of lockdown makes it more important than ever to embrace digital KYC and anti-money-laundering (AML) solutions.

There will continue to be restrictions on unnecessary contact, and many prospective customers will be understandably anxious about face-to-face meetings.

At the same time, it seems likely, given the wider economic impact of COVID-19, that the market will remain subdued for some time: the same HRMC figures show that activity is at around half the level it was at the same time last year and it will be some time before volumes recover completely. In this environment, it will be imperative for brokers to make sure they get their full share of the overall pie.

This will place considerable stress on slow and outdated processes. Manual ID checks not only present logistical obstacles, they also take precious time out of the day for all concerned. That means less time for brokers to advise clients and pursue leads.

And customers presented with the option of a quick, convenient digital onboarding solution will very likely go with that ahead of a clunky old-fashioned approach. Firms that fail to move with the technological times will be left high and dry.

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