Understanding digital client onboarding

Client expectations are more demanding than ever. It's likely that hybrid working will become the new norm, so many law firms are considering alternatives to the traditional client onboarding methods. Our partner InfoTrack explains why you shouldn’t overlook digital client onboarding, especially for conveyancing firms

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Stakeholders within the legal sector have long recognised there is an urgent need for a more secure and efficient way to identify and verify clients and their funds. With continued advancements in technology, digital client onboarding (DCO) is now being adopted, and trusted, by more firms.

Earlier this year, HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) launched its first Digital Identity Standard, which provides a safe harbour for firms when identifying their clients digitally. This new standard for digital biometric identity verification marks an exciting milestone towards a truly digital conveyancing process and provides a clear blueprint for the development of a range of secure and intuitive solutions to streamline the client onboarding process. The digital process reduces risk of fraud, making transactions easier and faster, while driving the sector towards a clear set of standards in digital ID.

Law firms need to balance an exceptional client experience with processes that drive efficiency and meet their compliance requirements. Traditional client onboarding methods for law firms are often fragmented, using up to five processes to source information from multiple systems.

With the need to validate ID, documents and source of funds, the traditional process has typically relied on physical documents and face-to-face meetings. Collating this information creates a considerable administrative burden, which can increase the length of time for a transaction, increase the risk of error and reduce transparency.

What is included?

Electronic identity checks

Utilising powerful biometric technology, clients can verify their identity from anywhere in the world. All that is required is a valid form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence, and a suitable device, such as a smartphone.  Each verification assesses the client’s ID to determine whether it is genuine or fraudulent.  

Verification of client funds

Client funds can be verified by using digital tools that capture real-time data from their bank accounts to verify the source of funds. Seamless and mobile-optimised, clients can grant access to their bank accounts within a secure workspace, sending data capture back without the use of email or uploaded PDFs, providing fully encrypted access to the largest banks and internet banks in Europe.

Electronic signatures

Checking the source of funds and the identity of those involved in the transaction isn’t the whole picture when it comes to DCO though, particularly in conveyancing.

Following the announcement by HMLR in July 2020 that it would begin accepting electronic signatures on deeds as part of its modernisation programme, the use of electronic signatures grew throughout 2020. By employing digital signature technology which meets HMLR requirements, law firms can remain assured that every electronically signed deed submitted to HMLR is compliant.

Client care packs, onboarding questionnaires and terms of business can now be signed and returned electronically as well, dramatically reducing the time normally taken to onboard a client.

Law Society Protocols and onboarding questionnaires

Issue-licensed Law Society Protocol forms, along with other onboarding documentation, normally sent as part of a client care pack, are included, to fully compliment the digital client onboarding experience.

Is it really necessary?

There is no denying that traditional and manual methods of client onboarding are time-consuming, leave room for error and are outdated in today’s world. Delivering an onboarding solution that enhances the process is how InfoTrack arrived at a ‘virtual front office’, through eCOS, its electronic client onboarding solution.

Designed to streamline client data within a transaction, law firms can digitally onboard their clients through a single portal, reducing a process that could previously take up to two weeks, into as little as 20 minutes. Transparency is essential for compliance, which is why digital client onboarding ensures full visibility over the progress of the completion of client onboarding information. Law firms can now be truly adaptable and future-proof their systems and processes to meet any unforeseen challenges.

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InfoTrack is a partner of the Law Society.

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