In conversation with Julie Benson
Why KYC and onboarding are the beating heart of good business practice.

iMeta’s Head of Product Development Julie Benson on product change, measuring growth and why KYC and onboarding are the beating heart of good business practice.

Sean Vickers: Let’s kick off with something easy. Can you describe what you do at iMeta?

Julie Benson: I am head of product change. The purpose of my role is to work with the board by looking at the strategic goals of the company. I work with the technical team on the roadmap that we need from the technology point of view, look at industry drivers and then turn that into the roadmap for the CLM product, and then with that roadmap I work with existing customers by soliciting feedback when looking at new features.

SV: Can you explain the difference between product development and your role in product change?

JB: If you see titles like Head of Product Development, for a lot of people that can just mean delivery. The important thing about my role is the change part. It’s managing product change well for both the company and our customers; so that we are providing quality both in terms of functionality and process.

SV: Did that come about through a need from your clients or was it something centrally?

JB: As a company we need that role. We care about and want to invest in the product, and to do that properly you need that alignment between what the board is trying to achieve and what your customers need you to achieve with the product. For most product companies you need that role in there to deliver that vision and central place for everyone to synch around.

SV: You spend a lot of time in the thick of it, Julie. You are working with clients on the ground. What have you seen in the industry over the last couple of years? Have you noticed any changes?

JB: For me, the last couple of years have been a sort of continuation of some themes that were coming up a while ago. When we first started working with our CLM product and talking to clients about it, the main push at that point was really just regulatory change. That was the environment five or seven years ago when the regulators were really starting to look at what people were doing and giving them guidance, and in some cases fines.

The last few years have really got people thinking as a result of that, and now that we’re solving the tactical problems, looking strategically – what is it that we’re trying to achieve as a company? Where does our KYC and onboarding process fit into that? We need to be more efficient. We need to get that standardised approach being pushed out from head office and get that embedded across lines of business and jurisdiction, so we can be confident in our processes and confident they are actually being followed.

SV: When I think about the industry you’ve hit the nail on the head with those thoughts on efficiency and variation. Why is iMeta so special and how does it help to solve some of those things?

JB: For me, it’s partly because when we started looking at the problem, we always saw it as being something where you should be looking for efficiencies. Whatever software you buy, you’re putting it into a process in your existing business and you’ve got people who need to be running that process, so any software needs to be focused on delivering not just KYC or onboarding, but delivering it well.
That focus from us was what drove the architecture of how CLM works. The fact that we have the rules engine that we use to drive that standardisation, and the workflows that allow you to bring in your operating model and drive efficiency by giving the right tasks to the right people.

SV: I find that fascinating Julie, because from my own experience in the industry, when a piece of technology works much closer with business change, I think there’s a better understanding of the implementation of that solution and I think it gets better outcomes. Because, it’s not just about dropping a piece of kit and its capability into a structure, there has to be some thinking about why. There’s a sophistication to it and it has to be finessed. What are your thoughts?

JB: Yes, sometimes for a tactical problem you have to just buy something that solves that problem and then deal with it later.

‘KYC and onboarding is such a fundamental part of a business process for a financial institution, it’s at the heart of actually being able to do business. Taking a tactical approach can solve a problem for the first year that you put it in, but you’re just storing up problems later when, as you try and grow, that doesn’t scale with you.’

SV: You’re right, it’s a really interesting point that you flag, Julie. Often people talk about a very holistic way of thinking about solutions and the problem they’re trying to solve, but often the first point of contact or the first headache they are trying to resolve is regularly in the onboarding, right in the apex of the conversation. Do you think that’s why people buy this type of technology? Obviously, they want to solve something bigger, but do you feel often it’s the KYC and onboarding angle that leads them into this?

JB: So, we’ve seen a bit of a mix really. Historically, a lot of the reasons people initially talk to us have been because of a focused business area problem they’re looking for a solution for, but I think there is a growing change to thinking about this strategically. We’re seeing a lot of people thinking about how, as a business, they can differentiate themselves. For example, over the past few years a lot of people have been focused on digitising the journey for their customers and providing self-service options. This is something where you need to look across all your solutions, and you do need to look at the systems that you’re using behind that, and you have to pick something that is going to allow you to build those journeys. That’s another area where for me, our CLM product is designed to fit in there to allow you to build that holistic cross-business strategic aim, and sit with other tools and techniques that you might be using, because it is designed fundamentally to be part of a technology ecosystem.

SV: Understood. From your experience, how do people measure these kinds of things? How do they measure success in that kind of space when you’re dealing with processes like you’ve described? How are you seeing the businesses and the leaders in these organisations measure that?

JB: You need to look at the journey for your customers currently and get your timings on that – from the initial conversation with a sales rep and the moment they start becoming a customer and then can start doing business with you. If you can get good KPIs on that process then you’ve got a measurement of success and you can set a target. For example, if you find it can currently take two weeks for a SME corporate in the UK to get to the point where you can actually do business with them. We want to put in a system that does the same day or next day and that would mean some really powerful measurements of where your journey is trying to get to. It’s something that everyone can understand as well on a personal level. That’s the type of KPI that can really resonate with everyone involved in the journey.

SV: Let’s look forward a little bit Julie, what do you think clients will want next? Do you get a sense of what the next big issue will be? The onboarding story has been around for a while, a long while, you think about the beginning of the noughties people began to think about KYC properly and rightly so. What happens next?

JB: For me, it’s really interesting because there’s two quite different answers. For your retail clients, it’s about trying to remove that need to physically go to a branch of your bank or go somewhere to actually identify yourself. I still had to go into a branch recently to do a remortgage and in this day and age, that can seem quite dated.

For financial institutions, where the problem they are trying to solve is with large corporations or the institutional fund managers of the world, the problems that they’ve got with that process are completely different to a retail client. The initiatives that have started, like the one we’re involved in at the moment actually delivering a utility for a large corporate, they only have to supply their information once, not to every bank or every line of business in a bank they need to have a banking relationship with. Obviously, it’s a very challenging area, but I really do think it’s something important to keep trying to solve and get right. I think it’s a really big step change for those customers who do regularly interact with banks.
Twitter: @iMeta_UK

iMeta Technologies help financial institutions achieve:

  • Scalability – 300% Increase in volume of cases processed with no additional resources
  • Faster processes – 74+% SME business STP onboarding – from application to account set up. Round trip 9-12 seconds
  • Greater accuracy – Zero audit points or observations in the latest internal and external audit