Shawn Tan CEO of Skymind
Shawn Tan, CEO of Skymind
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Know your customer: How AI is helping businesses perform virtual client identity verification in seconds - saving time and money

Skymind, the world’s first AI ecosystem builder, recently announced its partnership with NEC Corporation, a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies. The union will help pave the way for faster, more efficient business procedures when it comes to identity verification. Shawn Tan, CEO of Skymind, explains what this means for the future of onboarding clients in a world redefined by the digital economy.

Even before the pandemic, businesses have experienced a drastic shift towards digitisation over the last ten years. For banks and other financial companies particularly, traditional brick-and-mortar branches are giving way to soaring online consumerism and service engagement, meaning that client onboarding procedures have had to adapt accordingly.

Before the move to digitisation, know your customer (KYC) procedures were mostly paper-based and required the physical presence of the customer along with their original forms of identification. Products and services like updating an insurance policy, applying for a new passport or opening a bank account were only available on a face-to-face appointment basis and typically took weeks, while also being subject to manual delays and human error.

Thanks to AI and the global push towards digital transformation, KYC processes are being revolutionised and can now be conducted electronically. This includes extraction of digital data from IDs, the use of certified digital identities and facial recognition software for online identity verification. The new world of KYC is a remote, paperless process that minimises compliance costs, reduces approval times, and limits the bureaucracy associated with traditional manual KYC.

The rise of electronic verification comes at a time when financial institutions face greater security risks, with issues pertaining to corruption, terrorist financing, and money laundering becoming more prevalent in the digital age. As such, KYC policies have become an important tool to combat international financial crimes - and the way it’s conducted is the primary method to stop nefarious activities before they even begin.

Our current focus on AI-based electronic KYC is what makes our partnership with NEC so intriguing - and which can help businesses onboard their new customers safely, with minimal error, and much quicker - by removing humans out of the loop so they don’t have to check documents and slow things down.

The identity verification platform we’ve created uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimise KYC, cutting identification and verification processes from two weeks to less than three minutes. It provides a superior, frictionless experience for users and improves customer onboarding rates. Additionally, the technology also guarantees a higher level of safety and reliability.

Skymind‘s partnership with NEC allows us to continue collaboration on NEC’s SX-Aurora TSUBASA/Vector Engine technology, which will speed up the KYC process even further – by up to 10 times – through accelerating big data transfers and learning workloads.

This is a good time to harness this kind of technology - with the coronavirus pandemic accelerating demand for self-serve online models, the focus will remain on swift approval times and minimal disruption that still respects anti-money laundering (AML) and other regulatory requirements. The KYC platform provides remote identity verification and management services for banks, telecoms firms, insurance companies and many other businesses.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, banks and financial institutions have faced an increase in the number of regulations they must comply with, and when they fall foul of these are charged with significant fines and the possibility of losing their operating license altogether. Between 2008-2018, financial regulators issued $23.52 billion in KYC and AML fines alone.

And according to research conducted by Fenergo, onboarding times rose by an average of three weeks during 2019, which they estimate could lead to losses of up to $4.5 billion in revenue as customers drop out of slow onboarding and search for alternative institutions.

Today’s customers are digital-savvy; they expect a smooth experience, instant access to their accounts and profiles, and are quick to look elsewhere if a financial institution is not meeting their needs or expectations. On the other hand, banks are struggling to juggle how to collect necessary information without burdening clients. The goal is to gather data and have it seamlessly integrated into the onboarding process, all the while ensuring complete regulatory compliance.

Our collaboration with NEC and its Vector Engine can benefit this entire process, and in turn, small and medium-sized businesses. With an optimised digitised experience, the customer journey becomes frictionless and autonomous: customers are able to navigate the process in their own time, and with little to no human intervention.

And while falsification of identity, signatures and phishing can be extremely common, the partnership between the two companies has ensured the development of a completely secure process, with zero margins for counterfeiting offences and related crimes.

So with digitised onboarding powered by AI and deep learning, transformational technologies can lead the way in the evolution of KYC across multiple touch points of the onboarding process, in what is a rapidly developing, multi-billion dollar industry.

The benefits of businesses - from SMEs to big corporations - is the chance to get the right customers onboard, with minimum hassle, financial cost, or risk- with just a few clicks from a computer or mobile device.

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