Don’t automate your problems – getting results from RPA in banking operations

There is an old adage in outsourcing – you don’t outsource your problems – yet in the past many organisations willingly handed over large elements of their services to third parties who further profited from transformation of broken business processes. In the new and exciting world of robotic process automation (RPA) in banking operations the same kind of thing could be said – don’t automate your problems – yet today again many banks and financial services institutions are rushing headlong into digital programmes without considering what they are automating.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is flavour of the month in the financial services sector and rightly so given the promise of transformational cost savings (40%? 50%?) and the ever increasing need to drive down costs alongside the commonplace web of legacy systems on which most institutions run, which RPA solutions can nimbly navigate. This is also despite increased regulations and compliance driving up the need for humans to oversee every aspect of a bank’s operation. The desire to take up automation is shown in recent research which suggests that 44% of banks and financial services organisations are significantly investing in RPA programmes(1).

This has led to a proliferation of “expertise” in RPA with automation designers and developers now a commodity on the market and large, in-house teams being set up to ramp up the number of robots deployed.

Despite this expansion however, 30-50% (2) of programmes still fail as organisations are unable to prove the ROI for the most important outcomes – transformational savings realised and performance improvements. Yet they plough on automating, dining out on the basis of arms and legs savings in limited scope processes and the number of processes automated and the number of robots in production – the more the better.

Go to any conference on automation and you will hear tales of hundreds if not thousands of robots operating on a daily basis across hundreds if not thousands of business processes.

For any organisation in this position, the questions should be: why do you need so many robots?

The real benefit of RPA comes when programmes scale-up (with the right stakeholders involved) so having only a handful of robots in operation will not transform or re-imagine your business, but triple or quadruple numbers of robots suggests a more fundamental issue with the processes being automated. Is there duplication? Can processes be consolidated? Are these processes as efficient and effective (without automation) as they can be? Is there another way to automate using your existing systems?

The bottom line is this: RPA is a valuable tool that can help transform your business and contribute towards considerable cost efficiencies and compliance improvements, but this will only be achieved if it is adopted as part of a wider programme to understand your organisation, its purpose, the business processes required to deliver this and ensuring that these processes are as efficient as possible before considering automation. Analyse your processes, determine what is critical to cost, critical to quality, assess the potential to automate using RPA first using a core set of assessment criteria.

If not, organisations will only find themselves spending significant amounts of time, money and resources on automating processes that serve little or no purpose to your business.

1 – HfS, 2017
2 – EY, 2017

See how Target Group has transformed business processes and operations for banks