Accessibility emerges as a commercial differentiator

By Husayn Kassai, CEO, Onfido

2 September 2020

The global pandemic and lockdowns have compounded awareness of how technology enables consumers to stay connected to goods and services in a digital age. And companies are responding – according to a June study by IFS, 70 percent of firms globally are increasing or at least maintaining their digital transformation spend following the pandemic.

In the field of financial services, accessible online solutions are keeping banks connected with customers who either cannot visit physical branches or prefer not to, whether to reduce physical touchpoints due to hygiene concerns or simply preferring remote access. Having services available online has become commercially critical, but as the world moves online, some people are at risk of being left behind.
 
The leap from physical to digital

In the rush to provide digital services, organisations need to be careful they do not exclude certain members of society. In the context of coronavirus, technology needs to be focused on universal reach and inclusion, ensuring all can experience its benefits. For banks and other financial institutions, concentrating on accessibility is not only the ethically responsible path to take, but it ensures that generations of potential customers can access products and services.
 
Data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics shows that while there is accelerated growth in the number of disabled people using the internet, a digital divide persists. In 2019, the proportion of internet users was lower for adults who were disabled (78 percent) than those who were not disabled (95 percent). It is this level of disparity that banks and financial institutions cannot leave unaddressed. As technology matures and evolves, those who are not engaged with online financial services could find themselves excluded from its benefits.
 
Building accessibility programmes

By improving accessibility of products and services, more customers can be reached and therefore grow the user base, seeing excellent returns for their efforts. Despite increased attention on the need to digitally transform, change in traditional financial services has been slow.

Recent research from Fenergo suggests that 18 percent of banks still rely on manual processes for know your customer (KYC) compliance – including telephone, email, letter or in-person meetings. The same research showed a whopping 14 percent have suggested that 20 or more people are involved in the onboarding process for just one complex client, while 15 percent have had to get in touch with the user 10 or more times for data or documents to onboard new clients. This adds cost and administrative burdens, as well as user drop offs in the registration process.

Usability, security and cost efficiency do not need to be an either/or choice. Financial institutions can rely on technology partners who specialise in deploying the latest digital-first solutions to simplify their KYC obligations and reduce manual costs while catching the most sophisticated fraud.
 
Onfido helps financial services to improve how those with disabilities can onboard to their services via a digital identity verification software development kit (SDK), which involves taking a picture of a government ID and a selfie to verify customers are who they claim to be. During usability testing, techniques were utilised to simulate mobility challenges such as arthritis, and Cambridge Simulation Glasses were used to simulate sight loss to better understand how interfaces can be optimised.

Onfido also worked with the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to audit and test its identity verification solution. Font size was made more adaptable, creating new specifications for a screen reader’s voice and tone, and shortening the read-out instructions to make it easier to follow and understand for users. Haptic vibrations were implemented to complement the screen reader.
 
Accessibility isn’t just good for reputation; it can help organisations stand out from the crowd. With a rapid amount of services moving online, it is critical to enable everyone to remain independent and carry out everyday tasks with their bank and financial institutions. Making digital services inclusive and to the benefit of all is not only an ethically responsible strategy – in the context of coronavirus, it ensures that financial services can remain connected with their customer base remotely with a seamless user journey.
 

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