Client Onboarding and Relationship Management: Exploring the link


Anthony Brady

Analyst II

Client onboarding is a somewhat generic term. It could be argued that it indicates that once the client is onboarded, the job stops there. This could not be further from the truth. Investment banking is an extensive industry, and one in which relationship management is key, for different reasons, which can be explored.

Looking at solely the corporates industry, Thomson Reuters showed in a survey conducted in January and February 2016 the real scale of banking relations with corporate entities on average having 11 global banking relationships and 9 regionals:


There is, of course, a responsibility on the investment bank to make the experience of onboarding as painless as possible for the client, as well as ensuring that the client’s needs after the onboarding are addressed. However, this not just for the clients benefit. It is in the institutions best interest to do so.

One of the more obvious reasons for a positive client experience during the onboarding process is the prospect of continued business. This is where the relationship management then applies. The client is being onboarded to conduct a certain type of business, but a smooth onboarding process will make them less apprehensive about doing more with the investment bank. For example, an investment manager trading FX on behalf of a group of pension funds may be more averse to the idea of at some point putting in place an ISDA to trade Fixed Income Swaps if the onboarding process goes well, and the FX trading for which they were set up runs smoothly and yields the return that they were looking for.

This means there has been a trust built between the 2 parties, and in a financial world of uncertainty, this is invaluable. This is particularly applicable in today’s volatile market, and even more so after the effects of the market crash of 2008.

"Trust is important because it has been regarded as an essential ingredient for a successful relationship" The Different Roles of Satisfaction, Trust, and Commitment in Customer Relationships, Vol. 63, No. 2 April 1999, pp. 70-87, Ellen Garbarino and Mark S. Johnson

In addition to this trust, it is not uncommon for an entity to be aligned to corresponding contacts within the investment bank. For example, it is commonplace that they would be assigned an onboarding analyst, as well as a sales contact for whichever desk they happen to be interacting with. Typically, they would also be assigned a contact known as a relationship manager who would always be their first initial contact within the bank for any queries. This again enhances the trust, whilst making the client feel valued, and that they are being treated as an individual, rather than as part of a pool of clients.

Clients like this are commonly categorised differently from standard clients. The more recent introduction of regulatory requirements may be viewed by clients as a particular cause for headache. Areas such as MiFID, Dodd Frank and EMIR, to name a few, can cause complications. To have a group of individuals tasked with making the transition as smooth as possible is a big bonus for most clients. However, the truth is that many banks will limit the number of clients that they will allow this luxury to and will base their decisions regarding this on different variables, including revenue and frequency of business.

It is important to stress that this strength of relationship is maintained from the start of the relationship until the end. It is also worth noting that the ending of a relationship is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, if a client meets their objective in trading and wishes to close the account, a succinct offboarding can only improve the chances of them returning in future for further business.

Another positive outcome, and one of the more obvious, is the positive effect a smooth onboarding process and interactive relationship management will have on the brand of the investment bank.

“A brand name is a basic element of a firm’s market offering that aids consumers’

understanding of the offering characteristics” Journal of Marketing Research, Vol.33 November 1996, pp 453-466, C. Whan Park, Sung Youl Jun and Allan D. Shocker

Although the investment banking world is of a huge scale, the key players tend to remain the same. It is a smaller world in some respects than many would imagine, and key contacts within the industry are known to share their experiences. For instance, if one particular hedge fund manager has a positive experience with an investment bank, and has maintained a fruitful relationship since the initial set up, then they may pass this on by word of mouth to another manager at a different fund. This could lead to more business for the institution. 

“In today's competitive business environment, delivering superior service quality is a prerequisite to increase customers’ tendency to spread positive Word Of Mouth (WOM) advertising.” International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management, Vol. III, Issue 9, September 2015, pp. 1, Seyed Abbas Mousavi, Saeed Nosratabadi, Mahmoud Reza Saeidi

Opposite to this, we have the impact of negative experiences for the client. Bad news travels fast in any industry, and a client may negatively portray anyone whom they feel have let them down, particularly when the client is trying to offer them new business.

“The predominant conceptualization of consumer complaint behaviour argues that voice, private, and third party responses are related but independent from complaint actions taken by dissatisfied consumers. Thus, negative word of mouth by dissatisfied consumers may occur in addition to other forms of complaint behaviour rather than in place of it”

Negative word of mouth: Substitute for or supplement to consumer complaints?

Thomson Reuters showed in a survey conducted in January and February 2016 that corporate clients experience with KYC in particular is overwhelmingly negative:

Investment institutions should minimise the damage done during the KYC period so that any negative opinions formed do not spread. It is also worth noting that the KYC process is typically one of, if not the first, touchpoint a client has with an institution, so any opinions formed at this point may be difficult to change in the future.

It is important to note that relationship management does not just apply to external clients. It also applies to internal stakeholders. It is imperative that there is strong and clear communication between the different individuals who act as a touchpoint for the client, as well as those who work on the client’s behalf in the background. For example, if there is a new investment manager to be onboarded to trade ISDA products, there would be the initial onboarding analyst, the sales contact, the credit contact, and the legal contact to name a few. This is by no means a defined list but provides an indication of how many different parts of the machine must work together for the experience to be as efficient as possible. The better the relationship between these parties, the better overall experience for the client.

In conclusion, it is essential that client onboarding as well as relationship management retain the same focus. It is vital not only that an investment bank obtains new business, but maintains a healthy relationship with any existing clients. It could be argued that with the hunger to attract new business, the existing clients can be left behind in some aspect’s, but if an investment bank is able to find the balance between accommodating new clients and looking after the clients they have already, the future can only be bright.

Anthony Brady


Anthony joined FinTrU in July 2017, and currently works as part of the KYC Client Onboarding team for a Tier 1 Investment Bank.

Anthony graduated with a degree in Business with Marketing. Following this, he worked in the Client Onboarding team at Citi as a Senior Onboarding Analyst. Here, he gained an in-depth knowledge of Client Onboarding in the Capital Markets and Institutional Clients division, along with a comprehensive understanding of the KYC requirements for different legal vehicles, products, and legal agreements. He is particularly skilled in the areas of Dodd Frank, MIFID and EMIR. 

Anthony conducts regulatory reviews and manages relationships with key internal stakeholders, whilst also interacting with institutional clients to fulfil regulatory requirements. Anthony has strong coaching, organization, and communication skills, and is confident in dealing with stakeholders of all levels.