The robots are coming, the robots are coming! Everywhere you look, you see whitepapers and discussions about robotics and its use in AML and compliance generally. And rightfully so, this is definitely going to be a boon to the industry in allowing for more
efficiency, consistency, and effectiveness. The problem with all the content and hype is that Robotics has been blown out of proportion. Promises are being made that can’t be kept – I left one presentation wondering if compliance departments would just become
rooms full of servers. Compliance requirements are only increasing, creating more work for AML compliance departments. At the same time, banks are becoming leaner and less likely to throw more headcount to solve issues. Instead, AML Compliance Departments
need to start finding ways to make their employees more efficient and effective, essentially take on more work with the same amount of people. This is where Robotics can help.
Especially if you are not a technology person, Robotics can be very daunting. You either avoid it because you don’t understand it or you avoid it because you are overwhelmed by the volume of information in the market. Ignoring the obvious hypocrisy of this
post adding to that volume, the goal here is to clarify what Robotics is and filter out the noise of how it can be used in your AML program.
RPA or RDA?
Robotics is a general term that can refer to a few different uses of digital robots to automate work. For the most part, when discussing Robotics most people refer to Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This is using Robotics to automate an entire process,
from start to finish. This is the T-1000 Terminator, completing replacing a person in a process. The other type of Robotics, which is discussed less often, is Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA). This is the Robocop, combining human and robot. This involves
automating parts of an overall process, to allow for the human to focus on the more complex and value add tasks.
At first glance, RPA sounds like the way to go – it’s like adding more headcount, but in robot form. Great! The truth is, this is extremely hard to do. There are few processes, especially in the AML world that will not require some level of human review
and decisioning – think transaction monitoring and sanctions screening investigations or even due diligence reviews.
In comes RDA. Augment your analysts with robots, to help them work faster. Those robots can take on the manual and repetitive tasks like logging into multiple mainframe systems, collect information from the same internal systems repeatedly, running the same
searches on external websites or data providers over and over again. While you aren’t adding “headcount”, you are enhancing your analysts and allowing them to focus on synthesizing information and making decisions – making them more efficient.
You want Robocops, not Terminators.
Transaction Monitoring and Sanctions Screening Investigations
What are the tasks that take the most time for your investigators? From my days managing investigators, the tasks that took up most of their time were repeatedly logging into the various databases, mainframes, applications, and websites that they needed
to use for their investigations; pulling customer and account information from various systems; and running negative news searches and internet searches on parties of interest. In essence, they spent most of their time collecting information. Instead, imagine
them starting their investigation with all of the initial information at their fingertips? They could then start their investigation by using their brains, not mindlessly collecting data. Not only does this make them more efficient, it makes them happier.
Happier investigators are better investigators and better investigators can work more cases.
Customer Due Diligence (CDD)
Collecting CDD for your Know Your Customer (KYC) information is no easy task. The regulations continue to increase the requirements, and with regulatory scrutiny increasing, internal policies are becoming more onerous as well. To make things worse, most
banks don’t have unified databases for customer information internally, rely on legacy systems, and use a multitude of external sources to collect information. As a result, analysts have to search multiple systems, have difficulty finding information, and
conduct repetitive searches over and over.
Robotics can address these issues by creating strategic integrations between internal and legacy systems, collect information from websites where an API integration does not exist, and take over the repeated searches on external sites. Similar to the assistance
provided in financial crime investigations, Robotics can help centralize and collect all the necessary information for due diligence, allowing the analysts to focus on reviewing/assessing customer information and conducting enhanced due diligence.
Robotics is a great tool to gain efficiency, but don’t think of it as the silver bullet to save all your problems. It should be one of the tools in your automation tool bag, not the only one. Just like any tool, you need to understand the problems that
it is meant to solve so it can be used correctly.