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Expanding the Bot Workforce in Banking

Jason Dzamba by Jason Dzamba - October 14, 2022

Digital workforces built with intelligent automation are becoming critical to the success of banks and many other industries. But digital workers are still a relatively new concept. Only a few years ago, employees thought bots were coming for their jobs in Isaac Asimov fashion.   

Mike Reynolds, Leader of Service Digitization at KeyBank, has gone through the growing pains of building a digital workforce program from scratch. In this article, Mike and other experts share their recommendations for leveraging bots to scale banking processes. 

Watch on Inside the Bot: Expanding Your Bot Workforce with Mike Reynolds 

Why Banking Is Ideal for Automation 

Processes that are repeatable, rule-based, and high-volume are the best candidates for automation. Banking is chock full of repetitious work like this.  

“Banks have been the largest consumers of RPA since its boom in 2016. They have many linear processes and typically use one of the top 3 core banking systems… FISFiserv, or Jack Henry. These systems have underlying sub-applications that don’t speak to each other.” — Gabriel Skelton, Director of Banking, Mortgage and Insurance Automation Solutions 

There are hundreds of thousands of transactions that are repetitive in nature, like in loan applications. The same forms come into a system that triggers a predictable process for loan approvals. Sending this data into systems through a bot is highly efficient. Bots follow explicit instructions without deviation, which makes them ideal for rule-based processes.  

“RPA offers a cost-effective way to transfer data between these systems seamlessly with 100% accuracy.” — Gabriel Skelton

Which Processes Can Be Automated_Web CTA-min 

Digital Workforces Are Evolving  

It’s been a matter of perception of the purpose of bots that have slowed adoption rates. Employees have been fearful that they will lose their jobs, but that opinion is changing. The hesitation was mainly around the notion that bots were job killers, but the perspective is shifting from a force taking away jobs to an enabler of efficiency.   

As Mike Reynolds said recently at the Bank Automation Summit, “you have to earn your right to the table,” reflecting on his early days of building a bot workforce for KeyBank. Organizations that are building a bot workforce started small with quick wins. Through these successful baby steps, they proved the value bots bring to employees and C-suite alike. 

Scale and Expand Processes 

Digital workers all you to do more work. They can touch the entire range of bank operations, from consumer, commercial, fraud, and human resources. They allow banks to scale processes beyond their existing human workforce, which allows new opportunities to scale—which is identical to value proposition of the OpenBots Platform. 

KeyBank, for instance, currently has 231 automated processes which are equivalent to the work of 390 employees. They also have about 30 new ideas for bots, and about 10% get added to production that produces tangible benefits.   

Using digital workers allows them to expand their overall workforce beyond their human capabilities. In turn, this also changes employees’ work, allowing them to focus on high-value decision-making instead of adding data into a system. 

Developing Efficient Processes 

Identifying the right processes to automate is a struggle for many organizations. For starters, look for projects that involve several people and have “legs to it,” as Mike Reynolds suggests. There should be enough volume to justify the effort it will take to automate.  

Another tip is to look for patterns and conversations around current processes. This will typically come in the form of data management—things like preparing documents and handing them off for approval.  

“Find those details so you can build that automation wider,” Mike advises. When you broaden parts of a process with automation, you can come closer to straight-through processing. The goal is to adopt a holistic approach that drives a better customer experience. 

Automation Priorities 

“There are very few (if any) RPA projects sold to the C-suite based on revenue benefits alone. The project is almost always sold on cost-savings-related ROI because time savings can be easily quantified, and the cost is a corollary of time.” —Ford Crosby, Senior Automation Architect at OpenBots 

Cost plays that generate revenue will always catch the attention of upper management, but it’s not the only factor. Other initiatives will eliminate work, speed things up, and create consistency for tasks that need to be done the same every time, like in the case of meeting compliance. 

“Revenue boots come when employees are released from busy work and allowed to focus on sales and other revenue-generating activities. This relationship is genuine and proven and should always be considered, but it isn’t easy to project with accuracy because it’s abstract. It requires assumptions about the productivity of the employee’s time that is freed up. Cost savings calculations require such assumptions.” —Ford Crosby 

Developing a Bot Program 

Centralized development teams can create huge savings on annual run rates. Most companies new to automation will start developing in a decentralized manner. Business units across the firms will tackle smaller initiatives, which was the case at KeyBank.  

Moving to a centralized team allowed them to attract more in-house talent after they started producing consistent outcomes. They became “in depend,” which helped them carve out a permanent space in their organizations.   

Attracting and training in-house produces opportunities for citizen development. When the value of automation is clear—not in theory but proven through results—creating a central hub for bot development is a logical step.    

Pick Processes that Make Sense 

Are your automations creating a better end-to-end customer experience? Are you innovating processes to serve the market’s demands, like the increase in fraud? Tackling projects like these are worthwhile, but they come with time. 

There’s a lot of risk in starting with the biggest process right out of the gate. Quick wins that are highly repetitive and tedious for people to do is a sensible place to start. Proof comes in building a history of success. You build momentum to have the buy-in to take on bigger, more complex projects.   

Complexity is made, not by attacking the whole all at once. It’s comprised of small pieces strung together to create something more extensive. Focus on the small pieces of a bigger idea, then prove it over time.

Which Processes Can Be Automated_Web CTA-min

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Jason Dzamba

About Jason Dzamba

Director of Media Relations, Productivity Strategist, and Host of Inside the Bot Podcast, Jason uses a process-driven to help leaders optimize their actions and achieve their most important goals. His creative outlet is painting abstract art and producing music. He lives in Miami, Florida, with his three kids.

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