The business agenda of utilising automation to continuously delivering growth at a lower cost is certainly nothing new. For centuries, the work environment has been changing, bringing in new automation opportunities with each wave. However, for the COOs, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers not only another efficiency lever on the continuous drive for creating shareholder value, but also a golden ticket to add value and drive top line growth.
Originating with the advent of mechanical automations and then the arrival of software automations, such as APIs, a key challenge associated with automation has been high implementation costs, particularly for organisations with legacy systems tough to crack. While automation is clearly not a new concept, what is new, with particular regard to RPA, is the disappearance of expensive, drawn-out implementation periods. RPA represents a new, scalable way of implementing automation faster, suddenly making automation attainable and relevant for countless organisations.
As a technological tool, RPA is being leveraged across banking, in both front and back office, to take away the burden of repetitive manual activities; copying and pasting customer details across multiple legacy CRM systems being one example. Within a business context, RPA has three primary applications:
1. Replacement of manual activities
2. Acting as an integration point between systems
3. Enhancement and support of human activities
With the advancement of RPA technology comes new ways of leveraging it beyond these three core applications, with some companies exploring the use of RPA tools for analytics, data harvesting, and even regression testing.
For the CIOs, it is still just one of the technology components in a range of solutions, among which analytics, CRM platforms and other tools play a part. For the COOs, RPA offers not only another efficiency lever on the continuous drive for creating shareholder value, but also a golden ticket to add value and drive top line growth - seen through the redeployment of resource and creation of new value-adding roles with a focus on cross-selling, better managing of compliance and being more sales-driven and service-focused.
One of RPA’s key applications within Financial Services is through acting as an integration point between legacy systems that could not be connected or automated using “conventional” IT projects; a common area of concern for pillar banks with ageing infrastructure and IT development roadmaps of up to 10 years, which are extremely challenging for CIOs to deliver.
Financial Services institutions are also applying RPA in front and back offices for a wide range of processes such as mortgage applications, claims processing and even compliance risk. To name one example, Manulife Asset Management have recently used RPA for setting-up new policies as well as managing direct debits and the collection of funds, in which millions of Euros per month in gained value was estimated.
In addition to this, banks and other financial institutions are using RPA’s guaranteed accuracy to reduce errors and protect the integrity of customer data, in turn reducing their exposure to regulations such as GDPR. One other such example is leveraging RPA’s step-by-step transaction records for audit logging, ensuring their processes are fully audited and compliant.
Even though the number of use cases within Financial Services is high, it is safe to say that not all organisations within the industry have fully embraced RPA. The most important thing that remains for RPA to prove is that it can manage security, data protection, and be a reliable solution in what is an historically risk-averse industry.
The sales pitch of RPA is certainly an enticing one, however, having implemented RPA within their business, many Financial Services executives find RPA is not the rapid, all-in-one solution they hoped for.
The first myth that many come to find is around the immediate implementation of RPA. While technical implementation can be fast compared to traditional system automation within complex IT environments, the impact it can have on an organisation requires serious planning and in-depth change management strategies, which take time.
Another stumbling point for businesses is around the belief that once a technical RPA proof of concept has shown the possibility to automate one of their processes, they can go live with RPA overnight. In reality, for a large organisation, there is an enormous amount of leg work to be done around managing the implementation as well the impact that will be had on their business as a result.
The final myth to be busted is around how powerful the RPA business case can be. While it is true that a process itself can be automated at around 80%, you will not realise a like-for-like human cost reduction. No matter how straightforward a process may appear, the level of variation cannot be underestimated, and organisations need to make allowances for activities such as exceptions handling and back-ups for when the software goes down.
As alluded to previously, banks cannot turn on RPA within their organisation like the flick of a switch. They must first know exactly what their reasons are for implementing it, and what their ultimate vision is, taking into account the following considerations:
Many banks in fact already have RPA in one form or another, but it is safe to say that it has not been utilised to its full potential. What becomes clear is that before even considering RPA, Financial Services companies must think long and hard about the vision, scale and industrialisation of RPA within their organisation if they want to ensure it is recognised and scaled to its full potential.