The finance sector faces similar challenges with respect to lost revenue and service demands, but also a sudden urgency to fast-track technology that can meet the needs of an increasingly remote banking customer base.
Whether it’s automating the handling of incoming documents to open a bank account, e-signing for a loan application or improving the customer experience through mobile ID verification, it’s never been more critical for banks and financial services organisations to understand the end-to-end positive impacts of intelligent automation. Of course, I would rather it hadn’t taken an unprecedented global pandemic to focus the minds, but here we are. The Guardian recently reported a survey by EY, stating 41% of respondents were investing in accelerating automation as businesses prepare for what comes next. Boardrooms everywhere will be operating at fever pitch as directors try to work out how best to respond.
My rugby refereeing career taught me priority management, and it’s not terribly different to the boardroom - Safety, Equity, Law. After confirming staff and customers are safe, make sure there’s fairness to all stakeholders, before finally ensuring compliance with the law (lawyers may disagree with that priority sequence).
Once through that sequence, move toward continuing management of the game. And like 80 minutes on a rugby field, who knows what’s going to appear before us? Now that we are a few weeks into the crisis, we’re all feeling like seasoned hands. But in reality, all we may have achieved thus far is some risk mitigation as we try to keep the lights on, review budgets, cashflow and operations, and take steps to keep them in as optimal a state as possible. And we also must look forward and ensure we’re prepared for what will likely be a “new normal” at the far end of the crisis. It’s startling how deployment timelines have seemingly changed overnight; for instance, setting up new services in unbelievably short times (in as little as five days).
Before the pandemic, many businesses would spend three to nine months assessing options. And the financial services sector, which is heavily regulated, could easily be in the planning stages for a year! Think of this like the armchair viewer or VAR replaying the same sequence again considering different options. Now, finance sector leaders are having to make decisions instantly, rather like the on-field referee. Make a decision, give the signal, and act upon it. The imperatives of these unprecedented times must be balanced with regulatory and compliance obligations; it’s not a comfortable place for any financial services organisation. So where can intelligent automation make a fast impact in your organisation? Consider the cloud. The fastest way to set up and scale (unless you’re blessed with a lot of spare server capacity) is on AWS, Azure or a vendor's web-based service. You will need to feed data to it and integrate the output to your transactional and trading systems, but that’s readily achievable.
Our BPO clients are reporting a huge increase in requests to quickly set up digital mailroom services. Most have the capability to do this independently, but they all have trusted vendors sitting behind them with the expertise to make things happen quickly. A great example is an initiative from Capita (https://www.capita.com/our-thinking/meet-most-ambitious-automation-project-uk), which takes an existing project and modifies it for the current world situation. Determine if you can build on what's already running. Many financial services organisations already use elementary capture technology to digitise data from structured and unstructured forms (such as emails), but could you augment that quickly by adding cognitive data extraction or process automation? These relatively straightforward additions can automate much of the preparatory tasks that might surround an incoming piece of work. For example, you may already capture an image of an incoming loan application form, but then an employee must copy the data from it.
Given that people resources are likely less available now, why not increase the level of cognitive capabilities and have that information pulled out automatically? Embrace digital. This is easier said than done, but there are some shortcuts and fast-start options. If you cannot meet your clients in person, offer a digital platform. This could be mobile capture of an ID or bank statement using the customer's smartphone, offering documents for signature using eSigning technology, or web-based capture. Processes old and new can be digitised rapidly and help remote workforces collaborate more effectively— without the need to be at the next desk. It’s realistic to do some of this quickly without compromising quality or security. Consider that one of Ireland’s top banks is currently working to implement a new digital onboarding platform designed to enhance the customer experience.
The timing couldn’t be better, since many current or prospective customers will not want to go to branch offices, even if they’re open. So many of the meatier transactions -- including mortgages, secured and unsecured lending, and life insurance policies – require the exchange of government-issued documentation to facilitate the transaction. Asking your customers to use postal services or visit branches may drive them to other service providers, so consider the use of web capture. Platform-based approaches connecting your web front-end systems and intelligent document ingestion offer the greatest flexibility and fastest go-to-market. Use your network.
There are no pre-existing blueprints for what we face in the world now, but it’s certain that technology vendors' backroom teams are looking to accelerate time-to-market and rapid-delivery models. Speak to vendors as well as industry peers; salespeople and consultants have a wide purview of what's going on in the market and often have great ideas. No one person has all the answers, but it can be helpful to attend webinars and use your network. We’re all in this together: goodwill and the altruistic sharing of ideas are de rigueur. We’ll emerge from this pandemic, and whilst when and how aren't yet certain, we do know that social-distancing and other limiting factors are going to be in play for several more quarters.
The only certainty is that “social-distancing” is guaranteed to be this year’s new entry into the Oxford English Dictionary. With that degree of market fragility in mind, when we do emerge from this crisis, those organisations which have mitigated their risk of relying on in-person customer contact will be best-placed to minimise disruption. The software industry will have a big part to play in that change, and intelligent automation will be at the epicentre.