There have been many changes as a result of the pandemic, in all areas of business, in all industries. The financial services industry is certainly not an exception to that statement. We have seen a variety of changes in mindset in the workplaces, from people leaving industries altogether, to a demand for flexible working from home. The pandemic has really revolutionized the working landscape for many. It has also arguably accelerated the need for automation and created a series of automation trends. Let’s discuss some of those trends:
Variety of Customer Services
One thing the pandemic has created is a general need for automated virtual customer service channels. This can be specifically broken down into channels such as chatbots, and automated call centers. How often have you spoken to a chatbot on a company website during the pandemic?
By implementing effective automation processes into customer service channels, financial institutions are able to significantly improve their customer service. These intelligence chatbots which are created using natural language processing are able to answer direct questions, but also indirect queries as well. They are capable of learning common questions and adapting their internal ‘brain’ to answer the questions correctly. The bots are capable of locating the correct information which is required for the individual they are speaking with, and can also seamlessly link up individuals with real live chat agents when required.
The main benefit here to companies is the reduction of call center/chat agent requirements. You no longer need a small army of individuals ready to answer questions. Just a small selection of individuals who answer the more complex or unique questions which a chatbot is incapable of answering. This can make the overall customer service system in place far more efficient and cost-effective for a business, without risking the level of service provided to customers.
Not only do the bots answer common questions, but they are able to bring together and analyze a significant amount of data quickly. Far quicker than a human could.
Due to the pandemic, there was a significant increase in automated robot chat communication. With Bank of America customers accounting for more than 105.6 million interactions during Q1 of 2021.
Massive Change to Internal Operations
Financial Institutions have massively looked inward during the pandemic as to which functions they are running which could be benefited from robotic process automation. This has led to an automation trend of transforming internal corporate functions with an aim of increasing internal efficiencies. There are some core areas in the financial industry that are being benefitted by effective intelligent automation (IA).
Human Resources (HR)
HR departments have long been laden with a significant amount of dull repetitive tasks. From going through CVs to monitoring the stage at which individuals are at in the hiring process. Automation has the ability to free up valuable time when it comes to repetitive manual tasks. This has allowed HR professionals to put their attention to the key values of any HR Team: Attracting and Retaining Valuable Talent.
The main use case of automation in an HR department is streamlining the recruitment process. This includes the onboarding process for new employees. This can go down to the real nitty-gritty aspects of an HR professional such as provisioning computer equipment, setting up individuals on payroll, or providing new employees with credentials to enter the building. These are all features of an HR employee’s day which could be streamlined with automation instead.
Information Technology (IT)
The IT department could be made the ‘automation hub’ for a company. When a company fully embraces automation, the excellence it provides will stem from the IT team, who are able to educate the business on the capability, controls, and infrastructure of intelligent automation.
However, an IT department in itself is able to benefit its own processes with intelligent automation. They could monitor operations of IT processes on an automated basis, creating warnings or error messages without an individual needing to monitor system details. Application testing, account setups, password upwards, etc. These processes take time out of busy professionals’ days, but they can be automated in seconds.
A key use of automation is in its ability to create simple and quick reporting. Reports which may take an individual 30 minutes or an hour to put together can be created in seconds by an RPA setup.
We’re seeing finance departments really benefit from Robotic Process Automation in the midst of the pandemic. RPA has allowed finance departments to completely streamline their operations, while simultaneously strengthening controls, governance, and reporting. There is also a lot of opportunity in the finance industry to create costly errors with manual human error. Therefore, implementing automation can reduce these potential errors, as well as reduce the cost of time. This means that finance professionals are able to free up their time and put their focus into more value-creating strategies, rather than spending their time data-diving, sourcing the right data, putting it all together, and creating reports. From experience, reports which took me hours to put together in the past can be automated in minutes with the right automation tools by your side.
Some common automation tools being used by finance departments include the automation of reconciliations, the invoicing process, cash reporting, expense analysis, and more!
A New Viewpoint on Workplaces
Almost every workplace has changed over the last two years. There has been a dramatic shift from onsite working to working from home, as well as hybrid working. This has been somewhat more conservative in the finance industry, especially in the main financial hubs. However, it is clear from public studies that employees in the finance industry want to see flexible working applied to their day-to-day work. 66% of professionals who are currently working in banking and financial services have stated they would like to see hybrid working and flexibility offered by their employer. It remains to be seen whether the powers that be in the finance industry will bow to this pressure and provide their employees what they want.
What does this have to do with trends in automation? Well, the reality is that as a result of this new workplace dynamic, financial institutions will need to invest in technology and automation in order to make sure that hybrid working remains efficient and effective. RPA can be utilized to replace certain tasks which previously seemed impossible to do outside of an office environment. RPA can also be used to support the staff members who are working from home remotely. A combination of a digital/remote workforce with automation on their side will allow businesses to grow exponentially, without also adding significant headcount expenses to their books.