The modernization of finance has made its way to business banking.

For the past three years banks have been focused on improving the customer experience for individual consumers and wealth management clients — that includes account onboarding. But at the beginning of 2018, digital sales capabilities for business banking leapt to 30 percent from a measly nine percent at the beginning of 2017 and just seven percent at the start of 2016, according to a new report by Avoka.

Marketing was the first thing banks made more digital; they create all the necessary content to allow them to do their research on a banking product before they actually apply for it. That should be where the sales begin, but for most banks, it’s the point at which customers need to go offline and into a branch to open an account. Then, they digitized account servicing, letting customers access their account through a website or reach customer service with 1-800 number — after they’ve opened an account, of course.

“It’s the piece in the middle that transitions you from being a prospect to being a customer,” said Don Bergal, CMO of Avoka. “That hasn’t really been the focus of the banks until the past two or three years. Getting you from the ‘Apply now’ page to being a fully onboard customers is where the action is.”

Thirty percent is low, but an 82 percent year-over-year increase is remarkable. Unsurprisingly, it’s the national banks that have showed the most progress, according to Bergal, while regional and community banks, which tend to rely more heavily on their branches to strengthen customer relationships, haven’t done as well. But as large banks already investing heavily in digital show that pairing those capabilities with a physical presence is critical to their customer acquisition strategy, community banks like Alpine Bank in Colorado are working on digital onboarding processes for new customers, realizing how crucial it is to marry their branch strategies with strong digital capabilities.

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