Dallas, TX (March 9, 2021) – Today, the Center for Payments announced the results of its latest national market study, Digitizing Payments: The Online Account Opening Experience. The study examines current financial institution practices and procedures to safely manage online account openings and to detect, evaluate, and mitigate risk throughout the online account opening experience. The study revealed that while fraud can occur as a result of online account openings, there are additional actions financial institutions can take to minimize risk and reduce the incidence of fraud with this service.

“With the increased digitization of financial services brought on in part by COVID-19, account opening, as well as other common banking services, have transitioned to an online environment,” said Laura Steele, AAP, Chair of the Center for Payments and President & CEO of ePayResources. “As with all banking services, conducting these online and digital services in a safe and secure manner is of paramount importance. The Center for Payments’ latest study gives financial institutions a roadmap to do just that.”

According to the study, today more than 50 percent of organizations offer online account opening. Online account opening was the second most added financial service in 2020, with 36 percent of financial institutions adding it or accelerating its implementation as a result of COVID-19.

Most financial institutions have measures in place to support the safe opening of online accounts. Seventy percent of institutions limit online account openings to a geographic location. More than 60 percent of banks and credit unions require additional steps beyond standard Customer Identification Program (CIP)[i] requirements to verify account ownership. And a large majority (87 percent) suspend accounts or prevent the opening of an account if account holders fail validation or authentication.

Despite these and other measures, fraud can still occur with online account opening. According to the study, 1.9 percent of online account openings that happened between November 2019 and November 2020 were suspected as fraud. 0.9 percent of those were determined to be actual fraud. Of the banks and credit unions that experienced fraud due to online account openings, the most frequent type of fraud reported was impersonated authorized party fraud.

There are actions banks and credit unions can take to mitigate fraud and risk associated with online account opening. For instance, banks can implement measures to combat payments-related fraud. Currently, 8 percent of institutions have no measures in place to mitigate payments fraud related to online account openings. Only 49 percent validate ownership of funding accounts and only 28 percent validate good funds before completing funds transfers. If funding via ACH, 55 percent of institutions do not place a hold on the funds, and 61 percent place funds directly into the account holder’s account.

While most institutions require additional steps beyond CIP, only 40 percent require the additional steps in all circumstances. Additionally, most banks and credit unions maintain the same ongoing monitoring procedures for both new and existing account holders’ accounts. Only 29 percent have different processes for new account holders’ accounts. Eighty-four percent perform enhanced due diligence for new account holders and 37 percent conduct a review of new account holder accounts.

“Online account openings can be conducted in an environment that is safe for the consumer, as well as the financial institution,” said Angi Farren, Market Intelligence Co-Chair of the Center for Payments and UMACHA President. “Leveraging the actions and measures outlined in our latest study can help financial institutions manage critical day-to-day operations while mitigating risk and fraud. The expectations and new-found habits of consumers will remain well past the pandemic. So, it is important that financial institutions find safe ways to meet consumers where they are now to be better positioned for an undeniable digital-first future.”

For more information about Digitizing Payments: The Online Account Opening Experience, visit www.centerforpayments.org. To dive deeper into ways to mitigate risk in online account opening, contact your Payments Association.

About the Study
Digitizing Payments: The Online Account Opening Experience, compiled and tabulated by Industry Insights, Inc. and designed in cooperation with the Center for Payments and key industry executives, is based on findings from online surveys fielded between October 22 and November 25, 2020. The results include responses from 525 C-suite executives, vice presidents, and manager/directors at financial institutions ranging in asset size from under $500 million to $5 billion or more. The survey examines current industry practices and procedures to safely manage online account openings and to detect, evaluate, and mitigate risk throughout the online account opening experience. For more information about the study, please contact info@centerforpayments.org.

About the Center for Payments
The Center for Payments™ is a joint program sponsored by 10 Payments Associations for the purpose of helping members and staff better prepare for the continued evolution of U.S. payment systems. The mission of the Center for Payments is to advance the payments industry as a united voice through market intelligence and thought leadership. This program further enhances the value of membership in the participating associations. Current participants in the program include: ePayResources, EPCOR, Macha, NEACH, PaymentsFirst, SHAZAM, Southern Financial Exchange, The Clearing House Payments Authority, UMACHA, and wespay.  These associations represent over 10,000 financial institution members, businesses, and stakeholders with an interest in U.S. payment systems.  Find out more at centerforpayments.org or contact info@centerforpayments.org.  Follow us on Twitter (@Center4Payments).

[i] Customer Identification Program (CIP) prescribes “the minimum standards for financial institutions and their account holders regarding the identity of the account holder that shall apply in connection with the opening of an account at a financial institution.” An institution’s CIP procedures should be “appropriate for its size and type of business” and must enable it “to form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of each account holder.”

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