How EQ Bank is overcoming a chequered past

Last updated: August 8, 2017

Out of everything we built when we launched EQ Bank, the customer sign-up process might have been the most complex. Trying to get the customer experience right, in the face of tough regulatory requirements, wasn’t easy. We were never quite happy with it…until a couple of weeks ago.

Signing up with EQ Bank was never as easy as we wanted it to be.

Sure, there are good and obvious reasons why we need proper security, identification, and privacy controls when opening a bank account for someone. The challenge for a digital bank like ourselves was that the regulations and controls were a decade old, and designed for bank branch personnel sitting across from a new customer. There were considerations for online-only account opening, but they were clunky at best. The least painful method, believe it or not, was to have the customer send us a cheque in the mail; once we cashed it we still had to wait several days while the cheque cleared. After that, the account was officially open, provided the customer gave us accurate personal information and didn’t appear on any scary watchlists; best case it took 7 business days. More often it took several weeks, because c'mon: do you know where your chequebook is?

Obviously, the cheque wasn’t our idea.

Having mobile cheque deposit in our app so customers could at least skip the mailing step helped, but it still felt clunky to the customer – and to us. Cheques are a pretty ridiculous form of payment, so building your first customer experience around them is just asking for trouble. Making things worse was that many customers (especially those under 30) don’t even have cheques, so they were stuck. Some intrepid souls went to bank branches (!) to ask for single cheques, but others simply gave up on the process. It was exhausting, having to explain over and over that we didn’t want the cheques at all, but still had to ask for one to comply with regulations. Customers don’t (and shouldn’t) care about regulations. And yeah, the experience is the same no matter which bank you sign up with, but "as good as the other banks" has never been the yardstick by which we like to measure ourselves. Luckily, new regulations were announced recently which allowed us to completely rebuild our customer sign-up process. And so:

The cheque is dead. Long live the cheque.

As of two weeks ago we no longer require a cheque from anyone wishing to sign up with EQ Bank. We still have the same look-ups and controls happening in real time behind the scenes…more, in fact, which is why we can skip the cheques. Most customers are now verified and ready to use their account in seconds; others may need to provide some documentation in electronic form, but we promise: no more cheques. (Uh, unless you want to deposit money into your Savings Plus account, in which case, cheque deposits are welcome!)

Dan Dickinson is the VP and Chief Digital Officer of EQ Bank. This article was originally posted to LinkedIn.
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