RPA: Breaking Down the Hollywood Factor

Author: Allison Lovett, Vice President, Content Manager, NICSA

Technology seems to be a central theme, one that permeates every business line of the asset management industry today—and RPA is beginning to take center stage. During the recent “A Closer Look at RPA in Financial Services” webinar (NICSA members can access the replay here), we invited several industry leaders well versed in the topic to take a deeper dive into robotic process automation.

Our panelists dove into the key principals governing the implementation of RPA within financial services. Tom South, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Architect at Northern Trust, laid out the importance of treating RPA like any other automation software, with a keen focus on infrastructure, security, and scalability. Change management and pipeline development were tagged as key elements in the implementation process. BNY Mellon’s RPA Lead Architect & Control Manager Joseph Gabiger used the analysis of a software development life cycle analysis and echoed some of the same types of disciplines.

Augmentation not automation.

Both experts agreed that retention of key expertise is essential to the value propositions of many financial institutions. Even for some of the most industrialized processes, expertise is one of the reasons clients choose a particular firm. The goal for these firms, therefore, is not to completely supplant certain functions, but rather to augment the people that do it. As one panelist aptly explained, “Expertise is hard for a client to mine out of a robotic agent. So, there’s always going to be a people component of what we’re doing.”

RPA is paving the road toward more business agility and more customer interaction.

Changing the innovation mindset of an organization starts with getting a true assessment of the costs and benefits. How do executives evaluate the softer benefits of RPA while taking stock of ongoing costs? Kelley Mavros, Partner at Strategy& (the global strategy consulting firm at PwC) took us through a holistic view of RPA integration. In addition to the infrastructure efficiencies, she laid out the softer benefits such as reallocating individuals to more customer facing roles and data analytics. Listeners also got a good overview of the long term implications of large scale adoption from HR policies, to company culture, and staffing pitfalls.

Our panelists explored some real world implementation examples of RPA. The general trend? Twelve to eighteen month ago the conversations were centered on RPA as an alternative to outsourcing and offshoring, with a focus on the mid- and back office. Now, the industry is seeing a dramatic trend toward the front office, which is helping firms scale their best expertise toward portfolio management decision making and client service.

Plan First, Automate Later

Key takeaway: Defining an upfront, holistic strategy is key to preparing firms for RPA integration. Firms should take a top to bottom analysis of their processes in order to ensure successful deployment of RPA technologies with measurable impact.

Many thanks to Northern Trust for hosting the webinar, and to Paul Fahey, Senior Vice President at Northern Trust for moderating the call and engaging our listeners in such a lively and informed discussion. We invite you to share this post and the webinar replay with a colleague who may have missed the event.

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