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Helping a Banking Stalwart Go Digital

When ATB Financial, a more than 80 year old financial institution owned by the government of the Canadian province of Alberta, searched for ways to join the disruptive financial-tech industry, it knew it would have to create a seamless digital experience to succeed.

Two years ago, ATB’s idea of encouraging Gen Z-ers and older millennials to start saving and spending digitally went live with the launch of Brightside, a mobile app designed to be easy to use. Brightside aims to quiet the dissatisfaction many customers feel while conducting business at their bank branch by allowing them to access services and accounts quickly—and 100 percent digitally. It also offers customers almost instant signups, an in-app spend card experience, and simple savings methods, such as regularly scheduled deposits and “rounding up,” and all without fees.

Brightside's homepage

Not long after becoming available to five million Albertans last year, Brightside struggled with its signup process. Brightside leaders worried that, without a strong yet seamless ID authentication system—one that could get people banking quickly and safely--they would lose out on the potential patronage of on-the-go younger people.

Company leaders cast their net wide for a replacement firm, investigating the pros and cons of eight separate security providers. In the end, they came away most impressed with a verification solution devised by the same master technologists who led Airbnb’s Trust and Safety team, and then started their own company, called Berbix.

Built to be fast and accurate, Berbix immediately impressed Brightside leaders with how its system could enroll new account holders in the blink of an eye, augmenting Brightside’s already rapid signup system.

“Our account opening process is very fast—usually about three to five minutes,” says Michael Ulrich, Director of Marketing and Communications at Brightside. “The smoothness and simplicity often dazzles people because the system is so intuitive.”

Since adding Berbix to its customer flow, Brightside has upped the numbers of people who use the selfie-and-ID verification method from 64 percent to 90 percent. (Some customers, perhaps leery of sharing personal information by phone, can also choose to be identified via credit-monitoring companies.) 

Meanwhile, the percentage of those whose selfies or IDs trigger a manual verification review by a Brightside employee has dropped. Sometimes IDs and selfies are difficult to match, perhaps because selfie images are blurry or because a prospective customer wore glasses in a driver’s license picture and not in a corresponding selfie. Such instances that trigger manual reviews have dropped from 15 percent to 8.7 percent since its system was introduced.

“That’s important—that’s six percent more people who are having their IDs automatically verified and using our products more quickly,” says Krista Engdahl, Senior Product Manager at Brightside.

Berbix helped Brightside grow from a handful of customers in February 2020 to 5,500 this June. Then, its customer base grew nearly by a factor of seven during a campaign that offered Brightside customers rewards if they referred new customers to the app.  Brightside’s referral campaign went viral, with the numbers of new customers doubling each week, bringing on 31,000 new clients--raising the app’s total customers to 36,000- in just three weeks, most of them via the reliable help of the Berbix plug-in. And four in five of them coming from its key demographic: young adults.

“The amazing thing to us was that Berbix kept working well even though we had this huge increase in volume.” -Amaya Navarro, Senior Analyst at Brightside.

At one point, Brightside officials gave Berbix a heads up about the increasing traffic. “They cheered us on,” says Engdahl. “They told us, ‘We’re standing by to offer support.'"

Having Berbix play a key role in the bank’s onboarding of new customers was paramount.

“The confidence level in knowing that such a high percentage of the people signing on were legitimate customers was so important,” says Ulrich. “It let us know we could keep going.” 

Brightside’s confidence in the security Berbix delivers has been one key to its strong growth.

“The photo-ID method is by far the best way to verify a customer’s identification,” Engdahl says. “We have less fraud coming through that way. Our fraud team loves the photo-ID method.”

To keep the Brightside/Berbix partnership running smoothly, employees at the two companies maintain their own communication channel on Slack. Integration of Berbix was a snap because of that high level of contact, Navarro says, and Berbix regularly informs Brightside when one of its systems might need updating. “I can’t say how amazing the service has been,” she adds.

But beyond their approach to digital nuts and bolts, the two companies share something else—a philosophy of how growing companies should run.

“Berbix is constantly iterating and improving and we work that way too,” says Engdahl. She identified that trait in Berbix not long after Brightside signed on for its services. “That was an indicator that this would be a good fit and a good partnership. I thought working with them would be a really big win.”

As Brightside’s June experience proves, Engdahl was correct. When the app was most called upon to enroll scads of new customers, it performed seamlessly. “We can look forward with confidence as far as ID verifications goes,” says Ulrich. “It’s one of the last things we worry about.”