Of what use is robotic process automation in finance? Given the large amount of low complexity and high volume manual processes involved in finance (e.g., producing financial statements, card activation, account opening), it seems that automation might serve the industry well.
This is by and large right, but, as you can imagine, the truth is a little more complex than that. Moreover, with the recent RPA hype, we wish to advise you from the very beginning to keep a ‘critical eye’ so that you can safely stay on the reality side in the hype vs. reality match.
Recent statistics make such an over-enthusiastic outlook quite understandable. For instance, Horses for Sources reports that the global robotic process automation market - software and services included - had a boom of 63% in 2016 - 2017. And this was just the beginning.
Looking into the future, the same report envisages a compound annual growth rate of 36%, so that the market is expected to reach $1.2 billion in 2021. Genpact also foresees up to 50% increase in the productivity of companies which follow the automation trend.
For instance, a 2017 BBC article in the Technology section states that: “About 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte.”
While embracing the potential of robotic process automation in finance, a wise executive who considers RPA implementation, should also bear in mind its limitations, e.g., the need to balance automation with human decision-making ability and other emerging technologies like cloud, big data, mobility, etc.
We also wish to recommend our favorite solution to keep your feet on the ground and not fall for the hype, while at the same holding on to the positive facts about automation: always mull over robotic process automation use cases.
Use cases allow you to learn the steps towards success ‘the easy way’, without having to deal yourself with potentially negative consequences. Peers’ real experiences in use cases provide the most useful learning environment, a sort of second order “learning by doing”, with the additional advantage that it saves you from erring yourself.
Robotic process automation use cases in finance
We believe that you need practical information to discern between wishful thinking (i.e., hype) from facts, so we will present you with 8 robotic process automation use cases in finance. These describe a successful trajectory of actions, from now to the time when the goal that you are set on will be presumably achieved with the help of software robots.
You can learn from here which processes in the financial industry are best suited for automation and why. This way, you can equip yourself with concrete plans towards attaining your objectives. As a result, your automation journey will unravel on more solid ground.
Before we start discussing specific use cases in finance, we should also mention that this article is the starting point in a series about RPA applications in various industries. In fact, here you can find more generally applicable, trans-industry, application areas, but we focus on finance for now.
1. Maintain data consistency
Customers’ details are constantly changing - their names, their addresses, or their credit scores. Software bots can use bank statements as reference points, extract the relevant data, and update records.
You probably know that robotic process automation drastically minimises errors, while saving human employees the effort to do data entry or data gathering (when more applications are involved in a process). Probably anyone who has ever worked in accounting, knows that the effects of errors can be daunting, but also that it’s quasi-impossible to avoid them when you have to spend neverending hours entering data.
In this case, automation can be seen as a win-win situation, both for the organisation and for the individual employee. From invoicing to accounts receivable, RPA can speed up the process, keep it error-“clean”, and, consequently, keep customers happy (and hence, more loyal).
3. Quick account opening
Banks need to play it safe and verify thoroughly customers’ details, such as identity, past credit scores, or their conformity with compliance rules. RPA can be of great help in the detail validation process by managing any encountered divergence. The new account is then created automatically by the software robot, and its details are delivered to the client. Nice and clean, right?
4. Streamline card activation
Request validation by checking the compliance rules, coordination between departments in order to keep data consistent, manual data entry, and so on. These are just some of the (boring, unexciting) operations involved in activating customers’ card. Before automation, such processing, usually done under time pressure due to customers’ (legitimate) requirements for fast results, used to be prone to human error.
Software robots, on the other hand, are not the least distressed by “come on, come on, I need my card, I can’t afford to wait any longer!”, and they simply don’t make mistakes. If, however, some inconsistencies arise, RPA can immediately address the department where the problem resides, and thus lead to much faster resolution. What do you get out of this? More satisfied customers and less tired and distressed employees.
5. Ensure consistency between bank systems and treasury systems
Bank account balances must be fed into treasury systems. Before this can be done, one must find the language that both systems understand. An important benefit brought by robotic process automation in finance is that it can format bank data, such that treasury systems can “make sense of it” in order to generate reports. RPA can circulate the reports of treasury systems to employees, and thus contribute to communicating balances to employees.
6. Carry the repetitive burden of financial planning
When we write “burden” we refer to putting together numerous financial statements from various departments, in order to maintain a crystal-clear picture of the current state of affairs and of the desired target. Employees can then deal with the complex reasoning processes in organising a sequence of timely to-do’s, while leaving the software bots to process and merge the statements.
7. Promote better options for investment
Software robots are better able to track investment values, despite the possibility of sudden, abrupt changes. Bots can also assess an investor’s portfolio and thus minimise the inherent risk of investing. Relatedly, RPA tools can serve as financial advisors without the prohibitive costs of their human counterparts.
A concrete example is offered by the Colombian bank Bancolombia, which has launched InvesBot one year ago. InvesBot is a software meant to improve users’ investment decision by offering information updated in real-time about fluctuations on the stock market. Bots can basically facilitate access to the stock market, which translates in opening up the customer span.
8. Support against money laundering
Prevention of money laundering is a top priority for organisations in the finance industry. Robotic process automation can make a significant contribution to assisting companies’ compliance with the Australian Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 by ensuring that ‘know your customer’ (KYC) information is accurate, and that customers abide by the law.
Software robots use particular validation rules to check customers’ personal information, and as soon as discrepancies are encountered, bring the issue to the compliance department. This way, bots boost the good reputation of a financial organisation.
So what is the ‘take home message’ of these 8 robotic process automation use cases in finance? That, without falling for the hype, the potential uses of RPA in finance are nevertheless beneficial and also exciting and, hence, they should be pursued. Companies that wish to remain competitive should take advantage of effects like increased productivity, efficiency and cost effectiveness, customer and employee satisfaction. Such benefits have come up recurrently in the list above.
We end by mentioning once again that this is the first in a series of articles about the particularities of RPA in different industries. If you found the information useful, please subscribe to the newsletter below to make sure that you stay updated with news about the fast-evolving automation services.