Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Fixing the corporate onboarding process

Watchmaker repairing mechanical watch

Onboarding with a bank is a lengthy and complex process for treasury teams. It is time to fix this.

The bank account sits at the heart of a corporate treasury’s operation. Without it, treasury cannot do its job. Yet despite the cruciality of the bank account to every company on the planet, the process of opening and managing it is often lengthy and fraught with frustration.

Indeed, research from Thomson Reuters indicates that 85% of corporates have had a bad experience opening a bank account. This might have something to do with the 32 days it takes to open an account on average – a number that is creeping up year-on-year. Irritation also stems from the frequency with which banks contact corporates throughout the bank account onboarding process – an average of nine times according to Thomson Reuters.

Treasurers have made their frustrations clear, with big elements of the onboarding process, such as KYC, appearing near the top of every survey highlighting treasury pain points. And whilst industry players continue to spend significant time and effort to relieve the issues, treasurers continue to have to spend more time than is necessary opening and managing bank accounts.

J.P. Morgan, however, claims to have solved this problem, for its own clients at least. The bank’s DataOnce™ solution – launched in the US late last year and currently rolling out across Europe – digitises the onboarding process end-to-end, driving efficiency for both the bank and its clients.

Smooth process

At the heart of the solution is a dashboard that the bank’s clients can access through its online banking portal. From this dashboard, treasury teams can initiate requests for establishing a new entity or to set up products or accounts for existing entities.

“This in itself is an innovation because it removes most of the latency that typically exists when treasurers make these requests by phone or email, allowing the process of opening the account to begin immediately,” notes Glen Solimine, Executive Director and DataOnce Product Manager at J.P. Morgan.

With the request made, treasurers can monitor its progress within the dashboard. Most crucially, any actions that the treasury team need to take to progress the application are clearly shown on the system. “Providing this visibility and clear instruction is another big improvement,” says Solimine. “Previously corporates would not know the status of the request and must wait to be contacted before taking any action, which again slowed down the process quite significantly.”

When it comes to KYC– the real pain point for treasurers – the bank has attempted to streamline it the best it can. Treasurers can save time by filling out online questionnaires and uploading PDFs of scanned documents. Solimine admits that this is still not perfect because the need to print, sign and scan paper documents is still time consuming. “We are looking to bring in eSignature functionality in the near future that will streamline this process significantly.”

Solimine also says that the bank is exploring API layers that would allow it to connect with KYC repositories such as KYC.com and Thomson Reuters. “The more we can self-serve, the less our clients have to do and the better their experience is,” he says.

Further functionality includes the ability for treasury to save process templates that enable them to skip entering the same information multiple times when opening new accounts.

Matching client expectations

Ultimately, the success of the solution will be proved by how much time treasurers can save when onboarding. According to the bank, it already has multiple cases of accounts being opened in minutes, even in the middle of the night.

And whilst saving clients’ time is important, Kevin Heins, Managing Director and Global Head of Implementations at J.P. Morgan, argues that it is about more than that. “Banks can no longer operate in a certain way and expect clients to align,” he says. “We must align with how our clients operate and that is what we have attempted to achieve with DataOnce.”

More broadly, Heins notes that clients are expecting a more digitised and user-friendly experience across the board from their banks. “If we can deliver this then we hope clients will want to do more business with us.”

Proprietary solution

Whilst this solution is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not necessarily solve the issue for those corporates dealing with multiple banking partners. Indeed, Heins and Solimine said that currently, the focus is getting DataOnce™ working for J.P. Morgan with no plans to commercialise it in the pipeline.

That being said, if anything, DataOnce™ and the work by J.P. Morgan has shown the path forward for the industry and, if a success, the expectations of treasurers will undoubtedly rise and other banks will be pressured to follow suit.