EXCLUSIVE: Tiller's Digital Onboarding Service Goes International

Published on
April 18, 2024

This news service talked to a wealthtech firm operating in the field of digital onboarding about how one of the world's major banks has been working with it.

Jersey-headquartered Tiller Technologies has launched a new feature on its existing software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, aka Verify by Tiller.

In the latest development, Tiller is working with HSBC Expat to automate the address verification process for an international clientele. HSBC Expat is now using this technology, Tiller told this publication. (HSBC Expat is the offshore banking arm of the HSBC group.)

Verify is, as its name implies, an identity verification solution, aimed at streamlining the onboarding process for international customers at a time of continued regulatory change.

“E-ID is increasingly recognised by regulators around the world as more and more organisations are adopting this technology as standard,” Jonathan Wauton, co-founder and CEO at Tiller, told WealthBriefing. “We are excited to be pioneering this global digital transformation. The roll out of our new international address verification service could not be better timed as we are approaching a tipping point in the E-ID revolution.”

The Tiller team has worked with HSBC Expat in developing Verify. It also follows a consultation undertaken by the Jersey Financial Services Commission which looks at how such systems can be adopted by financial services institutions. Tiller’s new service comes at a time when onboarding remains a pain point for banks and other bodies handling compliance tasks.

Tiller Technologies, founded in 2019, also provides customer identity technology and customised solutions for more complex partners, Wauton said. Amongst its other clients, Tiller also works with Mattioli Woods plc, and McInroy & Wood.

Firms’ compliance tasks cost money but can also be a competitive differentiator if carried out correctly, Wauton said.

The regulatory landscape, and attitude of policymakers, is in flux about ideas such as giving citizens a single “digital ID,” and how this might square with privacy. On the other hand, the convenience of such a move has a certain appeal.

The remote working process, accelerated by Covid-19, accelerated digital onboarding in a significant way. “The use of electronic IDs grew, and it is becoming the norm,” Wauton said.

“Governments are, as we know, currently wary of digital IDs. I am absolutely convinced that as digital onboarding becomes the norm, we will be able to share the data increasingly,” Wauton said.

Offshore hubs such as Jersey and Guernsey have been strategically proactive, perhaps when compared with their onshore peers, in their approach to E-ID (electronic IDs), particularly concerning regulations for E-ID technology. Jersey has even launched a “RegTech Super Tax deduction” in recognition of the importance of this type of technology in enabling international business.

While other jurisdictions such as Cayman and Bermuda are increasingly positive about E-ID, Tiller’s Wauton thinks that all IFCs will ultimately embrace this technology as it becomes tried and tested around the world and becomes widely recognised as a clear facilitator of international business.

After Tiller has completed its onboarding processes for a client, the details are typically erased after eight weeks, “but this can be configured to meet the data retention requirements of our customer,” Wauton said.

Tiller is aiming at regulated and supervised businesses across various industries, such as trust and fiduciary, professional services, banking, and other financial services. It is focused on the UK and Crown Dependencies, with expansion into other IFCs on the horizon.

A place to live
A key issue for digital ID verification is proof of physical addresses, as shown by the way in which firms will still demand an example of a utility bill, he said. For expats and those living highly mobile lives, this presents a problem.

“The traditional approach of providing a certified copy of a utility bill or bank statement as an international customer is extremely slow and laborious and can slow down the onboarding process, often by many weeks,” Wauton said. “You must also have faith in your local postal courier service to keep your documents safe whilst in transit. Therefore, there are obvious benefits to your customers and your business in leveraging a digital address verification service.”

“Believe it or not, the most challenging part for us when building our E-ID solutions was not the ID verification, with all the exciting tech built in, such as facial recognition and fraud detection technology – it is in fact the proof of address element, that has been hardest piece to implement, especially internationally.

“The biggest challenge is the need to access high-quality ‘regulatory grade’ address data in each country.”

Wauton said the availability and quality of such data varies from country to country.

“Our service covers 53 countries, enabling us to deliver a superior service in this sector – but we are working hard to further increase that coverage, especially into locations with high concentrations of expats and developing IFCs,” he said.

False positives not an issue
With verification of addresses, false positives are not the only problem there can be other issues, such as PEP and sanctions checks, he said. “The key question here is will it [a solution] pass a regulatory requirement. Clients need to know this.”

Verify by Tiller also includes a geo-location function, which checks the location where the customer used the service, adding to the robustness of the verification model.

WealthBriefing asked Wauton whether the use case for this sort of tech could reach beyond financial services.

“As an example, money laundering regulations in the UK affect other industries such as professional services, real estate, and more recently the art world,” he said. “We frequently receive enquires about our Verify service from businesses looking to grow their digital onboarding capabilities, or those with ambitious growth plans who simply want to get the KYC done quickly and effectively out of the gate.

“Other enquires come from compliance officers and MLRO, those who are looking to tighten up their internal processes and create operational efficiencies that are both robust and scalable,” Wauton said.

For clients who adopt its technology, Wauton said Tiller operates a “same-day set-up.”

Wauton added that his firm is in “active discussions” about incorporating blockchain technology.