A Misanthrope’s Journey: Assessing the US Online Account Opening Experience

by Daniel Latimore, August 26, 2015
Operations/ Benchmarking
North America

Abstract

Celent evaluates the account opening process from the consumer’s perspective.

In a new report titled A Misanthrope’s Journey: Assessing the US Online Account Opening Experience, Celent visits 26 bank sites to describe what it was like to attempt to open an account online (or via mobile, where available).

Celent’s methodology was shamelessly customer-centric, evaluating the process solely from the consumer’s perspective. A checking account applicant doesn’t care how hard it is to change processes, doesn’t know how difficult it can be to deal with compliance, or understand why banks have to collect so much information when he is the one giving them money.

The quality of the experience varied widely; some banks we thought would be excellent were not, and vice versa. Leaders have moved beyond taking paper forms and putting them online, but there is still an immense amount of room for improvement. Some prominent names still required wet signatures, or made applicants spend a lot of time before telling them that they couldn’t be served because they didn’t live in the right zip code. Others tried to implement technology that didn’t quite work (like capturing name, address, and the like by taking a picture of a driver’s license). The neobanks’ processes on an iPhone were shockingly clunky. The best — like SunTrust, USAA, and Ally — made the process seamless, simple, and as painless as possible with quick entry, easy KYC methodology, and a wide range of choices appealingly presented.

The report lays out the seven key steps in the account opening process, sets forth current best practices, and suggests relatively simple customer experiences that none of the surveyed banks currently offer. Some banks are current or former Celent clients, others are not; it made no difference in our assessment. 

Celent recommends four account opening ideas.

1. Design the process from the applicant’s perspective, not the bank’s.
2. Consider the capabilities offered by the new medium rather than simply transferring a paper- and branch-based process online.
3. Avoid self-censorship: question why certain processes are used (e.g., wet signatures) and refine them when they don’t make sense.
4. Develop a strategy to implement the next phase of account opening: mobile.

“Opening an account is the customer’s first substantive introduction to a bank. The institution has only one chance to make a first impression,” says Dan Latimore, Celent’s Banking Senior Vice President. “We were surprised at the variability in the quality of the experience and believe that many banks should make improvements online even as they begin to make mobile account opening available.”

This 94-page report contains 74 figures and four tables.

Celent is a research and advisory firm dedicated to helping financial institutions formulate comprehensive business and technology strategies. Celent publishes reports identifying trends and best practices in financial services technology and conducts consulting engagements for financial institutions looking to use technology to enhance existing business processes or launch new business strategies. With a team of internationally based analysts, Celent is uniquely positioned to offer strategic advice and market insights on a global basis. Celent is a member of the Oliver Wyman Group, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC].

Media Contacts

North America
Michele Pace
mpace@celent.com
Tel: +1 212 345 1366

Europe (London)
Chris Williams
cwilliams@celent.com
Tel: +44 (0)782 448 3336

Asia (Tokyo)
Yumi Nagaoka
ynagaoka@celent.com
Tel.: +81 3 3500 3023

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

1

 

Key Research Questions

1

 

What We Did

1

 

Why We Did It

1

 

What We Found

2

 

Implications for Banks

2

Introduction

3

 

Methodology

4

 

Banks Assessed

5

Steps in the Account Opening Process

6

 

Provide Access and Guidance on Account Types

7

 

Capture Data

7

 

Verify

8

 

Decision and Approve Account

9

 

Provide Disclosures, Obtain Consent

9

 

Fund Account

9

 

Fulfill

10

Comparison of Bank Account Opening Processes

11

 

Assessment of Steps in Account Opening Process

13

Best Practices and Recommendations

14

 

Provide Access and Guidance on Account Types

14

 

Capture Data

14

 

Verify

15

 

Decision and Approve Account

16

 

Provide Disclosures, Obtain Consent

16

 

Fund Account

16

 

Fulfill

17

 

Miscellaneous Best Practices

17

Path Forward

19

Appendix: Assessment of Individual Banks

21

 

Accounts Successfully Opened

21

 

Ally

21

 

Capital One 360

23

 

Citi

28

 

PNC

32

 

SunTrust

36

 

TD Bank

40

 

U.S. Bank

43

 

USAA

47

 

Wells Fargo

49

 

Mobile-First Banks

51

 

BankMobile

52

 

Moven

54

 

Gobank

57

 

Simple

60

 

Bluebird

62

 

T-Mobile

65

 

Accounts Opened Where I Was Already a Customer

68

 

Bank of America

68

 

Charles Schwab

69

 

Discover Bank

70

 

Accounts Not Opened

73

 

Bank of the West

73

 

BB&T

73

 

Chase

75

 

Fifth Third

76

 

Customers Bank

78

 

HSBC US

80

 

Regions

83

 

Union Bank

84

Leveraging Celent’s Expertise

87

 

Support for Financial Institutions

87

 

Support for Vendors

87

Related Celent Research

88

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