Bank RPA market set for boom

By Neil Martin

April 6, 2021 | bobsguide

Banks are becoming increasingly reliant on robotic process automation (RPA) technology – a trend that is expected to become more entrenched.

According to SSON Analytics banks are by far the largest RPA users, coming in at a 51 percent share of entire market share. Next highest on the list is business process outsourcing at just 15 percent.

RPA is a technology which uses software robots to handle repetitive rule-based digital tasks. A software robot is able to fully emulate the actions of a human when completing such tasks. At the basic level they are literally ‘formulaic’, but are becoming more sophisticated as they can interpret data, provide a number of responses and communicate with other systems.

It is such tools that many observers fear will cause a culling of white-collar, office jobs, during the current technology revolution.

But humans shouldn’t fear too much, said Cem Dilmegani, founder of AIMultiple. He told bobsguide: “RPA is not the whole solution, but one of the technologies that can enable hyperautomation. A combination of process and task mining, machine learning and RPA can enable companies to run back offices in an autonomous manner.

“However, this will require constant refining and human input to deal with edge cases. Just as a diverse body of humans with varied skills were necessary to run the back office of the past, the back office of the future will be run by a combination of diverse humans and machines for optimal performance.”

The RPA market is rapidly expanding. According to global market research firm Technavio, the market will grow by $7.43bn during 2020-2024. The main market driver is a lack of cost-effective labour, which means there are not enough skilled people to take on the job of sifting through the world’s ever increasing data production.

The banking, financial services and insurance industry is a big user of RPA, mainly because finance firms operate costly back-offices which require large loads of repetitive work to be completed at speed and with a high degree of accuracy. RPA robots are said to be cheap, accurate and never need time off.

According to AI Multiple: “RPA allows banks to run repetitive processes like data entry and customer service more accurately and effectively without overhauling existing systems. This will enable them to reduce costs, turnaround times, and manual mistakes while helping employees focus on high value-added activities.”

RPA was gaining a foothold before the start of the pandemic, but since the outbreak adoption has picked up dramatically.

In the Swiss headquarters of UBS, six software robots were coded to help cope with a deluge of loan requests from businesses desperate to survive the pandemic. 

For similar reasons, Citigroup, NatWest and Santander have all looked to back-office automation to take the strain during the difficult times.

As to the most popular use cases for RPA in the financial services industry, AI Multiple lists the top four:

  1. Financial products
    • Loan processing and validation
    • Trade finance
    • Account closure
    • Card management
    • Same-day funds transfers
  2. Customer service
    • Know your customer (KYC)
    • Customer ID verification
    • Responding to customer requests
  3. Data processing & verification
    • Processes involving data and verification checks
    • Financial reconciliation
    • Digitisation of structured paper forms
  4. Audit & compliance
    • Audits
    • Quality assurance (QA) processing
    • Regulatory monitoring

It was back in 2019 that Softomotive, a leading worldwide provider of RPA solutions which has since been acquired by Microsoft, conducted a global study of 600 companies. It was revealed that around half of those questioned were actively looking at RPA and that the other were already on their way to use RPA functionality.

On the flipside, the survey also warned that the full potential of RPA was being held back by some key flaws, including hidden costs, how to maintain momentum and how people were not being engaged in the process.

As for the future, RPA is currently regarded as one of the hottest spaces in tech, attracting the attention of deal-makers and investors alike. As if to reinforce this mood, Crunchbase has just reported that US-based UiPath, the RPA industry leader, is about to make its long-awaiting public IPO. It has raised around $2bn in funding over eight rounds and revenues for last year grew by 81 percent to over $600m.

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