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APAC financial firms face roadblocks with RPA

IDC monitored the automation projects of over 30 early adopters of RPA in financial services and found that most were unable to scale up their implementations of the technology

Banks and other financial institutions in the Asia-Pacific region are embracing robotic process automation (RPA), but most have not been able to scale up their deployments.

In addition, those that had tried to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into their automation tools have not realised the benefits of doing so.

These were the findings of a new study by IDC, which monitored the automation projects of over 30 early adopters of RPA. The technology analyst firm noted that RPA is often the first step in a “continuum of technology-enabled initiatives that will bring intelligence into the automation of business processes”.

But when fully realised, IDC said automation, coupled with AI, will help financial firms embrace what it calls an “intelligent digital workforce”, essentially software robots that perform deterministic and non-deterministic tasks by continuously understanding and analysing structured and unstructured data.

These robots represent rules and judgement-based automation, and, like their human counterparts, they are both self-learning and self-healing workers that can discover patterns to predict decisions and even offer recommendations to improve them.

Across the region, IDC noted that financial firms in Australia and Singapore have been the forerunners in adopting an intelligent digital workforce, including RPA, while those in India, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are “fervently hoping to make the leap”.

In choosing an automation supplier, IDC advised enterprises to base their decision on six core characteristics that will typically deliver more favourable results.

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These include simplicity, usability, reusability by business users, ability to deliver enterprise-wide scale, and security and governance as the foundational tenets. It should also include the availability of “real-time” operations analytics, an intelligence powered by AI technologies and innovative tools, and a strong support extended by the ecosystem.

IDC added that the next two to three years will be crucial as more and more financial institutions reap significant benefits from implementation, and more successful functional- and vertical-specific use cases are presented in the market, with vendor offerings also becoming more advanced.

Industry players at IDC’s annual Asian Financial Services Congress this year agreed. Ron Goh, president for ASEAN and Korea at Automation Anywhere, said during a panel discussion that while most banks are still in the early stages of adopting RPA, there will be huge adoption in the next three to five years.

“If you can help a worker do something in half the time so he can do something else, you can expect productivity gains and cost savings,” he said. “And once that is proven, [the RPA market] will skyrocket.”

At Sri Lanka’s People’s Bank, a state-owned commercial bank, employing automation tools had freed up its tellers to focus on supporting the bank’s 52 digital branches where customers can be onboarded in less than 10 minutes.

“We’ve converted tellers into digital agents who are now trained on our digital services and focused on digital enablement across the bank,” said Priyantha Edirisinghe, CIO of People’s Bank.

By 2021, IDC expects 60% of top-tier banks and insurance firms in the Asia-Pacific region to deploy intelligent digital workforce offerings for increased automation, intelligent decision making and improved operational efficiencies.

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