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Middle East banker urges region's banks to prepare for robotic automation

Middle East banker will use Gitex stage to encourage banks to automate processes

Robotic process automation (RPA) and business analytics offer an opportunity to reinvent banking and improve customer service levels in the Middle East.

Julen Mohanty, regional lead for strategic business engagements at JP Morgan Chase, who will be appearing in the banking stream of the Gitex Conference in Dubai next month, told Computer weekly the processes are the same but the way banks are doing business is different.

“Banks are going to open a new channel of business, with the same banking processes. The bank credit offer is not going to change, but the customer experience has changed,” he said. “The marketing for a credit card has changed, and while the card approval process has not changed, it has been automated with robotics.”

Mohanty said banks often operate a number of applications, which can make integration difficult following an acquisition. This is one process that lends itself to automation. “In these kinds of situations, robotic process automation is going to be very useful because, for a human, going to different systems, aggregating data and making information out of it is very difficult,” he said.

Electronic efficiency

He said the key message of the banking stream of the Gitex conference, which runs alongside Gitex Technology Week, will be “how banks are going to prepare for a competitive advantage”.

According to Mohanty, automation technology can be used to transform traditional banking processes. For example, when someone walks into a branch and requests a savings account, it takes time – possibly days – to gather and verify their documents and open an account.

Read more about automation in banking

But he said customers no longer need to visit a bank branch because the process can be managed electronically.

“The customer fills out the details, uploads the document, and the bank systems can read everything. The idea is that the new system should be able to verify everything from the hard copy (unstructured data), pull out the required information, and verify it with the government or another authorisation site,” he said. “If you can verify the person within a couple of seconds, the bank account can be opened in less than a minute.”

He said RPA is key. For example, when somebody uploads the scanned copy of a passport, RPA should be able to read it using an object character reader (OCR).

“The system will read all those documents, convert the unstructured data to structured data, go to various government sites automatically to verify those documents, then e-sign those documents and open an account,” he said. “All of that is happening electronically using RPA.”

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 reach $2.8bn in 2021.

Blockchain in banking

Mohanty will also discuss blockchain technology at Gitex – from what it is and how it works, to how it will help the businesses and why banks in the region should look at it.

“In the Middle East market, the penetration of blockchain is not that high and I feel the adoption is still pending with the regulator and customer,” he said.

To increase the use of blockchain in banking, Mohanty said governments and regulators need to be more involved. “At this time, it lacks a leadership vision. Technology skills can be developed faster once the adoption of technology is more rapid,” he added.

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