Yuelin Li, Chief Strategy Officer at Onfido
Identity is at the heart of the financial services industry. Everything from applying for a credit card to closing an account is underpined by the idea of identity; it serves as the conduit to building trust between banks and consumers, while maintaining security of accounts and transactions.
In every financial interaction, banks must be confident that they can correctly establish a customer’s identity without error. Yet, in an increasingly digital world, this is becoming both difficult and expensive to achieve. Managing digital identities in a way that ticks all the boxes requires compliance with regulatory standards, robust fraud prevention, and a smooth end-user experience.
Let’s get digital
To realise the value of digital identities, it’s important to understand the digital backdrop of financial services. Recently, there has been a significant shift towards bringing financial interactions online-first, which for financial services, can be traced to three defining reasons.
Firstly, digitally-led banks have kept traditional institutions on their toes, forcing them to adapt. These industry disruptors have reported over 40% user growth during the pandemic alone, growing to 29 million users in the US alone. Naturally, to maintain the share of the market that legacy banks have, they must look to review, revise, and enhance the experience they provide.
Adding to that, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digital banking movement. Recent research shows that in 2020, 82% of all financial deposits were made digitally, largely due to the closure of physical branches and the safety and convenience of online services.
Finally, the vast competition from non-financial actors has made this market incredibly tight. Fintech and payment providers, as well as the entry of big tech, can now offer frictionless self-service, mobile, and 24/7 banking. This is a good indication the digitisation of the financial services industry is here to stay.
Traditional banks are incompatible with modern life
Despite this confidence and interest in digital banking, banks are falling down when it comes to the identity experience. How many leverage customer identities today is unfit for the digital age; the process is often slow, inconvenient, and at times unsecure. Fundamentally, this prevents them from building customer trust and loyalty in the long-term.
Critically, Gen Z and millennials are aware of this incompatibility. More than a quarter of millennials have never visited a physical bank branch, and this figure is not set to change. As a primary demographic target, financial services, including banks, cannot afford to lose their trust by implementing identity checks that could be found in a physical branch over a decade ago.
For instance, those identity checks conducted in person or via a database check with authentication heavily rely on usernames and passwords, KBAs or call centres, which is not synonymous with modern financial services. These ‘all or nothing’ approaches to data comparability is vastly different to the technology available – and expected – in services today. With one in three customers now opting to open bank accounts digitally, banks must reflect these behaviours if they want to remain relevant.
Reshaping the culture around identity in banking
Forward-thinking banks are adopting a digitally-forward approach to identity that allows for a frictionless onboarding experience. Immutably tying identity documents to a real-life human ensures the validity of an individual’s identity and creates a robust and secure onboarding process. Biometrics are one of the key methods to verify customer identities quickly and accurately. It’s also favoured by customers too with as many as 52% of customers suggesting they would rather use biometric checks when opening a bank account.
Ultimately, banks sare staking their reputation on building digital identities into the onboarding process to:
- Improve the experience for the user: digital identity verification is simply faster, safer, and more accurate than traditional means of identification. It is also particularly useful for time-poor and accessibility challenged customers who cannot always reach a physical bank branch before closing time.
- Acts as a buffer against fraud: unlike database checks, digital identity verification can ensure users are who they say they are, through a combination of biometrics and artificial intelligence (AI) checks, making them extremely difficult to breach.
- Relieve pressure on manual checks: banks that leverage digital identities can verify customers using rapid automated checks that do not require manual input. This allows organisations to provide certainty to their customers that their personal details are safe and secure.
A digital approach to identity verification is not only scalable, but also secure, intuitive and device-agnostic. For those banks that are looking to build trust with their customers, and appeal to the Gen Z / Millennial segment, it demonstrates a commitment to security and convenience in the digital world, and ultimately a better delivery of financial services.
Wealth Managers and the Future of Trust: Insights from CFA Institute’s 2022 Investor Trust Study
Author: Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute
Corporate responsibility is more important than ever. Today, many investors expect more than just profit from their financial decisions; they want easy access to financial products and to be able to express personal values through their investments. Crucial to meeting these new investor expectations is trust in the financial services providers that enable investors to build wealth and realise personal goals. Trust is the bedrock of client relationships and investor confidence.
The 2022 CFA Institute Investor Trust Study – the fifth in a biennial series – found that trust levels in financial services among retail and institutional investors have reached an all-time high. Reflecting the views of 3,588 retail investors and 976 institutional investors across 15 markets globally, the report is a barometer of sentiment and an encouraging indicator of the trust gains in financial services.
Wealth managers may want to know how this trust can be cultivated, and how they can enhance it within their own organisations. I outline three key trends that will shape the future of client trust.
THE RISE OF ESG
ESG metrics have risen to prominence in recent years, as investors increasingly look at environmental, social and governance factors when assessing risks and opportunities. These metrics have an impact on investor confidence and their propensity to invest; we find that among retail investors, 31% expect ESG investing to result in higher risk-adjusted returns, while 44% are primarily motivated to invest in ESG strategies because they want to express personal values or invest in companies that have a positive impact on society or the environment.
The Trust Study shows us that ESG is stimulating confidence more broadly. Of those surveyed, 78% of institutional investors said the growth of ESG strategies had improved their trust in financial services. 100% of this group expressed an interest in ESG investing strategies, as did 77% of retail investors.
There are also different priorities within ESG strategies, and our study found a clear divide between which issues were top of mind for retail investors compared to institutional investors. Retail investors were more focused on investments that tackled climate change and clean energy use, while institutional investors placed a greater focus on data protection and privacy, and sustainable supply chain management.
What is clear is that the rise of ESG investing is building trust and creating opportunities for new products.
TECHNOLOGY MULTIPLIES TRUST
Technology has the power to democratise finance. In financial services, technological developments have lowered costs and increased access to markets, thereby levelling the playing field. Allowing easy monitoring of investments, digital platforms and apps are empowering more people than ever to engage in investing. For wealth managers, these digital advancements mean an opportunity for improved connection and communication with investors, a strategy that also enhances trust.
The study shows us that the benefits of technology are being felt, with 50% of retail investors and 87% of institutional investors expressing that increased use of technology increases trust in their financial advisers and asset managers, respectively. Technology is also leading to enhanced transparency, with the majority of retail and institutional investors believing that their adviser or investment firms are very transparent.
It’s worth acknowledging here that a taste for technology-based investing varies across age groups. More than 70% of millennials expressed a preference for technology tools to help navigate their investment strategy over a human advisor. Of the over-65s surveyed, however, just 30% expressed the same choice.
THE PULL OF PERSONALISATION
How does an investor’s personal connection to their investments manifest? There are two primary ways. The first is to have an adviser who understands you personally, the second is to have investments that achieve your personal objectives and resonate with what you value.
Among retail investors surveyed for the study, 78% expressed a desire for personalised products or services to help them meet their investing needs. Of these, 68% said they’d pay higher fees for this service.
So, what does personalisation actually look like? The study identifies the top three products of interest among retail investors. They are: direct indexing (investment indexes that are tailored to specific needs); impact funds (those that allow investors to pursue strategies designed to achieve specific real-world outcomes); and personalised research (customised for each investor).
When it comes to this last product, it’s worth noting that choosing advisors with shared values is also becoming more significant. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said having an adviser that shares one’s values is at least somewhat important to them. Another way a personal connection with clients can be established is through a strong brand, and the proportion of retail investors favouring a brand they can trust over individuals they can count on continues to grow; it reached 55% in the 2022 survey, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.
TRUST IN THE FUTURE
As the pressure on corporations to demonstrate their trustworthiness increases, investors will also look to financial services to bolster trust. Wealth managers that embrace ESG issues and preferences, enhanced technology tools, and personalisation, can demonstrate their value and build durable client relationships over market cycles.
2022 ESG Investment Trends
Jay Mukhey, Senior Director, ESG at Finastra
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) themes have been front and center throughout the pandemic. While the framework has been surging in popularity for several years, COVID-19 served as a period of reflection causing many companies, investors and other individuals to take these factors seriously. It’s something that we can no longer afford to ignore.
We are witnessing drought, adverse weather patterns, hotter climates, and wildfires with more regularity, raising the profile of the climate crisis. Efforts were renewed at COP26 in Glasgow last November to help address the challenge, with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreement of the Paris Rulebook. As a result, we are now seeing record net new inflows into ESG investing and impact.
Evaluating ESG criteria
Long gone are the days when ESG issues were at the periphery of a company’s operations. In just a few short years, ESG criteria have become a key metric for investors to evaluate businesses they are considering investing in.
Investor money has poured into funds that consider environmental, social and governance issues. Data from the US SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment shows that ESG funds under management have now reached more than $16.6 trillion. It’s not just institutional investors who are embracing ESG, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that savers across the world will amass £30.2 trillion in ESG funds by the end of the year.
Due to the multitude of divergent factors that contribute to a company’s success on ESG, it can be tricky to pin down exactly what criteria to measure. Depending on the industry a company operates within, environmental criteria could include everything from energy usage, the disposal of waste and even the treatment of animals.
Social criteria are primarily related to how a company conducts itself in business relationships and with stakeholders. For example, does it treat suppliers fairly? Is the local community considered when the business makes decisions that would impact them? Do they have a statement and policy around modern slavery?
While governance criteria have traditionally been an afterthought, this may be changing. Everything from executive pay to shareholder rights and internal controls are relevant to investors within these criteria.
Tracking ESG for competitive advantage
Many experts within the financial services industry point to the power of ESG as a major competitive advantage, if used correctly. It has been noted that increasingly corporations, from big Fortune 500 companies down to small scale-ups, will communicate on their sustainability metrics to grow their business and to attract talent. However, it’s no longer enough to just pay lip service to ESG issues, with abstract commitments increasingly being seen as insufficient. Companies must now quickly progress to concrete objectives that can be measured and tracked.
A wide range of data providers now offer detailed information and tools that can measure ESG performance and effectiveness. Yet major challenges remain around bringing together what is often extremely fragmented data and transforming it into actionable insights.
Focus areas for 2022
The ESG criteria that investors measure is by no means stagnant. Complex societal challenges regularly emerge that require the attention of companies. Contributors recognize several topics that demand a sophisticated approach, including the COVID pandemic, diversity challenges and powerful social movements.
Companies operating within the financial services sector face several specific challenges related to ESG, with contributors believing that fintech will also continue to play a central role in finding answers to them.
For example, industry experts expect customers to be more demanding of firms in SME lending when it comes to understanding exactly what impact they are having on the climate. For many financial services firms, 2022 will be the year that they will try to reduce the time it takes to bring ESG products and services to market, such as green loans and mortgages, as well as checking accounts with sustainability and carbon tracking capabilities.
When selecting a service provider, customers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of their bank or financial institution. Research from PwC finds that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that stands up for environmental and governance issues. Consumers are one of the main drivers of ESG and many are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a trend that’s not going away; financial institutions need to start implementing their strategy for ESG now.
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