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KYC Onboarding: 10 strategies to improve KYC onboarding

June 13, 2024

Product professionals face the challenge of optimizing the KYC (Know Your Customer) onboarding process to improve conversion rates and efficiency while maintaining strict compliance with regulatory requirements.

If you fail to find this balance, customer acquisition—and, ultimately, revenue—will be affected.

Fortunately, how your company conducts KYC onboarding can seamlessly integrate compliance and user experience.

Below, we'll explore the concept of KYC onboarding, its requirements, compliance with AML/CFT regulations, and 10 strategies to improve it. So, stay with us to discover how to enhance your KYC onboarding.

What is KYC Onboarding?

KYC onboarding involves verifying the identity of clients to ensure they are who they claim to be, a process essential for preventing fraud, money laundering, and other illicit activities.

This process is the first step in establishing a trustworthy relationship between a business and its customers. It fulfills regulatory obligations and lays the foundation for a secure, seamless user experience.

KYC onboarding incorporates various checks, including document verification, biometric analysis, and background checks against global watchlists.

The aim is to accurately assess the risk a customer may pose before they are onboarded. In fact, integrating advanced technologies like AI and machine learning can improve the accuracy and efficiency of these checks, thereby improving the customer onboarding experience.

By doing so, companies ensure faster onboarding times, reduce dropout rates, and maintain high security and compliance standards.

Moreover, KYC onboarding is key to building trust with users. With digital fraud and data breaches ramping up, providing a secure onboarding process reassures customers that their personal information is handled safely and securely. This trust is invaluable, as it attracts new users and fosters long-term loyalty.

Read more: How Non-Custodial Wallets Give People Full Control of Their Digital Credentials.

KYC Requirements and AML/CFT Regulations

Understanding KYC requirements is fundamental to compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regulations.

These include the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA Patriot Act, which form the backbone of the United States' measures to combat financial crimes and require financial institutions to verify customers' credentials proactively.

The Customer Identification Program (CIP), a part of the USA Patriot Act, mandates that financial institutions implement reasonable procedures for collecting identifying information about their customers when opening an account. This initiative aims to prevent terrorism financing and money laundering activities.

Similarly, the Bank Secrecy Act requires businesses to keep records and file reports that may be crucial in detecting and preventing money laundering and other financial crimes.

Implementing a thorough KYC process involves:

  • Collecting detailed customer information.
  • Conducting due diligence to verify this information.
  • Continuously monitoring accounts for suspicious activities.

Incorporating these regulatory requirements into the KYC onboarding process allows your company to comply with the law, enhance its reputation, and build customer trust.

Moreover, leveraging technology can make compliance with these regulations more efficient and effective. For example, reusable identity solutions can automate the collection and verification of customer data, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring a smoother onboarding experience.

KYC Onboarding and CDD/EDD

KYC onboarding includes Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD), which mitigate risks and protect against financial crimes.

Customer Due Diligence is the standard process of verifying customers' identities and assessing the risks they pose. This involves collecting basic information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, and identification numbers, as well as verifying this information to ensure its accuracy.

CDD is a foundational aspect of KYC onboarding, enabling companies to have a baseline understanding of who their customers are.

Enhanced Due Diligence takes this process a step further, applying to customers considered to pose a higher risk, such as those with political exposure or from high-risk countries.

EDD involves deeper investigation, including:

  • Understanding the customer's source of funds and the nature of their business activities.
  • Conducting ongoing monitoring to identify any suspicious behavior.

Integrating CDD and EDD into the KYC onboarding process is crucial because:

  • It ensures compliance with global AML/CFT regulations, which mandate these due diligence measures.
  • It reduces the risk of fraud and financial crimes, protecting the company and its customers.
  • A thorough due diligence process enhances customer trust by demonstrating a commitment to security and compliance.

Implementing CDD and EDD requires balancing thoroughness and efficiency. Automation and technology play an essential role here, allowing for rapid data collection and analysis without compromising the depth of due diligence.

Advanced solutions such as AI and machine learning help identify patterns that may indicate risk, streamlining the due diligence process while maintaining its effectiveness.

KYC Onboarding: Who Needs It?

KYC onboarding is a requirement across a broad spectrum of industries, extending far beyond traditional banking and financial services. With transactions and interactions increasingly occurring online, the need for robust identity verification processes spans various sectors.

Primarily, financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and fintech companies, are the most obvious entities that require KYC onboarding. AML/CFT regulations directly target them, and they must comply with rigorous identity verification standards to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

However, the scope of KYC onboarding extends to other sectors as well. For instance, cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet providers face similar regulatory pressures to implement KYC procedures, given the anonymity associated with digital currencies.

Similarly, online gaming and gambling platforms, which handle significant financial transactions, are increasingly subject to KYC requirements to prevent fraud and ensure the legality of funds.

Moreover, any business operating within the sharing economy or offering online marketplace services should consider KYC onboarding.

These platforms, which facilitate transactions between individuals, are vulnerable to fraud and misuse without proper identity verification measures. Examples include ride-sharing apps, short-term rental platforms, and peer-to-peer selling sites.

As the regulatory landscape evolves and expands, the demand for solutions that improve KYC onboarding will continue to grow. Staying ahead of these changes and understanding the specific needs of different industries can position identity companies as leaders in the field, providing tools for digital identity verification.

KYC Onboarding Process

The KYC onboarding process is a structured series of steps aimed at verifying customers' identity and assessing potential associated risks.

Here's a detailed look at the typical steps involved in KYC onboarding:

1. Customer Identification and Document Verification

The first step involves collecting personal information from the customer, such as name, date of birth, address, and government-issued identification numbers.

This information is then verified using documents provided by the customer, such as passports, driver's licenses, or utility bills.

2. Risk Assessment

Based on the information gathered, companies make a risk assessment to determine the level of due diligence required. Customers are classified according to a risk level, which may require a different intensity of scrutiny.

3. CDD and EDD Procedures

For low-risk customers, Customer Due Diligence (CDD) involves basic checks to confirm the customer's identity and assess their risk profile.

Suppose a customer is assessed with a higher risk. In that case, Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) procedures are implemented, with deeper investigation into the customer's background, source of funds, and the purpose of the account or transaction.

4. Ongoing Monitoring

KYC onboarding is not a one-time process; it involves continuous monitoring of customer transactions to identify any suspicious activities that may arise after the initial verification.

This step is vital for maintaining compliance and ensuring the ongoing integrity of the business relationship.

5. Record Keeping

Companies must maintain detailed records of the KYC onboarding process, including how decisions were made regarding risk assessment and due diligence.

These records are crucial for demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements in audits and inspections.

Product professionals should focus on making the KYC onboarding process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible without compromising the thoroughness required for compliance and security.

10 Strategies to Improve KYC Onboarding

Optimizing the KYC onboarding process is crucial for improving conversion rates, enhancing user experience, meeting regulatory demands, and minimizing risk. Below are 10 strategies to refine your KYC onboarding:

1. Streamline the Onboarding Process

Efficiency is key in KYC onboarding. Simplify the user journey by eliminating unnecessary steps and requesting only the essential information upfront.

Techniques such as employing reusable identity credentials have a positive impact on onboarding. It allows customers to skip data entry, with no need to provide physical documents and selfies. They quickly share a digital credential with pre-verified data, accelerating the initial part of the process.

Moreover, progressive disclosure, where additional information is requested as needed, can prevent the process from feeling overwhelming and improve completion rates.

2. Offer Multi-language Support

Global reach requires linguistic inclusivity. Providing onboarding content and customer support in multiple languages can enhance the user experience for non-English speakers, fostering a sense of inclusivity and reducing barriers to entry.

3. Utilize Mobile Onboarding Solutions

Mobile-first strategies cater to the growing number of users who prefer smartphones for online activities.

To capitalize on the ubiquity of smartphones and streamline identity verification, consider implementing features like:

  • Camera-based document scanning.
  • Facial recognition.
  • Digital ID credentials sharing.

4. Assist the Customer to Avoid Resubmissions

Real-time validation during the data entry and document upload stages can significantly reduce user frustration and the need for resubmissions.

By providing immediate feedback on document quality or data entry errors, users can correct issues on the spot, leading to a smoother onboarding experience.

5. Incorporate AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate and enhance various aspects of the KYC process, from document verification to risk assessment.

These technologies can recognize patterns, verify authenticity more accurately, and adapt to new fraud techniques, significantly reducing manual review times.

6. Implement Risk-Based Approaches

Adopting a risk-based approach means adjusting the intensity of the KYC process based on the customer's risk profile.

High-risk customers undergo more thorough checks, while low-risk customers experience a more streamlined process, optimizing resources and enhancing user satisfaction.

7. Ensure Compliance with Regulations

Regulatory landscapes are constantly evolving. Regularly updating the KYC process to comply with the latest regulations is crucial to avoid fines and legal issues. This involves staying informed about global compliance standards and implementing changes proactively.

8. Use Customer Data Effectively

The data collected during onboarding is a valuable asset for ongoing risk management and personalization. By analyzing this data, companies can tailor their services to meet customer needs better, detect potential fraud more effectively, and enhance the overall customer relationship.

9. Regularly Review and Update the KYC Onboarding Process

Continuous improvement is vital in the fast-evolving digital identity space.

By regularly updating the KYC process based on customer feedback, technological advancements, and changing regulatory requirements, companies can maintain a competitive edge and meet users' expectations.

10. Leverage Decentralized Reusable Digital IDs

Decentralized identity solutions like reusable digital identities represent a paradigm shift in digital identity verification, allowing users to reuse their identity data.

Integrating these solutions improves onboarding conversion rates, reduces redundancy, enhances user privacy, and streamlines the onboarding process across multiple platforms.

After the user completes their KYC, you can package that high-quality verified ID data into a reusable and fraud-proof digital credential. The client can then sign up for services faster, skipping the data entry and document collection step.

You can even monetize those credentials by allowing other companies to verify them.

Read more: Reusable Identity: 7 New Market Opportunities for Identity Verification Companies.

Streamlining KYC onboarding is essential for companies aiming to enhance user experience and compliance. It's a cornerstone for implementing a robust digital identity system that caters to the evolving needs of businesses and users alike.

Discover how to further enhance your KYC process by reading our article on Zero-Knowledge Proofs.


1. What is KYC onboarding?

KYC onboarding is the process of verifying a customer's identity to comply with regulatory requirements and prevent financial crimes.

2. Why is KYC onboarding important?

KYC onboarding is crucial for preventing fraud, ensuring compliance with AML/CFT regulations, and building customer trust by safeguarding their data.

3. Who needs KYC onboarding?

KYC onboarding is required across various industries, especially financial services, cryptocurrency, online marketplaces, and any sector dealing with financial transactions.

4. What are some strategies to improve KYC onboarding?

Improvements include:

  • Streamlining the process with decentralized reusable digital IDs.
  • Utilizing technology like AI and mobile solutions.
  • Ensuring multi-language support.
  • Continuously updating procedures to comply with regulations.

5. How does KYC onboarding benefit companies?

Effective KYC onboarding enhances customer satisfaction, ensures regulatory compliance, reduces the risk of financial crimes, and establishes a foundation of trust and security.

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