“Prescient banking executives we are researching understand two things: the strategic opportunities offered by intelligent automation; and how automation can drive the twin engines of compound growth and combinatorial innovation.”
John Hindle and Leslie Willcocks Managing Partner and Research Director at Knowledge Capital Partners

Building a roadmap to enterprise-scale intelligent automation in financial services.

Author: Emily Bristow, Head of Customer Office, EMEA

Download our Global Survey on Financial Services #Series 2

Download our Global Survey in Financial Services Executive Series #1

It’s often stated that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology such as intelligent automation by a factor of 10 or more: firms achieved more transformation in a year than in the previous decade. The question that remains is what happens next, and how financial services companies will build on the progress that they have made to date.

Listen to this Whitepaper's accompanying Podcast:

The Transformative Potential of Automation on Financial Services

Will it be a question of sticking with what they have achieved so far and retreating to business as usual? Have the benefits of intelligent automation become so apparent that banks will continue to roll out more digital workers in the future? Or will it be the case that banks will need to unpick efforts made under the pressure of lockdown to start from the beginning again?

We undertook global research with 550 financial services professionals to uncover where progress has already been made, how work models are changing and how this change is predicted to continue in the future.

The second in a series of executive briefing papers, The Power of Three: How to Benefit from the Great Reset is based on the results of that research. It looks at the projected outcomes that will result from resetting operating models, and what banks will need to do to move from a tactical to a strategic, top-down approach.

Rapid change underway

There is no question that lockdown triggered rapid change in businesses across much of the world. Our research showed that only 6% of respondents had not changed ways of working during the pandemic and had no plans to change in the future. “Decades of nudging companies to adopt automation with a relatively slow uptake converged into one year where everyone simply had to do it,” says Jovana Djapa, customer success director at Blue Prism. “It was not a matter of following a transformation agenda or securing budgets anymore, but just a matter of business survival.”

An example Djapa gives is a bank that had to introduce new policies designed to alleviate some of the financial stress on its customers. It offered an option to apply for assistance quickly through a mobile app, while still ensuring ensure prompt repayments and regulatory compliance. Staff were needing to work seven days a week to clear the backlog, but then with tens of thousands of applications to process it became undoable. The bank needed something faster, so turned to intelligent automation.

By deploying the additional digital workers that Blue Prism provided, they swiftly cleared the backlog. Not only that, but the project served to provide visibility of, and strengthen confidence in, automation programs across the enterprise.

Removing negativity

So is it the case that automation projects built in haste are now being repented at leisure? Ian Hardy, also customer success director at Blue Prism says not, and that the opposite may well be true.

“The positive thing is that the pandemic has really shown companies what can be done. So they’ve moved from ‘should we be doing this and can we do this?’ to ‘we have to do this, we have to find a way to make it work and to prove what's possible,” he says. “It's really taken the negativity out of lots of peoples’ mindsets.”

The outcome is that Hardy is not seeing companies reversing out of automations, but that banks are instead learning from the work that has been done so far and applying it to other areas of the business. “If the benefit was there, it's still worth doing and it doesn't necessarily have to be in place for a long time,” he says.

Another change that’s emerging from automation initiated during lockdown is that it helps to prove the case for more flexible models that can cope with crises in the future. Banks now know how to set up new systems and services fast, and which technology they need to have in place to enable people to work remotely. “You create that business resilience through having the solutions that mean you can pivot quite quickly,” adds Hardy.

Building trust

By solving really important and immediate problems automation teams have gained more trust within their own organisations. They're no longer seen as a team whose job is to come in to automate everyone else's job, but can instead find the problems people encounter and help them to solve them.

By taking this approach, banks will be in a position to adopt the third, third and a third model, where roughly 33% of work is handled by people, 33% by digital workers and 33% by IT systems. There will always be a need for humans to remain as part of that model, and successful banks will be able to look at where the expertise lies between the digital worker, and the human, so they create an ecosystem is greater than the sum of its parts.

“We need to work together, not just replace,” says Hardy. “The human glue that currently joins systems together will be more usefully used to drive alignment, coordinate people and effort, provide coaching and developing, visualize and strategize, but also understand customers’ changing needs and expectations.”

Our research respondents agree. When asked what they would do with their extra time if 50% of their work was automated, spending more time talking to customers came out as a key activity, along with collaborating with colleagues and problem-solving.

And as banks move from using intelligent automation to improve efficiency and productivity, through to delivering higher performance, then towards business transformation, it’s clear that the potential value of employing a digital workforce will emerge even more strongly over time.

Look out for further news of our Global Banking Power of Three executive briefing series: we’ll be focusing in on specific elements of how intelligent automation improves the customer experience, and why the banking industry is set to continue changing over the coming years.


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