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Intelligent Automation in Financial Services

Jul 29, 2022

By Deepti Sameera

When it comes to driving transformative change for any business, it is nearly impossible to avoid discussion of intelligent automation, which includes robotic process automation (“RPA”), machine learning and artificial intelligence. The financial services sector is certainly not immune to this trend. These technologies, often grouped together and used interchangeably, not only promise cost and process efficiencies, but they also provide an organization more in-depth business and operational insights from their ability to curate large volumes of data to generate unique perspectives.

Just how can the financial services sector successfully implement intelligent automation and best practices? Before diving into intelligent automation, it is important to note that the goal of these technologies is not to replace humans but merely recalibrate the focus of their labor to achieve better business outcomes. With adequate resourcing and subject matter expert support, organizations can consider their benefits and considerations objectively to determine what is best suited for their business needs. We will also look at RPA as a foundational automation technology.

What Is RPA?

RPA is a technology that configures computer software (bots) to perform routine tasks such as processing transactions, opening spreadsheets, triggering responses, or copying and pasting data. The technology’s strength lies in its ability to continuously read a coded script that leverages a prescribed use of external applications to perform tasks more quickly, accurately and tirelessly than humans. As such, it can achieve material cost savings, greater accuracy and a reduced error rate, while allowing humans to spend more time on tasks that require reasoning, judgment, emotional intelligence and customer interaction. The fact that RPA can integrate with existing enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and office applications is an additional advantage because it means lower upfront investment and, thus, a faster return on investment.

The diagram below depicts the type of scenarios best suited for RPA:

The financial services sector is complex, with massive amounts data. Error-free recording and management is essential. A single mistake in accounting can cost a business millions of dollars. Therefore, the need for digital technologies to reduce human errors, achieve efficiency and deliver accurate results is critical.

RPA in finance and accounting shows promising results. Implementing RPA reduces errors and increases accuracy. Its use cases in finance are going beyond traditional data-entry tasks. Firms use it to onboard customers, prepare financial statements and much more.

What Are the Benefits of RPA for Financial Services Firms?

End-to-end automation enables financial services firms to automate processes without any human intervention. RPA allows accounting staff to focus on gathering insights rather than preparing documents.

RPA tools (e.g., UiPath, IBM Business Automation, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism) offer separate accounting and financial bots for multiple activities. Here are the few benefits of RPA in accounting:

Savings – Process automation can generate significant savings in personnel costs. The average cost of a robot is one third of the cost per person. There is also an increase in productivity due to uninterrupted 24x7x365 working days and a significant increase in performance through continuous learning and optimization, which increases total savings. According to UiPath, RPA can reduce processing costs up to 80%. In less than 12 months, most of the firms see a positive ROI.

Higher Accuracy – RPA allows you to eliminate the human margin of error because robots have the capacity for unlimited attention without distractions or mistakes. When a robot finds a transaction that does not adjust to its rules or parameters, a human should then process this operation.

Increase in Efficiency – RPA software installs bots that can perform operations much faster than humans. According to UiPath, an automated process with RPA can be 32 times faster than a human doing it manually.

Automate Data – You can automate unstructured data and invoices from emails, PDF files and more using RPA and data extraction.

Productivity – When RPA technology takes care of mundane financial processes, like entering customer details in a form, employees can focus on high-value tasks that increase organization profitability.

Scalable – The RPA solution can be as large or as small as needed. If you need to increase processing capacity, simply allocate more robots. This action can be programmed as part of the workflow, so resizing can be automatic.

Sample Use Cases

Accounts Payable and Receivables – Managing payments is one of the riskiest tasks in the financial services sector. By implementing RPA, you can streamline the receivables and payables processes—carefully adhering to the strict timelines and correct amounts of payments required.

Through RPA, you can automate the process of payments to vendors and receive money from stakeholders. RPA bots can build approval workflows and process payments to ensure that all transactions take place on time and adhere to financial audit policies and regulations.

Financial Closing – One of the best RPA use cases in finance and accounting is supporting a financial closing. All the expenses, receipts and transactions from the year require time-consuming records maintenance from Excels to a sub-ledger. RPA technology enables companies to automate the process of data extraction and record in the right sub-ledgers. There are hundreds of invoices, receipts and documents for which you need to account. RPA helps employees with closing the yearly and monthly accounts by providing the right information at the right time and in the right form.

Because of the growing complexity in financial processes and operations, RPA technology is necessary. Bots and software solutions automate financial transactions and management to where the employees can focus on high-level direct revenue-generating activities.

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