Opportunities with RPA in APAC Financial Services

Melissa Teo, DigitalCFO Asia | 7 April 2022

Robert Dewar

Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific, SS&C Blue Prism

There was a time when robotic process automation (RPA) was the new kid on the block. Now it’s been widely used in supply chain sectors. The next big thing in establishing a digital workforce is intelligent automation (IA), a blend of RPA and AI. IA is particularly advantageous to financial services which deals with a massive amount of  repetitive yet essential tasks. Handing over these tasks to a digital workforce will free up more time for the human workforce to focus on innovation and identifying business opportunities. 

The leading provider of RPA and IA, Blue Prism, was recently acquired by SS&C who is a provider of software services for finance and healthcare sectors. This acquisition signifies the expansion of IA in financial services.

DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Robert Dewar, Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific, SS&C Blue Prism. Dewar shares his perspective on IA for efficient business growth, plus the role support from C-suite finance and IT leaders plays in mitigating legacy data systems. 


Fundamental Differences Of RPA And Intelligent Automation

Automation is not a foreign concept to the financial services sector, with functions like optical character recognition (OCR) and data capture being used in various business processes. Financial services institutions (FSIs) that engage RPA automation have experienced cost savings due to increased processing speed and efficiency. When repetitive and manual tasks and operations are automated, it also improves the accuracy and security of data handled by FSIs. There are still a myriad of opportunities when it comes to enhancing the digital banking experience through digital innovation and increased customer satisfaction. With cost efficiencies a priority for FSIs, how they interact with customers to improve overall customer experience can make a significant difference.

Intelligent automation, an upgrade from its RPA counterpart, are digital software robots, or digital workers – scalable and sophisticated, with added artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Digital workers learn and adapt to complex business functions on their own. Intelligent capabilities include competence in knowledge and insight, visual perception, learning, problem solving, collaboration as well as planning and sequencing.

FSIs deploying intelligent digital workers can carry out multiple tasks and processes simultaneously. The implementation stage is also much more tailored to the needs of the organisation. Smarter operations then result in cost and time efficiencies, and more importantly optimise business outcomes.

Intelligent Automation For Business Performance And Hybrid Work

Over the past two years, FSIs learnt the importance of building business resilience, driving innovation and ultimately, cost efficiencies. Especially with heightened customer demands, FSIs need to remain digitally engaged and provide consistent service across channels, such as chatbots, connected devices, and customer self-service platforms. As the business landscape continues to evolve, technologies like AI, machine learning (ML) and automation can amplify business capabilities in a secure and scalable manner. The pandemic has intensified the need for a smarter and adaptable workforce.

A recent survey about RPA adoption in APAC conducted by Blue Prism, found that cost and time savings, along with the reduction in administrative burden, are the top two benefits of RPA adoption. RPA and intelligent automation empower the human workforce by allowing them to focus on higher value and purpose tasks. Concurrently, as digital workers streamline operations and processes, employees are better able to utilise their time to innovate and forge stronger relationships with customers and stakeholders.

Beyond improving overall productivity and efficiency, RPA and intelligent automation are essential components to digital transformation strategies as organisations continue to invest in digital technologies. By optimising internal processes and leveraging on the combined strengths of both the digital and human workers, FSIs are then better poised to innovate, offer a wider portfolio of products, and reimagine the customer experience to achieve better business outcomes.

By optimising internal processes and leveraging on the combined strengths of both the digital and human workers, FSIs are then better poised to innovate, offer a wider portfolio of products, and reimagine the customer experience to achieve better business outcomes.

Robert Dewar, Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific, SS&C Blue Prism

RPA’s Relationship With Compliance And Cybersecurity

In the same Blue Prism survey, 62 per cent of respondents cited security and data privacy concerns as an obstacle when discussing the implementation of RPA in their organisation. There is an expectation, especially from highly regulated industries such as financial services, that their RPA or intelligent automation providers adhere to cybersecurity and information control standards and policies.

Although digital workers are directly managed by business users, they still operate within the full governance and security of the IT & Cybersecurity department within the organisation. Data security is improved as the digital workers are able to track and trace unpermitted accesses and breaches of any kind. Thus, rather than posing risks to internal operations, they have been shown to reduce security threats, which makes the remote or hybrid working environment cybersecure.

With today’s threat landscape, compliance requirements are being updated constantly and can have a considerable impact on existing processes. This is why Blue Prism has dedicated resources to ensure that their technologies are trusted to operate within the most demanding enterprise environments. For instance, built-in, security credentials that adheres to the high compliance and security standards that the industry demands.

Executive Sponsorship And Intelligent Automation Adoption

Organisational silos are one of the biggest obstacles when implementing intelligent automation. Legacy systems and internal processes are primary hindrances as C-Suites and IT decision makers usually make the final decision when setting business transformation strategies. As digital transformation efforts continue across the financial services sector, executives need to view automation and digital technologies as tools and accelerators that provide support for their business objectives. This is even more significant in a time when emerging technologies have demonstrated what impactful results they can deliver in the last couple of years.

Having a clear vision and strategy can help reinforce proofs of concept for implementation and execution over time. Businesses can no longer afford to operate in silos. The different functions – from C-suite executives to IT decision makers – must work together and align with the overall business strategy to avoid hasty or mere tactical implementation. At the same time, IT departments also need to work with other business units to effectively scale the implementation of automation solutions.

Cases Studies Of Intelligent Automation in FSIs

The benchmarks of success for FSIs revolve around cost savings and the improvement to efficiency. To achieve the optimal outcome, collaboration and agility are key best practices. For the majority of FSIs, the ease of new technology implementation and cost efficiencies are of utmost priority. When the digital and human workforce complement one another, remarkable outcomes can be achieved as the business’ existing capabilities are augmented. By scaling automation capabilities for mundane and repetitive tasks, businesses are then able to enhance productivity and build profitability as employees can spend time on higher value tasks that require human intelligence.

With Blue Prism, customers have seen significant results after adopting intelligent automation. For example, Invesco, a financial management firm with presence in 26 countries, saved approximately USD 2.1 million annually, doubled their year-on-year ROI, and reduced 3,700-man hours yearly on daily transaction reports for client services.

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the oldest bank in Thailand, has now managed to automate 100 per cent of their refunds processes. These digital workers processed over 100,000 applications within a month of deployment, and handled 24,000 ATM errors in a year, lessening the burden on SCB employees. This allowed the employees to focus on relationship building tasks such as improving customer satisfaction and experiences, and only step in when there are issues that cannot be resolved by the digital workers.

When the digital and human workforce complement one another, remarkable outcomes can be achieved as the business’ existing capabilities are augmented.

Robert Dewar, Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific, SS&C Blue Prism

Automating workflows does not mean losing the human touch. Human workers do need to step in when there are issues that can’t be solved by digital workers. These issues leans towards situations which the intelligent software has not yet learned how to resolve. Or it could also be novel situations reflecting the myriad facets of humans learning to live alongside machines. Whichever it may be, these are valuable opportunities for FSIs to better their stakeholder relationship management tactics, that translates back to insights on business growth strategies.