Banks improve customer on-boarding process

Deutsche Bank and HSBC debut new cash management service implementation products for customers.

Remember the last time you opened a bank account? What you hoped would be a quick pit-stop at your neighbourhood branch likely took longer than expected between finding all the necessary identification and signing the myriad forms.

Now imagine you are a company with hundreds of accounts across tens of countries. Opening a new one suddenly sounds like a task comparable to climbing Mount Fuji or running a marathon. Transaction banks know this and are proactively working to ease the process for their corporate customers in Asia.

Deutsche Bank launched what Russell Graham, global head of implementation and service for trade finance and cash management corporates at the institution, called a "one document, one envelope" on-boarding service for new clients this April. Meanwhile, HSBC debuted its electronic platform ClientSphere to improve control and visibility over the process at an event with 'demon chef' Alvin Leung at the Eurofinance conference in Singapore earlier this month.

"As evidenced by feedback from corporate treasury and finance professionals participating in our pilot programme, ClientSphere delivers a much sought after and valued implementation experience," said John Laurens, Asia-Pacific head of global payments and cash management, in a statement.

The new services do more than just remove a few pages, they offer significant time savings compared to existing offerings. When Deutsche implemented the streamlined on-boarding document in Spain, it cut the amount of time it takes to bring a customer online to three weeks from four. Graham, who led the team that designed the new service, said the bank hopes to reduce the length of the process by 20% everywhere it offers solutions.

"We looked at where we have this tremendous replication of terms and conditions across the different documents we were giving to customers," he explained. "We took a step back and asked ourselves what documentation do we really need."

"While we didn't describe the minutiae of every product, the document is completely compliant with local regulations. For instance, we didn't provide a comprehensive definition of Giro [general interbank recurring order] payment in Singapore, as it is a commonly used term. This is an example of how we've streamlined documentation by identifying a low-value payment that is applicable to all the countries where low-value payments are available without having to separately identify them."

To make these local distinctions, Graham said the bank engaged a law firm to ensure local regulatory compliance. Now, if a client wants to add a country to a cash management solution, it is simply a matter of adding one or two pages to the main document.

The service is currently available in all of Deutsche's 14 Asia-Pacific markets except South Korea. Graham said the bank is currently working through the regulatory process there.

The new on-boarding documentation has been available in Europe and the US since March 2009.

One hitch in Deutsche's new implementation process is it is still paper-based. While the bank plans to migrate the process onto its new transaction banking web portal, Graham said the platform was currently being rolled-out and would be available to all customers by November; until then clients still need to sign a physical form to implement a solution with the bank.

HSBC's ClientSphere on-boarding process is already available online, though the bank could not confirm whether clients only had to fill out one document when implementing one of its cash solutions.

Neither bank releases how many transaction banking clients they currently retain. However, Deutsche reported global transaction banking net revenues of €2.6 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2009, down 7.1% compared to 2008 due to low interest rates. HSBC does not break out revenues for its payments and cash management business, but reported full-year commercial banking turnover of $13.7 billion for 2009, down 12.5% year-on-year.

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