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Banking Process Automation Hits Its Stride

The Gartner "Hype Cycle" has long been a good way to look at capabilities and think of whether we are in the early days, in the hype, when a new technology has promise but the standards and surrounding ecosystems cannot yet support widespread adoption. Once out of the hype cycle, the new tech brings a fundamental change in capabilities that "lifts all boats". When reading the 2019 "must do" and trend lists, I was excited to read less about process automation – to me this means we are out of the hype and can look to adopt this technology in a big way.

When it comes to banking, today's process automation can more easily access the systems being exposed through API gateways, reducing risk around providing key automations. Machine learning is now built-in or an integrated add-on to reduce human intervention more. External and internal data at most banks is easier to use, reducing employee and customer friction. Process discovery tools are now available which means some of the labor-intensive parts of the automation itself are being improved.

The timing is perfect: The 2019 themes beckon the real arrival in market of digital competitors, open banking, mainstream fintech adoption, and the need to make real plans for core modernization. As these themes roll out, it's going to be an ongoing choice in the banking consumers' minds to "stay or go". Customers and prospects are looking for signs that your bank has resolved to be a digital bank, not just offer digital banking. Making smaller changes matters too. If you are running pilot projects in robotics, it's time to suit up and go to town. If you're getting started now it's going to be an easier and faster ride than when you previously decided to wait.

When you achieve success, blow your horn. It is a signal your customers are waiting for that digital ease and transparency are showing up in their branch and the whole back office. The deep changes can take a while, but not everything needs to be in seconds to make your customers happy. Process automation around existing systems can reduce staff effort/mistakes and add transparency to keep customers informed through periodic updates on progress. Loan processing time can literally be cut in half, with your better customers seeing the most dramatic results. Onboarding commercial customers can be dramatically improved in addition to shorter setup time for ancillary functions such as wires and customer premise check scanning. Less visible to the customer, but still important, there's plenty of room in the back office to add partial automation to most tasks which frees up your budget for more transformational work.

Process automation in banking has matured to the next level of impact and usability. It can improve employee and customer satisfaction while generating visible change and solid returns. Typical process automations have a quick enough ROI to attack any staff waste, customer issue or competitive priority. You can't solve every structural problem at once, but there's plenty of room to attack those not so "temporary" workarounds and time-wasters that suck the life out of your staff and points off your ROE. Revisit process automation if you left it for later. Reinvest if your bank and its teams are looking for the next capability upgrade. 

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