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‘Digital Awakening’ will lead banking industry into the new normal

By Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer at Kofax

The global pandemic is pushing many financial services organisations to face, and embrace, a “new normal. ”Employees are largely working remotely for the foreseeable future, and banks must maintain operational continuity and efficiency. At the same time, more customers than ever are seeking remote banking options—from mobile or web capture of documents and IDs to open a new account, to e-signature for a mortgage or car loan application.

Even before the current crisis, the banking industry was embracing automation, but the current crisis has served as a ‘Digital Awakening’ as global and regional banks accelerate their digital transformations and strive to have a more digital consumer-friendly model. In the age of disparate workforces, many knowledge workers now face a surge of increasing responsibility. Now, many banking institutions must get by with smaller workforces, further burdening employees preferring the work that brings value to the organisation and helps deliver on its overall mission—not the tedious, repetitive activities wasting skills.

More than ever, banks are seeking to strike a balance between their human employees and a digital workforce powered by intelligent automation. For instance, many banks may offer existing customers the ability to use their smartphone to capture supporting documentation for a mortgage application, but an employee is still needed to input the data once it’s received. By adding AI-powered cognitive data extraction and process automation technology, the data is automatically, and accurately, extracted from the document and placed in appropriate workflow or input into loan origination applications. In most instances this is accomplished without any employee touchpoints, which speeds up the process, reduces transaction costs and improves compliance. The employee can focus on higher-value, customer-facing work such as high-priority customer inquiries or adjudication matters. The end goal is higher overall productivity for the business and, since the workflow has been digitally transformed through intelligent automation and software robots, more engaged and satisfied employees.

 Digital Transformation Accomplished through Intelligent Automation Drives Business Agility and Capacity

It seems that intelligent automation was born for just the types of challenges global enterprises are facing today—increasingly remote workforces, sharp spikes in demand and pressures to keep overall costs in check. The bottom line is a need to increase agility and responsiveness through automation that can deliver capacity and value in short order, but also position the organisation for business resiliency over the long term. However, automation success can only be realised if banks and their employees are aligned on its inherent value.

So, how exactly do enterprises and employees feel about the value of automation?

Consider data in the 2020 Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmarking Study, just released* by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Kofax. The study results suggest that enterprises across every industry and their employees absolutely view automation as driving value for the organisation as a whole—and for workers’ own job satisfaction and productivity.

According to the study, enterprises have realised broad-based value from their investments in automation. Half reported an improved customer experience (50 percent). Not far behind were cost savings (46 percent), efficiency savings (44 percent) and increased revenue (42 percent). And greater employee job satisfaction was reported by more than one in three (36 percent) IT decision-makers as a benefit of intelligent automation within their organisations.

Likewise, data from the study shows employees also have broad enthusiasm for automation and its benefits. When thinking specifically about technology automating portions of their jobs, employees somewhat or completely agreed with the following statements:

  • Working in conjunction with automation can make some aspects of my job easier – 85 percent of employees agreed.
  • Automation technology helps me add value to my organisation– 84 percent of employees agreed.
  • I wish my organisation used more automation – 79 percent of employees agreed.

Moreover, the vast majority of employees believe automation has a positive impact on their positions:

  • 66 percent of enterprise individual contributors surveyed said they expect automation will have a positive impact on their role (20 percent reported a “high positive” impact).
  • Only 13 percent of respondents believe automation would have a negative impact on their roles.

98% of AI Decision Makers Prefer an Integrated Platform Approach to Automation

An ad hoc approach to automation, however, was not viewed as particularly beneficial. Almost all (98 percent) decision-makers surveyed reported adopting an unintegrated approach to automation resulted in challenges they didn’t expect. When asked to name the specific types of challenges experienced as a result of a piecemeal approach to automation (as opposed to a single, integrated platform), high technical debt (46 percent) and delayed success (35 percent) were two of the major ones reported. It’s relevant to note that these challenges are quite inextricably linked; as organisations seek ways to seize new opportunities and grow their operations, increasing costs and technical challenges are likely. This results in delays in organisations’ ability to realise positive outcomes, which, can cause technical debt to soar.

When employees were asked directly, 61 percent said they prefer a single intelligent automation platform versus a collection of non-integrated technologies because it provides them with greater efficiency (78 percent) and allows them to be more productive (65 percent). Only 11 percent of employees surveyed reported they had no preference.

Key Recommendations

 The Forrester survey offered several recommendations for organisations in any industry to consider as they craft an intelligent automation strategy:

  • First, identify your desired business outcomes. A broader goal (as opposed to “task automation,” for example) can encourage a more wide-ranging effect on how the larger organisation responds and prioritises their needs.
  • Make business outcomes the measure of success—not completion of a technology project, such as automating account opening. For instance, driving straight-through onboarding for 80 percent of mobile banking customers is a business outcome.
  • Digital workforce management is essential. A common layer that governs and manages digital and human workers will enable organisations to scale with greater ease and make it easier for employees to transition to higher value, fulfilling work.
  • Conduct an objective evaluation of existing automation technology and strategies within your organisation. This knowledge will help ensure process continuity across departments.
  • Select an automation partner that has the pre-integrated functionality to meet your needs today, as well as where you see your organisation in the long term. This will ensure the smoothest path on the journey to end-to-end digital transformation.

It’s important to note that the time- and cost-saving benefits of intelligent automation, coupled with an overall higher degree of job satisfaction for employees, doesn’t magically materialise for any bank. A well-reasoned approach is essential, from initial planning to selection of technology vendor to deployment and training. Banks must ensure employees understand how intelligent automation can help them not only do their jobs faster and more efficiently, but also how partnering with a digital workforce can empower them to shed tedious responsibilities and focus on work that provides value for them personally—and for the larger organisation.

 *The 2020 Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmarking Report is based on a January 2020 survey of 450 automation and AI decision makers, and 450 individual contributors in North America, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and the UK. It provides insights into the current state of enterprise automation.