HSBC is using IBM artificial intelligence (AI) technology to process documents related to international trade.
Banks are automating manual processes at a rate of knots as AI technology becomes more trusted in the sector, with the technology helping to cut costs without reducing compliance.
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Currently around 100 million pages of documents, such as invoices and insurance documents, are manually reviewed and processed by HSBC staff.
Using optical character recognition and robotics technology from IBM, HSBC’s Global Trade and Receivables Finance (GTRF) is automating the review of documents and sending them automatically to the bank’s transaction processing systems. The bank said this improves accuracy and gives staff more time to do “value-adding activities”.
HSBC said the average trade transaction requires 65 data fields to be extracted from 15 different documents, with 40 pages to be reviewed.
“By digitising this process, we will make transactions quicker and safer for buyers and suppliers, leading our industry forwards, and we will reduce compliance risks through an enhanced ability to manage huge volumes of data,” said Natalie Blyth, global head at HSBC GTRF.
HSBC is currently using the technology to analyse documents in English but it aims to adapt the system to read other languages, including Chinese, French and Spanish. Companies in sectors with large back-office operations are flocking to technologies that can automate repetitive tasks.
For example, a report from financial services management consultancy Opimas predicted that in 2017, discounting acquisitions of startups, finance firms in the investment sector would spend $1.5bn on robotic process automation, machine learning, deep learning and cognitive analytics, increasing by 75% to $2.8bn in 2021.
But the use of AI to reduce the need for people is already beyond the back office in the financial services sector, with retail banks harnessing the technology. For example, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is also working with IBM in piloting a robot that will answer customer questions and pass requests on to the right agents.
The Luvo cognitive chat bot, which uses IBM’s cloud-based Watson Conversation service, will be available to around 10% of RBS’s customers in Scotland in December as part of the customer pilot.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s SEB bank became the first bank to use IPsoft’s cognitive technology for customer services after the software robot proved successful in an internal IT service desk project.