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Now you can open a NatWest current account with a selfie

David Murphy

NatWest has become the first major high street bank to enable customers to open an account using a selfie and photo ID such as a passport to verify their identity. The selfie is checked against the photo ID using real-time biometric checks, and authenticated to prevent fraudulent applications and remove the need to provide ID documents either in branch or by post. It also records the location of the application, allowing additional fraud checks.

The innovation is the result of a partnership with ID verification fintech HooYu, and has been successfully piloted with over 60,000 customers so far, with fraudulent applications dropping significantly during that time.

NatWest said that some customers have completed their ID verification in just four minutes; however customers can start, pause and come back to their application if they don’t have the correct documents, such as passports to hand. They can also access the application from different devices. The application accepts international ID documents, making it accessible for UK residents of from diverse nationalities.

“We know customers want to be able to open accounts at a time and a place that suits them and not have to worry about sending precious ID documents in the post, or taking time out of their day to go to a branch,” said NatWest chief digital officer, Frans Woelders. “That’s why we’re making it easier, safer and faster to open accounts, allowing customers to get on with the things that matter.”

While NatWest is the biggest and best-known bank to introduce verification by selfie, it’s not the first. Metro Bank and digital banks Monzo and Starling all offer similar facilities, Metro using a selfie image, Monzo and Starling using short selfie videos.

Sean Durkin, head of enterprise, UK & Ireland at OpenText, believes other brands could benefit from embracing technology to streamline the onboarding process. He said: “There is something cool or futuristic about being able to open a banking account with a selfie. As the first major high street bank to offer this, NatWest provides us with another example of a company tapping into innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to deliver the fastest and most friction-free customer experience possible. It’s clear proof that these types of technologies are gaining momentum in society. And, it’s no wonder – they help brands to drive revenue, better provide for their customers and increase customer loyalty.

“Today's digital generation are used to streamlined, instant services. For businesses in any sector, getting the brand experience right is key to forging a loyal relationship. The secret to creating a special customer journey lies in analysing data to really understand what will improve the customer experience. Brands are increasingly recognising that consumers have a preference for fast and flexible services and that artificial intelligence could provide a way to meet these expectations. NatWest’s new process has the potential to offer a phenomenally smooth customer experience for those looking to open a new bank account – going one step further than some of the more gimmicky customer experience concepts which don’t necessarily add real value.”