A 21st century tech stack for mutual societies


Fast, secure and easy-to-use onboarding technology will help building societies attract younger customers and serve others more efficiently, says Aaron Harvey, Business Development Director at TruNarrative.

As banking technology becomes faster and easier to use, some building societies and local banks face an acute challenge. Many have not prioritised digital banking because a large part of their client base did not appear to need it and preferred excellent in-branch customer service to remote access.

But customers of all ages now expect digital banking services and products, and the Covid pandemic has only accelerated this transition while people have been stuck at home.

Overall, the UK’s building societies still account for about a quarter of the mortgage market but individually their market share is mostly small and local. Today, most building societies are engaged in some level of digital transformation building a hybrid banking/lending service: investing in digital services to attract younger customers and compete with the smooth mobile services of the big banks, while maintaining the costly branches that many of their traditionally older customers still expect. Happily, the digital tools exist to build such a hybrid efficiently and quickly.

Attracting digital natives

Millennials have no time to visit bank branches; they want digital, and they want it now. In the UK some 41 per cent of them bank with a digital-only service, according to market research from Finder. The same research shows that the rest of us are gradually embracing similar services, particularly in big cities. Building societies’ key products, such as mortgages and savings accounts, are still important for younger customers but onboarding processes that don’t work instantly, perhaps requiring documents sent by post or visiting a branch to deposit a cheque, are a turn off.

Bringing a societies tech stack into the 21st century has historically meant months or even years of extensive development costs. The platform developed by TruNarrative allows societies to implement a full suite of customer onboarding technology via a single API integration. Societies now using the TruNarrative Platform are now able to verify identity, assess fraud and risk factors, implement robust anti-money laundering processes, and verify documentation painlessly for new mortgage and savings account applicants.

Suffolk Building Society recently partnered with TruNarrative to deliver their end-to-end onboarding strategy, and we are set to announce more societies making use of the TruNarrative Platform in Q2 and Q3 of 2022.

Ian Brighton, Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Building Society said the platform “enables us to take control of our own strategy”, adding: “By allowing us to react to fraud and market trends and tweak our criteria as appropriate, we are not only mitigating our risk today but have the means to do so in the future too.”

These societies can now assess new mortgage applications with the full customer picture in view, with the knowledge that the applicant’s identity and AML status has been verified with the latest technology. Given the recent sharp rise in credit scams and mortgage fraud, fraud detection is a key part of any financial institution’s technology stack. The TruNarrative interface facilitates anti-fraud investigations and has a direct link to both check against and file back to the Cifas National Fraud Database.

Preserving the human touch

Using a platform like TruNarrative helps banks and building societies to go to market with new customised digital products, and to begin serving new customer bases.

Customers can now be offered the choice of completing a process fully online or electing to do part of it, e.g. document verification in branch. And with branch personnel doing less admin, they are free to spend more time helping customers who want the personal service they know and trust.

In the UK, banking branches have closed at a rate of 54 a month since January 2015, a survey by Which? found, because of the rise of digital banking and lower footfall. However, branches are still very much in demand by many of building societies’ older customers who, according to the Finder survey, prefer to do business face-to-face. Thus, branches will continue to be a valuable service to their local communities, but with the speed, automation and convenience of a 21st century digital service.

Feel free to get in touch to find out how the TruNarrative Platform can help – just fill out the form below.