By: Karen Inbar
Banking automation is moving to near the top of the agenda for leading banks. Some of the benefits banks can reap from a strategic branch automation program include improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, more responsive and efficient operations, and tighter compliance and fraud detection.
Branch automation: harnessing today’s tools to drive better customer experiences and higher efficiencies
Financial institutions around the world are stepping up their investments in automation technologies. Robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), desktop assistants, cognitive automation and other intelligent automation solutions are enabling banks to drive significant value, not only in reducing costs, but also in enhancing the customer experience.
During the pandemic, one area that is getting closer scrutiny is the branch network. In this era of social distancing, customers want to avoid branch visits when they can and wish to minimize time and human contact in the branch when they can’t. Plus, banks are keenly aware that they need to reduce operational costs as far as they can because of compressed fees and the possibility of rising credit defaults during the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that branch automation is moving to near the top of the agenda. This flavor of automation enables a bank to automate many front-office processes in the branch by connecting them to the back-office system. Consider the example of a loan officer at a high street banking branch helping a retail customer with a mortgage application.
Banking automation use cases at the customer coalface
For many banks, capturing a loan application could be a highly manual process, taking 20 to 30 minutes to complete and drawing on several different systems. The branch employee might capture the customer’s data in a core banking system, then need to copy and paste this data into a credit scoring system, followed by uploading the credit report into the core mortgage system.
They might also need to conduct know-your-customer and anti-money laundering checks against third-party databases. Not only is this inefficient for the bank and time-consuming for the customer, it also means that the bank’s representative is focusing more on capturing data or cutting-and-pasting than on providing a great customer experience.
The whole process is transformed when a combination of RPA, attended automation and cognitive automation is applied. As the employee opens the loan process, a virtual attendant robot might appear on their desktop to offer real-time assistance. It could, if the customer has another account with the bank, prepopulate the mortgage application form with many of the relevant details.
The virtual attendant could also trigger a series of back-end automations to check the customer’s eligibility for a loan, for example, checks with the independent credit bureaus. If the credit report takes the form of a PDF, a cognitive reading robot could transform this unstructured data into a structured format which can then be easily consumed by backend process bots to update the relevant applications with the relevant data from the credit report.
Throughout the process, the loan officer will be prompted to read disclaimers to the customer for compliance purposes. Then, the virtual attendant can send a summary to the customer and update all relevant business systems. Thus, processes that once involved dozens of steps—such as new account applications —can be simplified to a few mouse clicks.
Banking automation and self-service
This technology can be used for full self-service customer experiences on websites or apps, but some banks are leveraging it in-branch for more complex services or to help customers who are not comfortable with digital channels. For instance, some banks offer self-service kiosks at their branches, where customers can help themselves.
When they get stuck, they can either speak to an off-site representative via voice or videoconferencing or ask an onsite teller for help. That means they can streamline processes and downsize branches without compromising on the customer experience. This also makes it viable for banks to support customers who want access to a branch at a time when branch footfall is falling so dramatically.
As the example above illustrates, the rapid evolution of RPA, AI and virtual attendant robots creates a tremendous opportunity for banks to apply state-of-the-art automation to their branches as well as their contact centers. Virtual attendant robots—also known as attended automation or desktop robots—especially are moving the needle when it comes to front-office automation.
Benefits of banking automation
Some of the benefits a bank can reap from a strategic automation program include improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, more responsive and efficient operations, and tighter compliance and fraud detection. The impact on employee morale and job satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Far from destroying jobs, automation empowers employees to maximize their talents and contributions.
As a financial institution considers branch automation, it should consider the following priorities and actions:
-Evaluate the core processes and design a roadmap to guide improvement efforts.
-Improve and stabilize core processes before automation.
-Identify which processes to automate. AI-driven tools can help identify which business processes are best suited to automation and which may yield the highest return on investment.
-Design with the human factor in mind. The collaboration of attended and unattended automation should aim primarily at enhancing customer service and employee performance.
-Treat it as a business transformation program, not a technology project. A comprehensive communications and change management program is essential for earning buy-in and trust, as well as tapping into employee insights on all affected processes.
Success with banking automation
The banks that will be most successful with branch automation and other large-scale intelligent Process automation efforts will be those that take a holistic view with a heavy focus on employee and customer experience. Automation technology will enable them to create a powerfully enabled workforce, significant operational efficiencies and a sustainable, long-term competitive advantage.
The technology is maturing rapidly. With clear vision and careful planning, banks can start unlocking their full potential faster than they imagined. Now is the time to scale smart automation projects into strategic programs that deliver value at scale.