Attributed to: Robert Dewar, Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific | 11 March 2022
The financial services industry has become a hotspot of digital innovation, driven by changing customer expectations, heightened competitions by new entrants and incumbents, stringent regulations and technological advancements. In 2020, the Singapore government launched the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex) to enable individuals to better understand their overall financial health and assist in holistic financial planning.
Embracing the digital world is a strategic imperative to ride the economic recovery wave and build business resiliency. The pandemic exposed many productivity gaps between companies that adequately invested in digital platforms to continue business operations with a remote workforce, and those who were still reliant on manual processes.
In fact, Singapore saw the largest rise in digital banking investments during the pandemic in 2021. Financial institutions are dedicating bigger budgets to boost digital offerings and accelerating the integration of new technology and innovation.
While there have been rising investments and momentum in digitalisation across the region, Singapore’s financial industry still has untapped opportunity in the Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) space, highlighting significant potential for growth. According to the latest Blue Prism “RPA In the Financial Services Sector” research, less than one-third of Singaporean organisations (28 percent) are utilising RPA solutions and technologies.
So, what is RPA & Intelligent Automation, and how can FSI’s truly transform the workforce and processes?
Understanding RPA as a form of Intelligent Automation
RPA is a type of software that mimics the activities of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. As Leslie Willcocks, Professor at London School of Economics explains, the digital workers “takes robot out of the human”. It takes on repetitive work tasks quickly and accurately, freeing up the human workforce to take on other tasks that requires human touch, such as emotional intelligence.
Traditionally, the route to automation has been primarily driven by cost reduction. Now, companies are using automation to operate more efficiently and productively, and as a lever to better manage organisational risk, grow revenue, and transform the customer experience. Regionally, organisations who have adopted RPA reported an overall improvement of business operations. This includes error and cost reduction, empowering the human workforce to focus on higher value tasks and increasing organisational efficiencies.
Through the lens of FSI’s, a lower price point of operation can be achieved with digital workers. With a digital workforce, innovation can be executed directly by the business and does not require new test environments or deployment of people. Additionally, these executions are operated within the governance of the IT department and industry-leading security standards of the digital workers.
Key to revitalising legacy systems
Financial services organisations are bounded by ever-changing stringent regulations and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s compliance measures, such as Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) scheme. Albeit mandatory and important, manual processes to meet and manage these requirements are resource-intensive and time-consuming. This is coupled with the growing expectations of consumers and businesses for speedy, high-quality experience when applying for a loan, credit card or bank account. With thinning brand loyalty, many of these customers would simply approach competitors.
The growing amount of task repetition, constant data re-keying and manual checking also means that human workers could understandably lose focus and make mistakes in areas such as KYC and AML checking. Siloed systems, often based on spreadsheets, error in data and lack of data storage standardisation can also slow down many business processes.
To breathe life into legacy systems and process infrastructure, banks are using advanced RPA. As an upgrade from their traditional counterparts, these sophisticated digital workers act as a scalable counterpart that collaborates with humans daily. Powered with artificial intelligence, cognitive learning and natural language processing, these digital workers can carry out multiple checks simultaneously and complete fields in a loan application automatically. Missing customer information and proactive progress updates are flagged and delivered to human workers, easing their workloads, and freeing up precious time to focus on building human relationships. Furthermore, given the fact that RPA can be improved with the help of artificial intelligence, the potential is limitless.
For example, compliance teams within asset management firms in APAC have implemented workflows, including search through various internal banking and document management systems to collate it into client records, and have reported substantial cost savings associated with extensive internal operational efficiencies.
Unlocking business opportunities with speed and agility
Today’s intelligent and advanced automation solutions enable organisations to respond to operational challenges with great speed and agility, while also breathing new life into legacy systems. Innovation and organisational transformation that were once cost prohibitive is now achievable. Automation of processes also boosts organisational resiliency as these digital workers can handle multiple processes simultaneously, alleviating the human workforce from mundane, time-intensive tasks, and are able to operate round-the-clock.
While these digital workers are streamlining checks and processes, employees are better able to utilise their time to innovate, and forge stronger relationships with customers and stakeholders. Optimising processes end-to-end, these organisations are also better poised to innovate, offer wider portfolio of products, and reimagine the customer experience. As nearly four in 10 Singaporean organisations are looking to invest approximately up to 75 percent of their total automation budget in RPA in the next three years, organisations in the financial services industry ought to look towards implementing new and transformative ways of operating and unlock business opportunities and resiliency.