Let’s examine how neobanks should balance safety and a frictionless user experience for digital onboarding.
You might know them as neobanks or challenger banks. Or maybe simply as online banks. Regardless of the name, companies like Revolut, Transferwise, and Monzo operate solely via apps and online platforms.
And their popularity is surging: neobanks have been growing at a CAGR of 20% between 2017 – 2020. This is in part thanks to Open Banking APIs, and government regulations designed to break down traditional banks’ monopolies.
In this post, we’ll look at what makes them attractive to users, why onboarding technology needs to be fast and seamless, and how to ensure it is nonetheless secure enough to block fraudsters.
Neobanks: The Right Place at the Right Time
Following the 2008 global financial crisis, many banking customers laid the blame on well-known financial institutions. Public trust in banks had been on the decline for years, but confidence reached an all-time low in Europe around 2009.
At the same time, many progressive financial regulations were launched in the EU. The original Payment Service Directive, quickly followed by PSD2, was aimed to break down the big bank’s monopoly on financial services and products.
These directives helped open the door to a new generation of banks operating mostly online, the neobanks.
Putting Neobank User Experience Front and Center
Another reason the neobank market is growing so fast? These companies have taken a leaf from the book of Silicon Valley startups when it comes to outstanding user experience.
This is immediately apparent when looking at the design efforts these companies have made, both for their online services and via mobile app. The clean lines, intuitive menus and easy to use features are there to help everyone know exactly how to use the platform, whether they want to access financial services or consult their accounts.
And then, of course, there’s the ease of registration that lets anyone get started in minutes.
What is digital onboarding in banking?
In banking, digital onboarding is also known as digital account opening (DAO). It refers to the practice of acquiring new customers without engaging with them in person. It usually involves submitting personal documents over the Internet to verify the user’s identity.
Frictionless Digital Onboarding Process
The digital onboarding process is quickly becoming an important battleground for neobanks. Maximizing traction is a priority for these fintech companies, and if people cannot register with them fast and easily enough, they will go and do it with a competitor.
So what does a frictionless onboarding experience look like? It has to be:
- Easy: nobody wants to have to fill long forms and answer in-depth questionnaires to access a new business service these days, whether it’s for an online store or a new debit card.
- Fast: no long delays to accept an application. That means a clear understanding of the steps required, and giving expectations of how long the whole thing should take.
- Seamless: any lengthy safety measure can put off new customers by creating churn. Collecting additional documents like a selfie with ID document, or even more complex, a video chat conversation can be a barrier for those who want to quickly sign into a banking account.
How Important is Ease of Use to the Modern Fintech User
Financial services of all kinds, including banking, are currently reimagining their consumer products to adapt to the needs of the “Generation Now”. Millennials and Gen Z users want their services to be fast, frictionless and easy to use anywhere. Banks and banking services are particularly seen in a negative light for their perceived rigidity and antiquated processes, which slow down access to products and services.
Why NeoBanks Are A High Target For Fraudsters
Unfortunately, neobanks and banks cannot just let anyone sign up to their services. This is because they are a high target for fraudsters, and the onboarding process is a particularly vulnerable stage:
- Money launderers hope to open an account to tumble their funds.
- Fraudsters use them to cash out, for instance, by signing up with a payment gateway, processing stolen card transactions, and cashing them out via bank drops.
- Converting funds to crypto, when the neobank account acts as a “middleman” that lets fraudsters wire money to cryptos exchanges.
- Fundraising / eCommerce / marketplace scammers also use them to give themselves a legitimate-looking account and receive deposits for services or goods they will not deliver.
- Promo and bonus abusers will open a variety of bank or finch accounts to take advantage of registration bonuses and referral programmes.
- Account resellers will go through the application process and sell the login details on the darkweb, both for neobanks and traditional banks.
Example of neobank accounts opened by fraudsters available for sale on the darknet
To add insult to injury, these fintechs have more to lose than just a few bad customers if they remove fraudsters from their platforms: they could suffer from a loss of reputation, not to mention heavy fines from regulatory bodies.
What is the meaning of Neobank?
A neobank is a digital bank that doesn’t have any physical branches. It operates entirely online or via mobile apps.
Stolen and Synthetic IDs Fueling The Problem
All of the criminal attacks mentioned above can be solved by using the right ID verification methods. But as we’ve seen, neobanks must ensure that these authentication processes aren’t getting in the way of legitimate users, while also being secure enough.
It’s also worth noting at this point that document verification is a legal requirement for neobanks. KYC processes (know your customers) are highly regulated, so there is already a safety net in place at the legal level.
Still, the problem remains due to fraudsters’ ability to steal identities, and create fake ones, also known as synthetic IDs.
Stolen IDs: are the source of most problems relating to online fraud. Data breaches show no signs of slowing down, and darknet marketplaces make it easy to purchase bulk IDs, sometimes as full packages designed to open online bank accounts. Fraudsters also go to great lengths to acquire personal data via phishing, fake job openings or plain old hacking.
Synthetic IDs: use a combination of real and fake personal data. For instance, fraudsters often use stolen ID details from children with clean credit records, and create accounts with them to apply for loans.
Example of real ID scan that can be used for identity theft
Moreover, the growing popularity of AI-based technology such as deepfakes, which allow criminals to create a video or audio recording of people without their permission, raises new questions about the relevance of ID-based authentication.
Leveraging Alternative Data For Security
So how can neobanks ensure their customers truly are who they say they are? By creating a profile that relies on people’s digital footprint as well as ID verification.
In fact, there is a surprising amount of questions companies can answer simply by looking at four key data points:
- Email address: is the user using a fake address? Did they just create it recently? Is it linked to any social media profiles – and if so, do they appear legitimate?
- Phone number: Have they used that phone number for social messaging services? Social media? Is it a landline or a mobile number, and where is it in the world?
- IP address: Are they using a VPN? Tor? Or are they logging in from a public server?
- Device used to login: Are they using an emulator to spoof a device? Or does it look like a real phone or computer?
While every single data point can be falsified, red flags should be raised if too many points appear suspicious. Understanding what looks suspicious and when customers should provide additional information is the job of the fraud prevention team (which can be greatly helped by an AI-driven tool).
Which tools Should You Use to Complete a User Profile
Whether it’s for your own KYC procedure, or to reduce application that use fraudulent data, you’ll need to enrich data about users as much as possible. At SEON, we have a series of tools designed for the job. These include our IP analysis module, for anything related to the connection type; our device fingerprinting solution, which looks at a configuration of software and hardware (device and browser, for instance), and our email and phone analysis data enrichment modules, which can aggregate data from open source databases to gain a 360 view of customers.
The Phone and Email analysis tools are particularly useful thanks to our social media lookup feature, which gathers info from 20+ social networks including the user picture, bio, and last date seen online. Some of our clients use that data for underwriting risk, speeding up manual reviews, and even debt collection.
Conclusion – Better Digital Onboarding = Flexible Security Measures
Circling back to our point about onboarding friction, we can now see that balancing security and user experience is key for neobanks. Yes, they want to grow their user base as quickly and easily as possible. But they don’t want the door to be open so wide that anyone can enter.
The answer, therefore, lies in flexible and adaptable security tools for your digital onboarding. Balancing light and heavy KYC processes will help reduce fraud without creating obstacles for those with a clean record.
While there is always an element of trial and error to balancing security and an easy onboarding process, we believe fraud analysts have a large role to play in that important business process. This is why we have created a wide range of tools that gives them full control over risk thresholds during the onboarding experience, including automated flagging at the identity verification stage, and ML-assisted decision making for identity proofing.
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