Integrating RPA and AI: The Future of Automation

As Today’s Financial Institutions Scramble for Ways to Drive Operational Efficiencies, to What Extent Will They Benefit From the Marriage of RPA and AI?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is supporting financiers in automating repetitive processes, driving efficiencies and freeing up the most valuable of commodities: time. 

Despite being a back-office process, RPA has benefits for consumers, too, freeing up financiers' availability to focus on customer engagement, while innovating products and services to meet the needs of clients. 

RPA can also benefit customers directly. It allows financial institutions to deliver services in real-time, which are more tailored and valuable than they otherwise would be. 

“One example would be improving mortgage loan processing,” says Steve Morgan, Global Banking Industry Lead at Pegasystems. “RPA not only automates a credit recommendation to an underwriter, but also which areas to look at when completing affordability checks on a customer.”

Of course, RPA’s use can span many facets of a business, including improvement of fraud and anti-money laundering (AML) controls due to its “ability to detect threats in real-time and generate alerts when it spots suspicious activity,” says Sarah-Jayne van Greune, COO at Payen and ILIXIUM.

She adds: “It can process large amounts of information at any given time, which means it can also improve adherence to regulatory and compliance requirements.”

Evidently, driving efficiencies often leads to a reduction in costs, and there are no exceptions when it comes to implementing RPA. 

“RPA is proven to eliminate manual errors and optimise business processes,” Morgan expands.

“This leads to significant cost savings in terms of monetary value and time. As well as this, RPA offers more scalability and flexibility for businesses to scale their processes without incurring substantial costs.”

The impact of AI on RPA

Indeed, RPA as a technology alone isn’t solely driving the cost-cutting, time-saving customer-centric efficiencies being deployed by financial institutions (FI) today. 

As put by Morgan: “It often takes more than just robotics and requires decisioning intelligence to be applied to a process.”

Today, the introduction of AI is augmenting RPA processes by helping the technology to manually make intelligent decisions. 

“AI offers additional streamlining and optimisation of processes while enabling a further increase of velocity and volume in data (scalability),” says van Greune. 

This optimisation will be crucial for FIs going forward as AI evolves, but companies must take care when implementing both innovations, as van Greune warns.

She says: “Learning mechanisms blending RPA and AI must be very carefully defined to ensure there is no reduction in quality of service. 

“For example, doing so should not lower customer support where capabilities to interact with AI are too specific and not cover all potential use cases, especially less-utilised workflows. If this happens, it can lead to a reduction in customer satisfaction.”

Meanwhile, for Morgan, the future harmony of AI and RPA needs to exist on new, adaptable infrastructures. 

“The next generation of automation must do more than just sit on top of legacy systems,” he explains. 

“Most companies have already shifted to improving processes end to end rather than point-to-point automation, and seeing where a combination of automation, intelligence and decisioning can be applied.

“A true intelligent workflow combines capabilities such as AI and RPA to automate repetitive tasks and free up time for employees to focus on assignments that require empathetic or strategic solutions.”

It is clear, then, that leveraging an AI-driven platform in addition to RPA improves finding, collecting, processing and transforming data into insights for better business decision-making.

This adds further opportunities for financial services institutions to drive greater business value.

Understanding the RPA-AI integration

While the benefits of integrating RPA and AI are clear, just how should financial services companies ensure the technologies are married efficiently? 

“Financial services institutions must audit their current processes to understand where transformation is needed and develop a roadmap for implementation, including finding the right partner to meet their needs,” asserts Morgan. 

“It has to be an outcome-driven exercise, rather than just looking to see where you can apply new technology. 

“Typically, as part of getting solutions embedded into the bank’s operations, banks will use integration through APIs to connect to front and back-end systems to optimise utilisation of data. 

“AI-powered RPA can enable banks to, for example, extract data from relevant documents and files quicker and analyse that data to obtain the right information. 

“It can enable the right sales or service action to be offered in real-time. It can use predictive analytics to gauge where a process needs escalation, re-routing or just completing with no personal intervention. 

“This can allow financial service institutions to streamline processes, reduce time lag and improve efficiencies. More importantly, though, the customer experience and service levels are improved.”

The future of AI-powered RPA

As more financial institutions identify and start to reap the benefits of AI-powered RPA, it’s worth asking what the future holds and wondering what efficiencies can be further driven from a growing AI-RPA relationship. 

As far as Morgan is concerned, the integration of AI and RPA opens “a whole realm of possibilities” for the future of automation.

He adds: “Coupled with AI, machine learning and natural language processing capabilities, RPA bots could perform more complex tasks beyond rule-based logic.”

With the possibilities boundless, is there a danger that applying such technologies at financial institutions could result in the replacement of humans entirely? 

Not so for Morgan. In fact, he references the belief that AI-powered RPA will help create a mind-bending 97 million new jobs by 2025, a figure touted by the World Economic Forum.

As such, he believes these technologies will work alongside humans to create more streamlined processes, boost productivity and “free up time for them to work on tasks that need more strategy and a human touch”.

Morgan concludes: “Certainly, it will have an impact on roles and create new roles, but it will open up more possibilities, too. It will, therefore, allow financial service organisations to gain a competitive edge and improve customer service practices.”

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