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Automation: transforming financial services to a more human-focussed industry

Between heightened customer service expectations, and stringent regulatory requirements, it can be hard for banks and financial institutions relying on disparate legacy systems to keep up with the competition, let alone get ahead. This pressure has pushed organisations in the financial services sector to focus efforts on digital innovation, where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology plays a critical role.


According to the PwC Global Fintech Report 2019, in the UK alone, 37% of financial services firms have implemented software robots which automate repetitive actions. And it’s easy to see why.

RPA has myriad benefits for financial services companies.  Providing customer service representatives with real-time information about their customers and product needs, compiling and distributing reports, publishing outcomes of investigations, supporting account management, and requesting collaborative input between teams can be carried out much more quickly and effectively.

Across services including loan fulfilment, wealth management, customer service, compliance, data management and more – the use of software robots, or ‘digital workers’, can relieve the pressure banks find themselves under by breathing new life into legacy systems, driving operational efficiency, and giving workers more time for the human aspects of their job.

Leaving the legacy systems behind

Since the dawn of financial services software, the needs of both service providers and their customers have changed. The birth of challenger banks, for example, as natives in a more connected, mobile-first world has left traditional institutions behind. Total digital transformation can be expensive and disruptive, and as more tools and software get added to make up the technical deficit between newer banks and more traditional ones, the gap between them only widens.

Capable of quickly and seamlessly interacting with desktop software in the same way a human worker might, RPA can often bridge this divide. Data entry and reporting between systems can be carried out by digital workers, rather than through the use of various supplementary applications, or time-consuming human labour.

The alternative, rolling out brand new software that provides a variety of functions, may still not meet every need that a business has from its software. RPA can help augment these solutions, with specifically tailored robotic workers that do precisely what is asked of them, and are agnostic to the platform they are presented with – if a human could carry out the work on a desktop, a digital worker can carry it out accurately, quickly, and consistently, and often for a significantly smaller cost.

Operational efficiency

Repetitive, manual and administrative tasks are often the first to be automated – but digital workers can be a valuable addition to front office teams too. Compiling and distributing reports, outcomes of investigations, taking care of account management, and requesting collaborative input between teams can be carried out much more quickly and with less reliance on human staff to delegate and execute these tasks.

Better still, overworked staff find their digital co-workers can lessen the impact of administrative tasks. According to Automation Anywhere’s ‘Making Work Human: 5 Challenges’ report, 57% of workers agreed that their productivity would increase long-term if RPA was implemented in their work. In turn, they find greater satisfaction in their roles, contributing to reduced staff turnover and in turn ensuring operational consistency.

As customer expectation moves to demanding real-time decision making and support, systems that do not process information in real time can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration for human workers and customers. RPA can ensure data is kept up to date, systems remain connected, and information is readily retrievable and accessible at any time, bringing financial services companies a step closer to real-time response to customer needs.

The operational efficiencies of RPA are not exclusive to the financial sector, but given the especially heavy administrative load of financial services staff – up to 3.05 hours each day– it’s easy to see why the sector has so readily adopted RPA to drive operational efficiency.

Fraud detection

A more specific application of RPA to the financial services sector is in fraud detection. When investigating fraud, often more time can be spent entering data into reports and overseeing case management than actually drawing conclusions that help prevent fraudulent activity.

By deploying bots that can carry out many of the manual tasks involved in creating reports, fraud investigations can be carried out more quickly, using more accurate data. Sharing the outcome of the investigation can be automated, to keep stakeholders up-to-speed and what will happen next.

By reducing the administrative workload that surrounds fraud detection cases, there is greater opportunity to avoid loss by exploring cases that might otherwise have been delayed or overlooked – the threshold at which a case is investigated, or the urgency with which it is reported, can both be improved by the augmentation of fraud detection teams with digital workers.

Similar benefits have been found by businesses using RPA in similar ways in loan fulfilment, mortgage appraisal processing, and other crucial tasks that have historically required significant human input.

Focus on human activity

The PwC Global Fintech Report 2019showed that improved human contact was ranked more highly than improved personal digital contact for UK financial services executives when considering customer retention. The need for human workers is evident in the desire of customers to have some level of human oversight to key decision-making.

By liberating human workers from repetitive tasks, RPA can provide more time for human workers who need to make important decisions. But the benefit doesn’t just stop with time-saving – RPA can help speed up decision making, pulling key insights and data to present a more connected view a problem and its potential solutions. Human workers are empowered by RPA to focus their time where strategic or empathetic thinking is needed to make crucial decisions – and this is perhaps the strongest benefit to the financial services sector that RPA can offer.

Making customers feel heard and valued, and making workers feel respected and engaged, are two of the greatest challenges for any business – but they are also signals of success. By being an industry so eager to adopt automation, the financial services sector is equipped for the future of work, and the future expectations of workers.

By Ken Mertzel, Senior Director for Banking and Insurance at Automation Anywhere


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