South African bank introduces robots for various business operations

Posted by News Express | 7 March 2018 | 2,067 times

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•Sourced from Business Day SA. Photo: 123RF/Willyambradberry

As part of its strategy to stay at the leading edge of innovation, South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is focusing on robotics as one of the ways in which to improve the bank’s overall performance and help digitise operations.

Because robots can master repetitive tasks currently performed manually, they are suitable for many of the processes conducted by employees, particularly in back offices. Robotic process automation (RPA) is the software technology that automates manual, repetitive and mature processes, making them faster, more cost effective, and often with a return on investment on the software and systems within about a year. Robotics is also easily adopted to automate high-risk and compliance-focused processes due to the robot’s ability to process at zero defect.

Being a non-integrated software system, robots are also easy to introduce to the bank’s existing IT systems. As they are “code free”, robots service the businesses in the bank rather than trying to comply with an IT system. Coded technology is complicated and costly and takes far more time to implement. Robots are “a virtual workforce” that operate 24 hours a day, with 100% efficiency, and can reduce costs by between 25% and 40%.

Introduced a year ago, the RMB Robotics Centre of Excellence manages RMB’s capability to introduce robotics into its various business units. It has 20 employees who ensure that the correct processes for automation are selected and implemented. Fourteen projects have already gone live with a number of others in the pipeline.

“We’re finding great applications for robots within the bank, especially for automating inefficiencies between different systems,” says RMB chief executive James Formby.

The first bot, known as Mr Robert Bot (Rob for short) joined RMB on Feb 1 2016 with his own employee number. So far 10 bots have been introduced to 14 projects that include four processes capturing new client information and performing maintenance of that information. Others have taken over some of the repetitive tasks of compliance, manual billing, financial data consolidation and reporting.

“We believe that one robot can effectively augment between three and four people, allowing staff to focus on the more complicated, analytical, client-facing and value-adding aspects of their functions,” says Reshnie Naidoo, who manages the RMB Robotics Centre of Excellence. “The desire and demand in RMB for robotics is present as people will be able to focus on a greater breadth of knowledge rather than the depth and detail necessary in more admin-related processes.”

It is projected that one of the robotics projects introduced in RMB’s Corporate Banking division’s finance department will save about 4,000 hours per year. And this is just the estimate for the initial processes reviewed, which are only about 10% of all processes.

“We have redefined multiple processes and introduced the robots to do the jobs within minutes, compared with people who previously completed these manual tasks over days,” says Naidoo.

In the future, more intelligent robots, known as artificial intelligence (AI), will be introduced. AI mimics human thoughts whereas robotics mimic actions. AI automates processes, which require judgment and where the outcome is not always standard, such as Know Your Customer, some compliance-type functions, supporting credit analysts and dealmakers in their functions, and query management.

Intelligent robots will also be able to conduct tasks such as speech recognition in call centres and document scanning for handling of paper. Voice assistants will be able to answer specific questions, process complex requests, understand natural language and teach themselves to update their own algorithms.

“We are very excited about the future possibilities that technology can offer our people and business,” says Formby. Having successfully introduced robotics to the bank, RMB is examining how far it can take the technology, as well as AI, to improve the bank’s overall efficiency and performance, while staff become familiar with a new way of operating.


Source: News Express

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