Seven Things Firms Can Do to Streamline Wealth Client Onboarding

Aligning the Building Blocks

Although often a lengthy and manual process, wealth client onboarding is critical in creating positive long-term relationships with clients. Firms that master the onboarding process can achieve revenue-generating assets faster, improve cross-sell and up-sell, and defend against early attrition.

Wealth and asset management firms can begin streamlining onboarding by aligning its “building blocks” correctly to address the biggest challenges. The practices below enable firms to enhance client servicing, adhere to compliance mandates and better evaluate their technology investment decisions.


  1. Digitalize the onboarding experience – Customers and investors expect firms to deliver a seamless onboarding experience. To meet these expectations, companies must do more than simply automate existing processes. According to Capco’s whitepaper “Wealth Management Client Onboarding”, they need to fully standardize, centralize and digitize onboarding. Firms need to re-engineer the entire process, including cutting the number of steps required, eliminating procedural redundancies, streamlining document generation, adopting e-signature, automating decision-making and addressing regulatory and fraud issues. Ideally, human intervention should be limited to only those tasks that require human review, action or approval.


  1. E-signature – Firms that desire greater wallet share of mass-affluent customers must concentrate on leading practices across multiple areas of focus to deliver a holistic solution that includes e-signature. According to an Aite Group study, 70 percent of wealth management firms still require wet signatures on account opening paperwork, and 25 percent of advisors have no document management technology. Onboarding should allow for a personalized login, allowing clients to complete pre-populated documents and sign them digitally.


  1. Overhaul documentation generation – Onboarding documentation has been a painfully long and client-unfriendly experience. To meet client demand for a less arduous process, firms must reinvent their process, building a new system from the bottom up that reduces the number of documents. Firms should aim to establish a single master document that covers client onboarding in all markets. It should enable aggregation of appropriate forms or form sections based on predefined logic and deliver them to clients based on their preferences. The movement of paper-based forms should be eliminated, and clients should receive email notification that their application is available for signature online, freeing clients from the hassles of printing, mailing and faxing.


  1. Meet regulatory reporting requirements that compel aggregation at a new level – Regulatory reporting now requires aggregating customer information and exposing sub-account relationships and counterparty information not required in the past. Firms also must ensure reporting of client information across business lines and, in some cases, geographies to comply with a growing number of tax (FATCA, CRS, UK CDOT), global entity classification and OTC derivatives-based regulations (such as Dodd-Frank, EMIR and Canadian and APAC derivative rules), as well as market reform rules (MiFID II), during the client onboarding and ongoing client maintenance processes – or risk damaging important client relationships.


  1. Shift from product-centric to client-centric onboarding – To take client onboarding to the next level of value creation, firms need a strategy that creates a unified view of customers, focusing on each touch-point within the firm: the quality of interaction, corresponding selling opportunities and overall potential of the client relationship. This requires building a central repository of customers and prospects that integrates customer data and insights across their relationships and the firm’s business units and channels. Centralizing this data creates additional efficiency, eliminating the need to rekey data when onboarding a client for additional products and services. It also helps the firm understand client preferences and behaviors, which in turn better informs decisions around engaging clients with personalized services to win and retain them.


  1. Deploy efficient workflow management for parallel processing of various onboarding activities – The growing complexity of client onboarding has created the need to design an entirely new client experience by embracing technology, such as business process management, that integrates and automates the onboarding workflow, increasing productivity and shortening response times. The workflow integrates all internal and external groups and applications for bi-directional flow of data and ensures process continuity across applications. It creates a seamless link between the onboarding processes, such as capturing a lead, collecting client information, opening an account, transferring funds, managing settlements, executing trades and conducting supervisory asset quality reviews, etc.


  1. Consider shared service utility models – The need to strengthen risk, compliance and regulatory reporting has led to the development of common platforms that work on a shared services utility model for end-to-end KYC services and client onboarding operations. Financial institutions are increasingly looking to reduce in-house involvement in non-core activities by outsourcing them to external providers. According to a Global Utilities Survey of financial institutions conducted by Capco in association with Finextra, a utilities approach can deliver significant benefits for institutions that have already exhausted traditional sourcing routes and, even more so, for those who have not yet engaged with extensive process rationalization.


Wealth and asset management firms are beginning to understand their onboarding gaps and inconsistencies and are starting to undergo transformation. The best-performing firms integrate new clients in a competent and successful way. While there are no one-size-fits-all strategies for client onboarding, it’s important to align all the building blocks of client onboarding "just right" to streamline the process and implement an end-to-end onboarding solution. This ensures every new partnership starts off on the right foot.