Building the Business Case for Significant Change in Client Onboarding

  • Matt Neill, Managing Director at Beyond

  • 06.01.2021 08:00 am
  • CLM

In recent years, the focus for client onboarding and client lifecycle management (CLM) has been primarily on meeting regulatory requirements and minimising compliance risks. However, more recently, banks have started to recognise this area as a strategic opportunity that enables them to gain valuable insights on their customers, develop tailored products and solutions, enhance the customer experience and drive new streams of revenue. But leveraging this opportunity requires additional investment in the client onboarding function, in a time when budgets are tight. Here I outline some of the steps that can help secure buy-in for securing investment in this critical area.

1. Align with the organisation’s strategic goals

As you consider the changes you want to implement in client onboarding, are you clear on your own organisation’s goals and have you communicated how your plans support them? Is there a clear goal from an organisational perspective that you can align to, such as cost saving, enhancing the client experience, boosting revenue, or reducing risk? For example, if the organisation is looking to reduce costs and you are considering implementing a new CLM system, you should consider the operational and compliance savings that could be achieved, as well as if there is a positive revenue impact.

The more closely you are aligned to your organisation’s goals, and the more clearly you can articulate how your plans support them, the more likely you are to secure budget and buy in.

2. Articulate a clear vision 

Ideally, you should have a clear vision for how you want to develop your operational, compliance and technology capabilities throughout the client lifecycle, from accelerating the onboarding process, to developing a single view of the customer, to delivering continuous KYC processes or high levels of automation. Your vision should set out how you want these capabilities to look in 3-5 years’ time and the key areas you want to enhance. Without a clear vision, it is difficult to build an overall story of what you’re trying to achieve and how this initiative supports your broader goals. It’s useful to write this vision down, even if only in a simple way, to help you to start communicating this to others.

3. Focus on the narrative

Whether you’re in a small organisation or a large global bank, when you’re pushing for investment you are in ‘selling’ mode. You need to convince others that your project is worth investing in. Most buying decisions are made based both on emotion and facts, so we need to create an exciting story around our initiative. Make sure you focus on building your story of how this client onboarding initiative will benefit the organisation, specific individuals or functions, customers, or all of the above. When you’re building your narrative, remember to articulate the pain being felt today, the potential new future state, how your solution is going to solve the problem and how they can trust you to deliver this new future state.

4. Invest in stakeholder buy-in

Who is involved in making the decision of whether or not your project will go ahead? Who are the budget holders, gate-keepers, influencers and decision makers who will need to be persuaded? It is critical that you identify these individuals and groups as you seek to gain support for your initiative. Sometimes this may involve one or two individuals, but often the decision making process in large organisations requires broad buy-in and support from multiple areas. You need to invest time and effort in engaging with the key individuals and gaining buy-in. Most initiatives fail to move forward because there isn’t alignment within the organisation.

5. Navigate the decision making process

How are investment decisions made in your organisation? Is there a formal process? If there is a formal process, are decisions really made via backchannels? You need to spend time understanding and mapping out the decision making process. This will inform your stakeholder strategy and ensure you understand the steps required to get investment. Often, there will be a mixture of both formal and informal steps in the process, so don’t underestimate the importance or neglect either side of the coin.

6. Understand project details and value delivered

You will certainly get challenged on the details of your initiative, so you must have done the work to understand some key elements before “going into bat” for your investment. You should be clear on the project scope, high-level approach, potential timelines, and resourcing requirements. Critically, you will need to be able to articulate the benefits that will be delivered within client onboarding, the measurable changes that this will deliver, the cost of delivering this change, and ultimately the return on investment.In a time when funds are tight and where every investment is being heavily scrutinised, this part is critical in building trust and support for your client onboarding initiative.

7. Understand the impact of other initiatives

Do you have a clear view of all the other initiatives that are requesting investment for this year?  Are you requesting investment in multiple projects or are you focused on one programme only? You are potentially competing against other requests for investments, either with other areas of the business or with your own requests. It is important to consider which of your requests is the most important and are they all aligned with your narrative. Simplifying or consolidating your requests could help secure your top priorities, while understanding other investment requests within the business will allow you to strengthen your own case.

Onboarding at the heart of differentiation

It has become clear that in today’s world, the greatest opportunity for revenue growth for banks is not just about new products or expanding in new markets, but on the ability to deliver an enhanced and differentiating customer experience. The banks that get this right will attract new customers and be more likely to keep their existing customers in this challenging environment. Client onboarding plays a key role in developing this experience – building a compelling and visionary business case is critical to ensuring success.

For more recommendations on the steps needed to implement change in client onboarding and CLM, read our report “Next Generation Client Onboarding: 2021 and Beyond”


Matt Neill, Managing Director at Beyond, has over ten years’ consultancy experience helping financial services clients navigate the ever-changing client onboarding and CLM landscape, building a strategic function that sets them apart from others.

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