The Battle to Onboard 2020: The impact of COVID-19 and beyond

The end of learned helplessness

With so much uncertainty and disruption affecting personal and professional lives, consumers want quick, easy, and reliable. Providers that deliver this stand to thrive.

Discover valuable insights from the new report, which surveyed 4000 consumers in the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

Section---A-year-of-change Section---Onboarding-is-a


A year of change

This year we have all been forced to start doing everyday tasks differently. For many that has meant managing the entirety of their financial lives using remote channels for the first time, and large numbers turning to digital services as call centres are overwhelmed and branches shut.

Providers struggled to keep up

Financial service providers have been found lacking. Before the pandemic they were not keeping up with user expectations, but as digital became customers' only option and emotions regarding money run high as recessions bite, products and services are failing increasingly often to give customers what they need

Onboarding is a problem area

Onboarding is one of the most crucial areas where providers are failing. If customers can't or won't open new accounts, these organisations will struggle even more to cope with economic turmoil. And it's not just the pandemic. Other, pre-pandemic factors which have not been addressed are exacerbating potential customers' failure to complete onboarding.

Gen Z expects smoother, faster digital experiences

Younger generations have grown up in an always-on, instant world. Some will expect the opening of a bank account to be as simple as opening a social media account. When it takes longer and requires greater amounts of personal information and documentation, they are put off.

More accounts means less commitment

Consumers have more financial accounts than ever as more providers launch. They have greater choice and will look elsewhere if a provider cannot give them the experience they expect. An applicant might not actually need the account in question. If getting one is too difficult they will simply give up.

Headline stats

63% of consumers abandoned digital bank applications in 2020 — more than ever before

706050403020100 2016 2018 2019 2020 40% 53% 38% 63%




Refuse to start


of Gen Z lost


Value international










Don't know


Don't know


Want less detail


Don't know


Change mind

68% of consumers expect 100% digital onboarding in the wake of COVID-19

The pandemic has turned a desire for digital services into a requirement. Like working from home and other digital transformations, the shift has been from “why?” to “why not?”

32% of consumers refuse to start an application if they are required to take ID credentials to a branch

Consumers have stopped accepting poor experiences and are breaking free. The ‘first mile’ of digital sales—capturing and converting the customer—is stifling providers’ ability to grow.

36% of Gen Z feel the onboarding process is longer than they expected, and banks are losing them as a result.

24% abandon applications due to lengthy processes (24%) — more than any other age group. They are also deterred by too many detailed requirements (22%), and the most likely to simply change their minds (24%).

60% would value being able to use their digital identities to access services internationally

Looking beyond Covid-19, empowering people with secure cross-border eIDs will become crucial to support increasingly global economies, smart cities, and their digital services.

A truly digital experience, from verifying identity for account opening through to authenticating a user’s identity to access services and beyond, is now a business continuity necessity for both banks and their customers.

Onboarding across Europe

The identity market across Europe is maturing at different rates in different countries.

We enable businesses to expand into these markets (as well as cross-border) with various identity verification solutions.

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eID and eIDV status

Signicat provides

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BankID, issued by banks, is in practice the only relevant eID in society at large. More than 90 % of the adult population has a BankID. Obtaining a BankID requires physical presence with passport or national ID card as identity document. Based on BankID, a user may also obtain a BankID Mobile, which is an alternative eID using the SIM card in mobile phones as a secure element. About 50 % of the adult population has a BankID Mobile. BankID and BankID Mobile are used throughout society for all kinds of services, including for public services. Note that Norwegian and Swedish BankIDs are completely separate solutions although they have the same name.


BankID, issued by banks, is in practice the only relevant eID in society at large, although Freja eID is an alternative solution. More than 90 % of the adult population has a BankID. BankID is used throughout society for all kinds of services, including for public services. To obtain a BankID or Freja eID, the user has to show up in person with passport or national ID card. Note that Norwegian and Swedish BankIDs are completely separate services although they have the same name.


Finland's eID scheme is regulated by law under the so-called Finnish Trust Network (FTN). The eIDs of 10 different banks and the Mobiilivarmenne eID that is jointly provided by the 3 major telcos are all approved for FTN. A consumer can have several eIDs issued by various providers. To obtain an eID within FTN, the customer must meet in person and verify their identity using a passport or use an existing eID within the Finnish Trust Network. Each eID issuer provides their own authentication mechanism, which can be an app, code device or a code card. Most service providers provide login with all FTN eIDs for the widest coverage of the population. By using a licensed FTN broker, service providers can provide their customers access to all the available eIDs through a single integration. More than 90 % of the adult population has at least one FTN approved eID.


NemID, which is a co-operation between banks and the government, is in practice the only eID in the Danish market. NemID will be replaced by a new solution, MitID, also a co-operation between banks and government. MitID will be launched May 2021 with a transition period until end of 2021 when NemID will be decommissioned. More than 90 % of the adult population has a NemID, and it is expected that MitID will achieve at least the same number of users.

The Netherlands

The use of the Dutch citizen eID, DigiD, is restricted to governmental services. DigiD is based on the national citizen's registration and is issued remotely (online and postal confirmation). It can be strengthened by adding a one-time connection to a passport or identity card. The Netherlands also has a governmentally recognised and eIDAS-notified eID scheme for organisational authentication: eRecognition. eRecognition is based on identification of persons that are authorised to act (login/sign) on behalf of an organisation. eRecognition provides LoA's low, substantial and high. It's usage will broaden to personal identification and authentication in 2021. Other eID's are waiting for new legislation to pass, so they can be recognised by the Dutch government for public usage. They are currently available for private sector usage. Among these iDIN, the Dutch version of BankID, has the biggest market penetration: everyone who has access to online banking can use it. iDIN is The identity verification is based on the KYC procedures of the banks in the scheme. Another noteworthy eID is Cleverbase, who offer eID's on assurance level high. Last but not least, there are a number of decentralised solutions based on "Attribute Based Credentials" evolving in the Dutch market. Among these IRMA is the most mature. It allows users to retrieve their personal data through various methods (including DigiD and iDIN) and share these validated credentials with service providers.


nPA is provided by the government and the other eID methods are provided by private sector organisations (yes, Verimi, VidoeIDent). Besides eIDs there are other common methods of identification for different regulation levels.


Belgium eID is the official governmental eID which leverages on the identity card of Belgium citizens. The data from the identity card can be captured through a smart card reader. Next to Belgium eID, Belgium citizens also have the possibility to onboard to Belgium Mobile ID (itsme), which fully leverages on a mobile application and does not require smard card readers, increasing the user experience of the end user.

The UK

Currently, there is no eID available in the UK. Identity verification can be done using an eIDV, and combined with NFC reading of passport for increased security.


Signicat provides fully digital onboarding based on eIDs or eIDVs, validation of identity information and automated AML checks, as well as electronic signing for a streamlined workflow.


Signicat provides fully digital onboarding based on eIDs or eIDVs, validation of identity information and automated AML checks, as well as electronic signing for a streamlined workflow.


Signicat provides fully digital onboarding based on eIDs or eIDVs, validation of identity information and automated AML checks, as well as electronic signing for a streamlined workflow.


Signicat can provide a solution for digital onboarding in the Danish market based on eID and electronic ID document verification. The existing NemID, the eID that is used in Danish society, is not in itself approved for KYC for financial services. Use of NemID has to be complemented by additional means, e.g. photocopy of passport. This situation is expected to change when NemID is replaced by the new MitID solution to be launched May 2021.

The Netherlands

Signicat provides fully digital onboarding based on eIDs, validation ID information and automated AML checks, as well as electronic signing for a streamlined workflow.


Signicat provides a fully digital onboarding (AML-compliant depending on EID) with access to nPA, Verimi or yes and video IDent. If necessary, validation of the data (address data, creditworthiness etc) is an option.


Signicat provides multiple identity verification methods in the Belgium market. Ranging from eIDs to identity document verification. The Belgium eID methods can also be used in the signing solution of Signicat, creating AES or QES signatures, both through the Sign Portal or through the Sign API.

The UK

Signicat offers identity verification leveraging selfie and ID document scanning, as well as electronic signing for contracts, agreements and consents during onboarding.

Onboarding Playbook for Europe

Get an overview of the best practices and available solutions for The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the UK.

  • What is needed for digital onboarding
  • How to balance compliance with ease of onboarding
  • Measuring the business impact
  • Consumer attitudes towards remote onboarding across Europe
  • The status of digital identity per country
  • Solution for digital onboarding country-by-country

Key insights

The Battle to Onboard 2020: The impact of COVID-19 and beyond

More key findings from the wide-ranging report

1009080706050403020100 Norway Belgium Application abandonment rate (%) 1009080706050403020100 Norway Belgium Application abandonment rate (%) 50403020100 “This is 2020 — why isn’t everything digital?” “I’m worried for their business” “They’re going to lose my business.” Consumer frustration Section---Is-this-the-end

What’s the state of onboarding in Europe?

  • Norway has the highest rate of reported application abandonment at 70%; Belgium has the lowest at 53%.
  • Finland and Netherlands consumers seem to find it easiest to onboard, with only 23% reporting difficulty, compared with 33% in Norway.
  • Sweden has the lowest tolerance for lengthy applications: 59% of consumers would abandon a process that took longer than 20 minutes.

Is the industry regressing?

  • There is still no overall indication that onboarding is improving for traditional banks
  • This is despite lots of noise around the increasing levels of digital investment, focus on customer experience and the widespread adoption of federated eID schemes.
  • ‘Difficult and painful’ In 2019, just under a quarter of people rated their last application for a financial product somewhere between difficult and painful.
  • In 2020, this has risen to just over a quarter.

Has COVID-19 changed onboarding expectations?

  • 41% of consumers found themselves unable to access essential financial services during the pandemic, due to inaccessibility or digital unavailability.

Consumers now respond to financial services providers who don’t offer 100% digital onboarding with frustration, concern, and abandonment.

  • “This is 2020 — why isn’t everything digital?” (20%)
  • “I’m worried for their business” (22%)
  • “They’re going to lose my business.” (14%)

How do generations differ — including Gen Z?

  • Traditional banks in particular have worried about “digital natives” before, but now that Gen Z is economically active, they have a greater effect on customer acquisition than Millennials ever did.
  • 41% of 18-24-year-olds considered their last financial application to be difficult, compared to just 16% of 55-64 year-olds.
  • Gen Z will be followed by Gen Alpha, who will belong to a world of 5G, AI, machine learning and IoT. Constant innovation will be a prerequisite to survival in the evolving financial services ecosystem.

Trust in banks is high—but is it enough?

  • Financial service providers remain the benchmark for trust, for now...
  • Almost 3 in 5 consumers across Europe use their bank login for other services if they’re able to do so, and three quarters would trust using a bank identity to log in into other services.
  • But, among Gen Z trust remains considerably lower (47%) than with 45-57 year olds (75%) and is almost half of those aged 65+ (86%).
  • Gen Z (22%) and Millennials (21%) are more likely to abandon onboarding if they are asked for too much detail, compared to the less concerned over-65s (10%).

What’s the future of onboarding and digital identity?

  • The majority of people want, and expect, digital identities that they can reuse and that banks have a central role to play in providing them.
  • Over half would expect to use their bank digital ID more widely while only 12% say they would not.
  • Additional uses for the bank digital ID include health services and online voting, but - interestingly - not online dating.

Is this the end of ‘learned helplessness’?

  • Despite continual investment, consumers report the same level of dissatisfaction with onboarding. Their actions suggest they have run out of patience.

Three factors are working together to create this overall effect:

  • New mobile-first fintechs are now widely used, often as a first choice rather than a backup. Their onboarding is far better, and other traditional bank providers are simply failing to keep up.
  • The COVID-19 lockdown has meant that a poor onboarding experience, including a requirement for branch visits, is no longer acceptable.
  • Gen Z has become financially active and simply won’t tolerate a poor onboarding experience. New to the market, they present high-volume acquisition opportunities and are being courted extensively by new challenger brands with 100% mobile onboarding.

Onboarding best practices

Best practices for onboarding

Collect icon

Collect the essential data, but no more

  • Collecting too much data early on is off-putting and can reduce completion
  • Holding too much data exposes you to hackers and cyberthreats
Ensure icon

Ensure customers understand why you need the data

  • Communicate clearly and concisely to build trust with the customer
  • People are much more willing to part with data if they understand what it’s for
Make the process icon

Make the process as short as possible

  • 55% of customers abandon an application after 14 minutes and 20 seconds
  • By the 20-minute mark, you will lose 70%. Keep it short and sweet!
Keep it simple icon

Keep it simple and avoid disruptions

  • 1 in 3 customers will not start an online application that also requires a branch visit
  • 68% of consumers expect 100% digital onboarding going forward
Make it easy icon

Make it easy for customers to prove who they are

  • Balance the need for verification with the customer desire for speed and convenience
  • Learn from digital challengers, who are leading the way with quick and easy solutions

How do you score at digital onboarding?

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