Optimizing Financial Forms: Section 2

Solving Specific Finance Form Issues

Welcome to section 2 of the web version of Zuko’s free white paper on maximising the conversion rate of financial forms. It looks at individual issues and fields you may come across in optimization projects for forms in the banking, credit, forex and insurance sectors. A downloadable pdf version is available here.

Click here to read section 1 - general advice and broad issues


Skip to a specific topic with these links:

Individual Fields

Customer Verification / KYC Processes

Integrating with Offline Infrastructure

Insurance Forms

In Summary

Specific Financial Form Issues

1. Individual fields

Financial forms tend to have a lot of fields (31 on average according to Zuko’s benchmarks). This leaves a lot of places where the user experience can be damaged. Many of these questions will be bespoke to the individual form but there are commonalities that come up on most forms. Some of the frequent issues have been covered in Zuko’s general guide but we build on that advice here with finance specific points.

(i) Email

99% of the time, you’ll require your customer to give you their email address to access your service so you’d better not mess up this field.

Information taken from Zuko’s database shows that, out of the common personal details fields,  email address is the one that users spend the most time completing:

Field Time Data Table

People know their own email address don’t they? So why are they spending so long completing them on forms?

The first reason is due to the mobile user interface (users entering their email address on a mobile device take 2 seconds longer than desktop users), and a lot of this is because the mobile keyboard is incorrectly configured. The keyboard setting for email fields should be set to the correct “email” input type rather than the “text” or “number” types otherwise the @ symbol will not be readily available, slowing the process down unnecessarily. Research by the Baymard Institute indicates that 61% of mobile sites use the incorrect keyboard settings for at least one field so you’d better check that you are not making the same mistake.

Email Mobile Keyboard
"Email" type (right) Vs "Text" type (left)

The second common problem is the insistence of many sites that the user confirms their email address. This leads to them jumping back and forth between the two email boxes to try and get the answer “right”, meaning they spend much more time on the field than they should.

Why put them through this pain? We get that you are paranoid that they will mess up and enter the information incorrectly but it is a terrible user experience and the evidence indicates that they will just copy and paste their answer from the first box anyway, negating the reason to confirm in the first place. Keep it simple and just ask them for their email once. We’re confident that the reduced abandonment rate will more than make up for the occasional person who misspells their address and can’t be bothered to correct it. If you are still worried, install a sophisticated inline verification solution to your form that will prompt the user if they make a common error (missing the @ for example, or using “gnail” instead of “gmail”).

(ii) Phone Number

People don’t forget their own phone number. So why is there often a disproportionate proportion of abandonments for this field?

In short, it is because of the capricious validation that many forms use. Users are confused about what to enter. Country code? Does there need to be a “+”? Include the opening “0” or not? Are parentheses needed for the area code? Include spaces or not? What about dashes?

Studies back up the fact that this field is a minefield for users - 89% of users in this test entered their phone number differently to the requested format.

The best way to mitigate this issue is to remove the need for the user to think too hard. Ideally, accept any format that the user enters; minimize the on page validation and reformat at the back end if you really must. For example, “07772766234”, “+447772 766 234” and “(07772)-766-234” should all be accepted as valid inputs. If you can, autoformat the input as the user types and, if country location is important to you, use smart defaults to automatically geolocate the user and reduce the need for them to add the country code themselves.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, use microcopy to tell the user why you need their number (and make it genuine!). If you truly don’t need their phone number at this stage then don’t ask for it.

(iii) Date of Birth

Again, date of birth should not be a problematic field for the user. The childhood buzz of birthday presents has conditioned that particular moment in time deeply into our psyche. We don’t forget it. Yet forms continue to make it more difficult than it needs to be for us to supply that top-of-mind information.

Firstly, you should make it abundantly clear the date format you are expecting. Is it the American (MM/DD/YYYY) or European (DD/MM/YYYY) convention you are asking for - particularly important if your form spans multiple countries.

Even more importantly, use the most simple format for data entry. This means steering clear of dropdown menus. Dropdowns are problematic in many ways but are especially bad when it comes to dates. Who wants to scroll back decades to find their year of birth? Indirect age discrimination in action.

Year of birth dropdown
No-one wants to scroll through their lifetime to get to the correct answer!

Date pickers are not much better and can be fiddly on mobile. A far superior solution is a simple, clean 3 text box format involving 8 taps / keystrokes. Zuko commissioned eye tracking research that revealed this configuration was the most user friendly, requiring the lowest amount of eye fixations and attention to successfully complete.

Optimal DOB Field Format
The most user friendly format in action

(iv) Social Security Number (or Equivalent)

Unlike DOB and phone number, users are much less likely to have their Social Security / National Insurance / PAN / National Identity number memorized. This may mean they need to leave your form to rummage through their (digital, metaphorical or physical) drawers to retrieve it. As we discussed earlier, you should make it clear upfront that you will require the information so they can locate it before they start to complete the form.

Other things to be aware of when asking for this sensitive information are:

Masked Password Field
A simple unmask button
Unmasked password field
And the same field with the password unmasked


SSN Field Single Box


SSN Field in 3 Boxes

Stash, an app based Fintech, do this well; displaying their trust badge alongside a convincing reason for needing the information: 

stash ssn screen

(v) Employment Details

At the risk of banging the same drum over and over, this shouldn’t be difficult. Your customers know what their job title is so why do you insist on forcing them to jump through your hoops to give you that information?

The first item on the list to spook your users is the simple Employment Status question. Consider this innocuous looking dropdown:

Employment Status Dropdown Field

Seems simple right? Yet there will be many corner cases that see the drop down and think it doesn’t apply to them. Students? Semi-retired? Part time? Retired with a side-hustle?

Although you may see a simple, mutually exclusive list of categories the user won’t necessarily place themselves into such a comfortable box.

This issue is magnified considerably when it comes to specifying an actual job itself, especially when it comes to insurance forms. The insurance industry has a bad reputation for using any excuse to not pay out on claims. Potential customers are paranoid that if they get an answer “wrong” on their application form they will be denied their due in a future claim so, if there is any doubt, they’d rather drop out now and find reassurance in the arms of your competitors. Either that or they “job hop” - changing their job description multiple times to see if they get a lower quote.

Even if the user is happy to proceed, they will probably be tearing their hair out at the implementation of the field. Often, this form field has a limited list of job titles it will accept. If the user’s finely crafted job title doesn’t match the list then “Computer Says No” - they’ll be politely (or impolitely if you haven’t sorted out your error messages) rejected and have to consider whether it is worth their time trying to shoehorn their (perfectly reasonable) job into your restrictive form field like our friendly Conversion Rate Optimization Consultant has tried to do here:

Job Picker Field
One way to make your potential customer nervous…

So how do you get around this? Possible answers are below, in order of preference:

Compare the market job picker field

Long job picker dropdown
A last resort!

(vi) How long have you lived at this address?

“I don’t know. Mabel, when did we move here? Was it January or February ‘73?”

Some financial forms, particularly ones involving a credit check, require an address history over a certain time period (typically 3 years). It can be fiddly for a user to remember all their previous details, particularly dates, so you should make it as easy as possible for them:

(vii) Income / Wealth

“Asking for personal wealth details often is the biggest trigger for form abandonment. People won’t share that information if they don’t trust you yet.” Matic Kasnik, Conversion Optimization Expert, UBS

Unlike many of the previous fields, this one actually is difficult. Even if the user knows their income / wealth (many won’t know the exact figure), it is sensitive personal information that people are reluctant to part with.

Some advice to smooth this part of the form:

Financial Bracket Radio Buttons

Zuko's Big Guide to Form Optimization and Analytics Cover Shot

"If you want higher conversion, download it!"
Craig Sullivan - CEO, Optimise or Die

2. Customer Verification / KYC Processes

“Know Your Client” (KYC) or other Anti-Money Laundering (AML) verification procedures are at the heart of many regulatory systems to ensure that clients of financial institutions are known entities, are not being mis-sold products, and that financial fraud is minimized. The challenge is to weave them into your sign-up process without them being overly burdensome for the user.

Regulations may vary by country but our general advice for KYC is:

(i) Manage Expectations

As noted before, give the user an idea of what they have to provide early on in the process. If there is an element of after-processing once documents have been supplied, manage their expectations on timescales. Finally, if they have been successful in the process let them know. A big green tick will do wonders to keep the momentum going through the final stages of your form.

(ii) Use Mobile’s Native Features

With mobile web usage comprising 68% of all site visits, the chances are the majority of your users will be on their mobile device. You’d be crazy not to leverage that to improve their experience. If you need documentation from them, let them take a picture and submit without having to leave the form. If they have to minimize their browser or app to scan, save and upload a document, your chances of losing them increases.

(iii) Integrate with a specialist

If you are time and resource poor, there are existing KYC products you might want to consider integrating with. Companies such as Onfido, Sumsub and Cognito have off-the-shelf identity verification solutions that you can easily slip into your onboarding process.

(iv) Consider Video KYC

In some jurisdictions you may be able to use video to verify individuals on the spot, cutting out lengthy manual processes.

In India, for example, the regulatory authorities allow a video KYC check involving the applicant showing their ID card with PAN (tax) number. They are then asked a few questions along with a visual check to further verify their identity before being approved (or rejected) swiftly and moved through to the next part of the onboarding process.

3. Integrating with your offline infrastructure

Whilst there are digital-only financial institutions, many banks, particularly in developing markets, maintain a vast estate of offline assets such as banks and call centres. Indeed, in many territories, these are crucial to converting customers. The forms are not completed by end users but by agents and brokers while the customer sits in front of them or at the end of a telephone line.

There are ways that integrated financial institutions can leverage these offline resources to improve their customer experience.

(i) Provide a prominent phone number in your form

Even in the most “ digitally sophisticated” markets, users like to know there is someone they can talk to if they get stuck (84% of bank customers in the US want access to a live person to discuss banking needs). By displaying a phone number you are reassuring them that they are safe to take the time to start your form. Of course, you need to follow through with your promise - make sure your phone line is staffed so the user won’t be hanging on for hours otherwise it could prove to be counter-productive. For an even better customer experience, ensure that your call centre software is integrated with your CRM / website so if the customer has ever provided any data to you, you can shortcut the process by pulling it up for them.

As an alternative, and dependent on your audience, you might want them to also be able to access an agent on a video call at the click of a button.

In some markets where online proficiency is lower (and regulations permit), you may want to consider giving the call centre more prominence, letting the agent fill in the form itself based on answers from the customer.

Tata Form Screenshot
A prominent phone number to complement the digital form from Tata Life AIA Insurance

(ii) Collecting documentation at a local branch 

In markets with lower smartphone adoption, where sharing documents electronically is more difficult, you may want to deliberately drive users to your local branch to complete the registration / application.

If this is a viable route for you, you’ll need a prominent, effective branch locator function. To do this you may want to build your own on top of an established platform such as Google Maps or use a specialist location services provider like Loqate, Woosmap or Findmystore. Also consider using appointment scheduling software to give the customer reassurance that they will be properly received at the branch and won’t have to hang around unnecessarily.

Egyptian bank location finder
Example branch locator from an Egyptian bank

(iii) First Accounts

​​"There's a demonstrable preference for even the most tech savvy of customers to research online first but then visit the branch for human guidance to open that first account." Christopher Bajgier, Vice President Digital Product Management at Dollar Bank, USA.

Whilst online forms have become ubiquitous in the application process for many goods and services, it is easy to forget that, as a standalone, they are not always the best route to convert the customer. McKinsey found that in-branch still made up 60% of all new financial product sales. When looking at conversion rate, the numbers were even starker. 85% of in-branch leads converted compared to only 15% for digital channels. This is especially true when a customer is taking their first steps with you such as opening their first current account. They value the expertise of the agent to help them navigate the product and pricing complexity involved. In these circumstances, you may not want to make converting first-timers through an online form your top priority (and that’s difficult for us online form evangelists to say). Instead, perhaps push them to their friendly neighbourhood branch office using some of the techniques listed in point (ii) above.

(iv) Digitize your branch

Sometimes the relationship between online and offline can work the other way round. Although customers, particularly first timers, may be more comfortable in-branch, you can leverage digital assets there. US Bank has been trialling a digital branch featuring self service stations instead of tellers and McKinsey have recommendations on a bank branch for the digital age.

4. Insurance Forms

Insurance forms have their own quirks. Although the advice in the rest of this white paper generally applies to them, we thought we’d also cover some insurance specific points in this section.

(i) Don’t ask for personal information up front

We normally advise putting the simple questions on a form up front due to the easy before difficult principle - getting users to start a form makes it more likely that they will complete it.

This advice is flipped for insurance, however. Insurance questions tend to be very personal and users may be wary of giving you that information. They’d prefer to get a quote from you first before deciding whether to share their precious contact details so just ask the bare minimum that enables you to give them an accurate price.

(ii) Don’t assume the audience knows your product

While you may know the difference between Assurance and Insurance, you can bet that most people don’t. Always give context to users (or links to explanations)  when they are selecting a product so they don’t get scared off or pick something that isn’t right for them.

(iii) Provide calculators where appropriate

Your form may ask questions the user doesn’t immediately know the answer to. “What is your annual mileage?” being a classic one for car insurance. To avoid them having to go away and try to work it out, give them a simple calculator such as the one below to help them to come to a figure quickly. It is also reassuring if you make it clear that it doesn’t have to be exact, just an estimate - you won’t turn down their insurance claim if they are slightly over the entered mileage.

Mileage calculator example

(iv) Don’t be too hasty in returning a quote

Humans are suspicious creatures. If, after they have spent 15 minutes filling in a form, you come back with a quote in a millisecond, they may suspect that all of the information they gave you was a waste of time and you were going to give them the same answer whatever. This may translate to a lack of trust in the quote itself and a quick trip to your competitor’s website to see if they can do better.

Obviously no-one wants to be waiting for a minute while the wheel turns round and round but a respectful second or two’s delay will reassure them that you are crunching the numbers and coming back with the best deal.

Learn how to use data to identify and fix the UX problems on your form

In Summary

If you've blindly skipped ahead to the end (and who doesn’t!?), here’s the TL:DR so you don’t need to plough back through everything. If you only take a few pointers from this white paper, these are probably the most important.

  1. Speak in the customer’s language - Jargon and acronyms will confuse and alienate.
  2. Use a multi-step structure - Unless your form is super-short it will convert better than a single page format.
  3. Manage user expectations early - Indicate how long it takes to complete the form and what information they have to provide.
  4. Don’t ask for a phone number unless you truly need it - If you must ask, make sure you tell them the reason why.
  5. Make the job picker field simple - Use a free text field and categorize at the back end.
  6. Always consider how to handle “non-intenders” - Just because some form visitors won’t buy now, with a bit of thought you can make sure they return in the future.

Catch up on section 1 here or download the full pdf version of the white paper. Or, other useful downloads that can help you improve your forms are:

Zuko's Big Guide to Form Optimization

The Step by Step Guide to Using Data to Increase your Form's Conversion Rate

Happy Optimizing….

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