By Guy Kirkwood, COO & Chief Evangelist at UiPath

Guy Kirkwood
Guy Kirkwood

The face of finance is changing. In recent years, the rise of digital banking and an influx of FinTech challengers such as Monzo has revolutionised the ways in which customers interact with banks – branches are disappearing in favour of apps. As a result C-suite executives in traditional banks have been faced with the challenge of bringing themselves up to date with the latest technology and making big decisions about how new products and services can impact their business positively.

When we think about technological innovation in the financial sector, it is customer-centric processes that spring to mind. For instance, banks have successfully implemented automation technology across much of the front-end, allowing customers to check accounts online, set up automatic bill payment, and even deposit cheques by taking a photo with a smartphone. But despite this significant improvement in customer-facing offerings, there remains huge potential for technology to streamline the back end of banking processes.

Banking behind the scenes


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Although attitudes have shifted in recent years, banking remains a behemoth with a wide turning circle. As such, it still faces similar barriers to efficiency as other industries, but often on an even larger scale. Perhaps the most significant obstacle remains disparate legacy systems that are unable to communicate with one another. Because company mergers and acquisitions are so common in the banking world, it is not unusual to discover that disparate legacy systems have been smashed together and made to work, despite delivering results that are far from optimal.

With so many documents and databases involved, processing time can be slow and prone to error: a process waits for approval for days or documents are misfiled. But the good news is, the next wave of critical business services may hold the answer – Robotic Process Automation (RPA). By automating repetitive manual tasks, RPA not only delivers the benefits of reducing costs, cycle times and improving accuracy, it also knits together the existing legacy and cloud-based systems that banks have in place and facilitates a new way of operational thinking.

Piraeus Bank is a good example of a financial institution using intelligent automation to change the way it works. Having implemented RPA to automate fraud prevention, the bank saw a process that previously took over an hour, reduced to 5 minutes once robots were introduced.

Being able to adapt this quickly as an organisation is critical as societal changes pile on more pressure. Customers will certainly not lower their expectations in terms of the speed they expect to conduct transactions at, and now that front line services have been optimised, it is critical for the C-suite to have a tool at their disposal that allows them to meet this demand behind the scenes as well.

Enter RPA

From an economic perspective, the implementation of RPA makes sense. The growth of the industry has taken off to the point that it is a feasible option for companies. Given that a single robot can automate the repetitive work of 3-5 humans, employees now have the freedom to focus on more creative, valuable work. Into the bargain, such robots can now act unattended, allowing organisations to scale deployments across an entire workforce and permit operations 24/7.

This scalability enables financial services organisations to transform the process of fund administration or securities processing in investment banks, or Know your Customer (KYC) and fraud prevention for retail banks. Pivotal to making such important operational changes is computer vision.

A robot must look into an underlying application if it is to identify and act upon elements on the screen. If this option is restricted, robots without computer vision will require reconfiguration every time the screen changes; a long, arduous process. The ability to look into these underlying applications however, and adapt to the changing screen intuitively, is what sets apart the robots that can truly work unattended across an entire organisation from those that can’t. Combining such automation solutions with cognitive and AI capabilities will further improve their autonomy, allowing robots to cater for exceptions seamlessly to keep business moving at pace.

The time saving benefit is obvious but at a time when the financial services industry is at its most competitive, how organisations analyse the data that robots handle will be critical in gaining an edge in the market. It is this element of RPA that will help businesses not just save money, but increase revenue.

A new way of thinking

The nature of RPA allows a CXO to approach the board with a comprehensive plan to optimise back office processes across an organisation. The benefits of bringing the best out of existing technology and saving huge amounts of time and money will have an immediate impact on the bottom line – that alone is a powerful argument.

More importantly though, RPA gives businesses a chance to change the way they think about operations. By liberating the human workforce to focus on more valuable creative and strategic work, the foundations are laid for a company that constantly innovates and stays ahead of the competition.

As a result, RPA can become a critical cog in the future of the finance business. Currently, the only limiting factor is the speed at which senior decision makers wake up to the latent potential they can unlock. The future is bright, for banks, customers and employees.