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A CATALYST FOR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND GROWTH IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR

Peter Walker, EMEA CTO, Blue Prism

 

The financial services sector has undergone a period of rapid innovation over the past decade, with the rise of fintechs and digital banking solutions, which are much more agile than traditional banking options. On top of this, the sector is now also experiencing unprecedented effects due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Institutions must transform their core operations to address these industry disruptions, not only to meet the needs of today’s increasingly interconnected society, but also to help weather the impact of the virus.

In order to maintain a competitive advantage within the industry, satisfy the changing demands of their customers and meet intensifying regulations, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology can offer a way forward by providing a platform that runs Digital Workers – intelligent software robots that complete activities in the same way as humans, by mimicking and learning business processes like people do.

With the unprecedented surge in demand of business operations, work isn’t being delivered at its full potential, and at the pace required. People are increasingly unable to support businesses’ needs of extracting and formatting data into a number of different systems, as well as performing a number of tasks which are better suited to technology. This work can lead to stressful environments and errors in a highly regulated process.

 

Addressing the changes in the financial services landscape

Digital banking apps like Monzo and Starling have in the past few years transformed the way people handle their personal finances, and the banking solutions now available to customers means that they have become accustomed to seamless service.

Speed is everything in financial services, and against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty, traditional banking institutions need to consider changing the way they operate. They must heed the example of digital natives and become more agile, so that they can quickly adapt to unforeseen circumstances in the market.

As the demand for the sector’s services increases in response to the government’s mandated initiatives, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CIBLS), companies will have to pivot their operations to keep pace with the changing landscape. We always hear about how sectors can digitally transform, and RPA-based Digital Workers can help companies to begin their digital transformation journey and accelerate that innovation.

Implementing Digital Workers

In this challenging climate, where traditional business models have changed overnight, organisations need to fulfil the demands of enterprise operations at the pace required to remain competitive. Increasingly, people won’t be able to support this demand on their own, and technology will plug the gap that humans cannot fill.

A lot of customer-facing activity in financial services is process-heavy by nature. It involves dealing with large amounts of sensitive information and adhering to strict processes, which creates a lot of admin. Strategically deploying Digital Workers and intelligent automation can help businesses to streamline a number of these admin tasks, such as processing loans and mortgage repayments. Automating this process frees up employees’ time so they can improve other areas of the business that automation alone can’t deal with.

Covid-19 has renewed the pressure on financial services organisations – not just simply by increasing the sheer volume of customer service calls, but also by introducing new operational stresses through remote working. Implementing automation technologies in a strategic way can help financial institutions get in better shape to cope, not just during this time of uncertainty, but in the long run. In a recent survey looking at how organisations around the globe are using Digital Workers to stay resilient, positive and competitive in this new economic reality, 95% of business decision makers in financial services revealed that they already have plans in place to extend their use of automation across their business.

 

Support during Covid-19

In response to the pandemic, Blue Prism has set up the Covid-19 Response Programme, donating Digital Workers and services to assist across a number of sectors, including on the front lines of the health emergency, transportation and financial services. These deployments illustrate how RPA can help – as by using Digital Workers, business will be able to maintain business continuity and provide the necessary services to citizens during this difficult time.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Leeds Building Society has turned to Blue Prism’s RPA technology to rapidly increase its deployment of Digital Workers, helping it to cope with the high demand for mortgage holidays. Mortgage payment holiday requests now exceed 2,000 a day and this is all now being handled by the RPA solution, reducing calls to the contact centre by 75% and providing answers to most of these requests within 21 seconds. This allows front-line colleagues to focus on delivering better customer experiences, and back-office processing teams to work on other priorities for the business. Most importantly, at a time of profound uncertainty when many people are under financial pressure, it helps to quickly resolve their issues.

For a long time, the financial services sector has been slow to adopt new technologies which could speed up internal processes, primarily due to the need to comply with regulatory requirements. Yet automation can help these organisations to adjust to rapid regulatory changes. For example, by helping them to audit their data and processes. Without automation technology, businesses might have to recruit and train temporary staff or hire support from a business process outsourcing provider, which could come at a significant cost.

 

The future of automation in the sector

Financial services perform a vital role in our economy. But the pandemic also provides an impetus for organisations in the sector to transform their operations, and automation has huge potential when it comes to this transformation. By 2024, Gartner predicts that automation technologies will replace almost 69% of the managers’ workloads. The Covid-19 crisis could be a catalyst to hasten the migration of routine and rote business processes and help the sector to keep pace with the changing economic environment, as well as rising consumer demands.

 

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Business

WHY AUTOMATING CAN FUTURE PROOF YOUR BUSINESS

By Ryan Demaray, Managing Director SMB EMEA at SAP Concur

 

Every business has administration duties that can be considered mundane and time consuming  but are a necessary core function of operations. Whether it’s paying suppliers on time or processing expense requests, tasks such as these are necessary for the day-to-day running of a business – however it’s safe to say that these tasks are never ranked as the most engaging or rewarding by your employees.

With a UK recession on the horizon, finance teams are under pressure to not only control costs but provide guidance to the business on where savings can be made. This will only happen if your employees are able to focus on tasks that not just keep a business running but allow them to add further strategic value.

Automating the invoice function is just one step towards giving your finance team back valuable time, not only creating a more efficient and productive workplace, but a positive employee experience that supports growth and stability across your business.

 

The gateway to better efficiency 

From receiving the invoice, inputting data, chasing approvals and moving it down the chain of command, research shows that it can take an average of 17 business days to manually process an invoice. For SMBs with a finance team of approx. eight people, implementing an invoice management solution can save on average 69 hours per week.

By allowing the technology to do the heavy lifting, your finance team can use the time to focus on more strategic elements of the business. This includes providing them a moment to take a step back and holistically look at the spending trends and costs across your business. By doing so, they can often pinpoint spend patterns, but also identify cost reducing opportunities, providing visibility and guidance to help positively impact the bottom line in the short and long-term.

 

Enabling growth and accuracy

As your business grows the number of vendors and suppliers you use often increases in parallel. This growth in external stakeholders can cause challenges and maintaining consistent and timely payment of invoices to suppliers is crucial. The Federation of Small Business estimates that late payments contribute to 50,000 insolvencies annually, costing the UK economy £2.5bn. The UK government recognised this and in 2019 implemented a prompt payment initiative, aimed at helping small suppliers get paid on time by enterprises, with the potentially penalty of not awarding government tenders to those who do not adhere to the prompt payment practice.

In addition to this, inhibiting the lack of cashflow to small business through late or unpaid invoices can have more than just a monetary impact. With poor invoice payment practices, your business reputation is likely to suffer damage, which in turn carries consequences across with future suppliers, as well as customers.

Through invoice automation, you are able to streamline your finance and accounting processing by making sure that payments are processed in time, resulting in avoidance of payment delays, calls from suppliers querying about invoice payment timescales and vital staff time responding to these.

 

Supporting employee engagement

Employees’ experiences affect their work outcomes and carry the benefits of high engagement, increased productivity, and a lower staff turnover. Creating a better employee experience is a challenge faced by many SMBs, but once cracked can provide benefits across your business.

More than just providing a workplace environment and culture, businesses with motivated employees can find recruitment and onboarding costs reducing, with retention rates increasing.

But it’s not only the employee that benefits from a better experience – your customers do as well. With many often on the frontline of customer interaction, it’s difficult to keep customers happy if your staff member is disengaged. By employing tools that allow the automation of mundane and repetitive tasks, employees can focus on aspects of work which they care about most.

 

Future proofing for tomorrow

Digital transformation is here and for SMBs employing an automated invoice solution, is a positive step in becoming a business that is ready for scale and growth. Not only will it help benefit your bottom line, it will create positive staff experiences and efficiencies, that help truly optimise your business – now and in the future.

 

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Business

COULD GRAPH TECHNOLOGY BE A POWERFUL WEAPON AGAINST CORONAVIRUS FRAUD?

Crisis funds and loans put in place to help support businesses during the health emergency have become a prime target for cybercriminals. Neo4j’s Amy Hodler examines how graph technology could be a powerful weapon against these scams

 

Fraudsters will use any opportunity to siphon off funds illicitly, and the pandemic is proving no exception. With coronavirus moving rapidly across the world and locking down countries in its wake, cybercriminals have been quick to launch sophisticated methods to callously exploit the situation.

Cybercriminals have been fast to impersonate trusted organisations such as the World Health Organisation, which has itself seen a five-fold increase in cyberattacks since the start of the crisis.

The pandemic is opening the doors for fraudsters who are taking advantage of changes in normal business processes, controls and working conditions to carry out fraudulent activities. Security controls, for example, are often not as strong as normal due to the speed aid is required and the fact that many people are teleworking.

Amy Hodler

Cybercriminals are using fake or stolen identities to draw down governmental emergency funds. In France, for example, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into massive fraud of the country’s temporary unemployment scheme where fraudsters have drained €1.7 million. It is investigating potential international links to the fraud.

In a statement Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said that more than 1,740 fraudulent operations were discovered across the country on behalf of 1,069 different businesses asking for wire transfers to over 170 different bank accounts.

 

Can financial services’ practices help?

Aid departments and organisations should look to the mature practices of the financial services industry for a lead in combating fraud. Here firms repeatedly and meticulously check and compare transactional data to look for suspicious behaviour that may indicate an attack.

Like applications for financial aid for the impact of the coronavirus, malevolent actors look to defraud financial institutions using false identities when creating accounts and putting together loan applications. Personal data such as addresses, telephone numbers and emails are cleverly assembled to model assumed and phony identities.

 

A need for a different approach

One of the main reasons traditional approaches fall short is that most fraud detection systems are based on a relational database model where data is stored in predefined tables and columns. With large, unstructured data sets, relational databases swiftly reach their limits; queries turn out to be far too complex and response times lag. Banks and government authorities need the ability to follow a trail from one account to another, viewing a fraud network as a whole complete entity to work out how activities are linked.

Unlike relational databases, graph database technology not only represents individual items of data such as person, account number, home address, but also their relationships with one another such as how they are related. Any number of qualitative or quantitative properties can be assigned, showing complex relationships in an easy to understand way.

One of the best graph algorithms for fighting coronavirus cybercriminals is ‘PageRank’, which finds important nodes (objects) based on their relationships and interprets them using visualisation tools. For fraud detection in banking, the algorithm identifies important or influential customers who are featured in a large number of financial transactions. Nodes with a high PageRank Score can be illustrated using a visualisation tool so that they appear larger in the view and can be immediately picked up.

Another key algorithm is ‘Weakly Connected Components’, which works to reveal the hidden networks that form a fraud ring based on common identity features such as multiple applicants all residing at the same address. These hidden connections provide invaluable information when hunting down fraud.

 

Uncovering fraud rings with incredible accuracy

 Cybercriminals are continually developing attack methods, sharing infrastructures to maximise their opportunities for success. Graph technology has the capacity to help stop advanced fraud scenarios in real time.

Graph databases can help future proof an organisation’s fraud prevention initiatives by enhancing insight based on data relationships and building connected intelligence.

 

The author is Director, Analytics and AI Program at Neo4j, the world’s leading graph database company, and co-author of Graph Algorithms: Practical Examples in Apache Spark & Neo4j, published by O’Reilly Media

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