Robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping financial institutions transform their operations. But many institutions are in the early stages of their journey. The UK Finance COO Forum in April discussed the benefits of intelligent automation and how institutions can leverage it to enhance customer experience.
Seeking to capture the operational efficiencies that can be gained through intelligent automation, some financial institutions have begun integrating RPA and AI in their business models, according to COOs at the UK Finance COO Forum. However, they said, most institutions are approaching intelligent automation reactively, through ad hoc projects, rather than with a comprehensive strategy that considers the implications for employees and culture, security, risk, compliance and governance.
Institutions with an intelligent automation strategy may find it easy to build support across the organisation for wider RPA and AI projects, while institutions without a strategy may struggle to exit the reactive phase, the COOs said.
Intelligent automation strategies should prioritize creating value for customers, the COOs agreed, adding that value could be delivered directly by digitizing business processes to simplify customer interactions or in a knock-on effect, by providing financial institution employees more time to service customers. The business case for intelligent automation becomes stronger when institutions begin to think not only about its cost savings benefit, but also about its customer experience benefits, they argued.
Managing citizen developers
Harrison Jardine, Protiviti’s UK head of intelligent automation, suggested that as with any large technology enablement project, wholesale intelligent automation can only be implemented successfully by placing employees at the centre, focusing on their buy-in, education and training. Often, when employees understand the benefits of intelligent automation, demand for additional intelligent automation tools and projects increases.
However, Jardine warned, financial institutions may face challenges maintaining control of new projects, especially when they are led by citizen developers – employees with no formal coding training who use low-code/no code software to create or enhance applications. Although citizen developers can accelerate the deployment of intelligent automation, they also decentralise development, which, in many cases, creates a need for shared ownership and an approval process.
Institutions can control the development process and the disruption to teams or functions across the organisation that citizen developers may cause by creating a centralised team to review citizen developer proposals or building out a centre of excellence for citizen developers to run proofs of concept through, Jardine said.
The ethics of AI
Participants at the forum raised concerns about potential bias in artificial-intelligence decision making at financial institutions, particularly mortgage lenders. Panelists from UK Finance said that bias is a key area of focus for regulators and policy makers and that institutions will not only need to understand their decision-making algorithms, but also explain them when challenged by customers. In addition, institutions are encouraged to consider when to challenge AI-generated decisions and introduce a human viewpoint, or when to opt out of AI processes.
Multiple organisations are currently considering reforms to minimise AI bias, including the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the Information Commissioners Office, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority.
The UK Finance COO Forum was held online in association with Protiviti on 7 April 2022 online. For more information about the event and UK Finance, please contact head of member communities Zoe Bailey at [email protected].
For more information on Protiviti’s intelligent automation solution and developing an automation strategy, please contact Harrison Jardine at [email protected] and Denise Castaneda at [email protected].