Global financial services firms face an increasingly complex business and regulatory environment and are constantly in search of ways to streamline operations and reduce costs. For years, firms have sought cost reductions by employing a labor arbitrage strategy that moved certain operations, particularly those in the middle and back-office, from high cost locations such as New York and London to lower cost locations such as Bangalore and Chennai. Labor arbitrage has been met with mixed results for many firms as it often carries high implementation risk due to complex and time-consuming migration plans. Moreover, rising labor costs and high staff turnover in offshore operations are forcing firms to continuously evaluate new locations and migration strategies. Recently, robotics process automation (RPA) has emerged as a viable technology platform that will provide companies with an alternative to labor arbitrage to realize significant cost reductions in the automation of once manual processes.
Robotics process automation is a technology that seeks to automate manual, rules-based repetitive workplace tasks. The robotics name is derived from industrial robotics automation that has been common in manufacturing, such as the automotive industry, since the 1980s. RPA, on the other hand, refers to a software platform that interacts with a firm's existing software applications in a way that is similar to a human operator. RPA is viewed as a flexible, highly-scalable, and more business-friendly alternative to traditional programming and is now seen by business and IT executives as an investment ripe to move beyond pilot projects to widespread adoption for certain functions in the organization.
Robotics technology is typically used to automate complex, rules-based processes and tasks currently performed by a human on one or more software platforms. A key differentiating feature of RPA is its ability to automate a process that involves interactions with multiple systems. Let’s take a real-world example of how RPA can be deployed at the prime brokerage (PB) business of a large investment bank to facilitate a more efficient client onboarding experience by shortening the cycle time for setting up a new customer in the bank’s systems. For some banks, the PB client onboarding process could be time consuming and involves complicated AML/KYC checks, bank account and settlement instructions set-up, and legal documentation/ISDA processing. These tasks are required to achieve a ‘good-to-trade’ status so the PB business may begin transacting with its customer. An RPA tool would be able to interact with systems involved in the client onboarding process whether on the desktop, a web portal, or in the cloud, to perform certain aspects of these tasks. Other common use-cases for RPA in middle and back-office financial operations include functions such as trade confirmation, reconciliations, settlement, clearing, and transaction reporting to name a few.
The benefits offered by RPA are similar to those offered by traditional forms of automation: greater capacity and throughput along with accuracy, efficiency, consistency, and a "virtual workforce" that is available 24/7. Successful RPA implementations also increase the output of a firm's existing workforce, allowing knowledge workers to focus on more complex, high value tasks such as innovation strategy and customer service. An organization is likely to see high ROI from RPA if it currently has a large number of employees engaged in repetitive, rules-based tasks that require interacting with multiple legacy systems that are not integrated, and application integration is not on the technology roadmap for the foreseeable future. RPA’s ability to interact with legacy systems is one of its key features, allowing firms to achieve ROI in the near term while more strategic and complex integrations can be pursued as part of a future-state technology roadmap.
Robotics technology providers often boast that RPA is more business-friendly than traditional scripting languages. This is a fair statement, but it can be noted that potential RPA developers should be familiar with object-oriented programming concepts before getting started. Companies implementing an RPA pilot typically engage a third-party consulting firm to perform business analysis, development work, and project management governance to ensure success. RPA providers typically do not perform implementations themselves but maintain relationships with consulting firm partners that have experience implementing their toolset. In summary, to help ensure a successful RPA implementation in your organization, we recommend a basic framework for considering where to start.
Monticello Consulting Group has managed some of the most transformational technology programs on Wall Street with services that include business process analysis, automation, data management, testing governance, and IT project management. Our in-depth knowledge of banking and capital markets operations uniquely positions us to guide our clients in the deployment of the latest technologies – including RPA – that can accelerate innovation, drive business volumes at a lower total cost of ownership, and reduce risk.
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