By Adriaan Kom, CCO at Visma | Onguard
New and exciting technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation (IA) are making a significant impact on the financial sector, performing tasks that were once carried out by teams of people, saving time and money. Indeed, financial institutions such as banks, that don’t engage and incorporate this technology into their systems run the very serious risk of falling behind their competitors.
When it comes to RPA, there has been a recent rush in its uptake. In essence it is a software robot that mimics human activity by carrying out routine processes with the potential to reduce the number of operational errors and increase efficiency as robots or ‘bots’ operate 24/7. There is also a cost-saving element to this as the employees who would have once been in involved in a manual process can be replaced by a single programmed robot. Furthermore, there should invariably be an increase in customer satisfaction because of the speed of work, resulting in a faster turnaround and improved accountability as the audit logs of robot operations are readily available.
Research confirms the rush towards RPA
Recent research data from Visma | Onguard confirms there has been a significant uptake of RPA, which illustrates the point that data is playing a prominent role in reshaping the strategy for more financial businesses and creating a range of opportunities by improving the efficiency of processes, cutting expenditure and maximising daily repetitive routines.
The 2021 Fintech Barometer survey showed 61% of organisations now either use RPA or are developing ideas on how to incorporate the technology into their businesses and represents a 15% increase compared to figures from 2020 (46%).
There has also been an increase in the use of IA tools, which expands on the functionality of RPA through supporting technology solutions such Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
However, it is worth remembering that this technology does not mean that in the future people will be completely replaced by machines and robots – far from it. It simply means that RPA will ensure financial sector institutions are better able to utilise their employees and add value to their business operations while delegating repetitive tasks to automated machines.
Significantly, close to half (47%) of those who took part in the survey said AI was the largest trend to make an impact across the financial sector, increasing from 36% in 2020 and 29% in 2019. In addition, AI also came out on top in terms of its perceived impact on order-to-cash processes – jumping from 36% in 2020 to 40% in 2021.
Increased IA take-up
However, IA technology has seen an even greater take-up in the sector, with 53% of those surveyed reporting the use of tools in their businesses. A great deal of this is likely to have been driven by the need for financial organisations to harness data-driven insights and use them to inform decision-making and define business strategy. This is reflected in the fact that almost two-thirds (65%) of financial businesses say they were either fully data-driven organisations or that data supports their processes.
Big data was also identified by 44% of those surveyed as one of the top three trends to have positive effects on the financial sector, representing an increase from 36% in 2020.
As the importance of data becomes more widely known to the financial sector, it will play a more prominent role in shaping strategy for more businesses. Just 8% of businesses reported that they were not planning on becoming fully data-driven at some point in the future, which was down by 5% compared to 2020 (13%).
Technology will support the data-driven dream in 2022
The 2021 Fintech Barometer shows that many financial organisations are beginning to embrace the concepts of RPA and IA, even if they have yet to fully utilise it in their operations. A great deal of this uptake is because data is now driving processes and technology solutions, with big data among the biggest trends across the sector.
As financial professionals work to further understand how they can apply and utilise data within their organisations, it is inevitable that we will continue to see an increase in the use of emerging solutions, such as RPA and IA, during 2022. It’s clear that robotics and IA are playing a key role in helping financial businesses to improve their overall efficiency, and in an industry of constant change and innovation, embracing technology that can support modern day finance professionals to achieve their data-driven dreams will be crucial for providing them with that all important competitive edge.
Accounting Automation in the Future
Accounting automation is the process of streamlining repetitive tasks in financial processes. For example, some processes like invoicing are time-consuming and repetitive. Automation can reduce manual labor and save businesses both time and money. Also, it helps improve accuracy, reduces errors, and provides more accurate financial reporting.
Accounting automation in the future will be increasingly important for businesses to stay competitive. But every new change comes with both advantages and challenges. Let’s dive in to get ready for this future trend.
Potential Future Benefits of Accounting Automation
Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings
Accounting automation is a great way to increase efficiency and cost savings. For example, AI bookkeeping uses advanced algorithms to automate many accounting tasks. So, companies can track expenses, prepare financial reports, and more using AI.
It reduces the time needed for manual entry. So, businesses can spend fewer labor hours on tedious processes. They can increase efficiency by freeing up resources for more strategic work. It also helps reduce errors and inconsistencies associated with manual processes. So, the cost of compliance is lower because of greater accuracy.
Improved Accuracy and Reliability
Accounting automation can improve accuracy and reliability in accounting processes. For example, Automating bank reconciliation is less prone to errors from human mistakes or miscalculations. You can automate the process to identify discrepancies between the bank statement and accounting records. It helps to ensure that financial reports remain accurate and reliable. So businesses can take corrective action faster than processing data manually.
Streamlined Business Processes
Streamlined business processes involve eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing paperwork, and automating repetitive tasks. This allows businesses to focus on higher-value activities, such as developing new products, improving customer service, and developing strategic plans for the future.
Making a Better Decision
Accounting automation can enhance decision-making in 3 ways.
1. It enables businesses to access real-time information from multiple systems. So they can identify trends for better decision-making.
2. Automated accounting also helps with forecasting, budgeting, and auditing tasks. It enables businesses to be more proactive in their decision-making processes.
3. Also, automated accounting tools can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can manage data across the enterprise and make concise decisions that are favorable to the company as a whole.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Accounting automation can help businesses increase customer satisfaction by streamlining their processes and providing a more efficient customer experience. For example:
4. Automated accounting systems can automate tedious manual tasks such as invoicing, data entry, and payroll processing. This allows businesses to focus on other aspects of their operations that are more important for customer service.
5. Automated accounting systems can also provide customers with more accurate and timely financial information. The information can help them make better decisions about their finances.
6. Also, accounting automation enables businesses to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It helps reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience. So, you can build better relationships with their customers.
Accounting automation takes place online or comes with cloud-based solutions. So, you can access your information and do your job from anywhere instead of being confined to one spot.
Challenges to Implementing Accounting Automation in the Future
Cost of Technology Infrastructure Upgrades
Automating an accounting system often requires businesses to invest in new hardware and software, such as servers and other associated equipment. These upgrades come with a hefty price tag that may be difficult for small businesses to afford.
There are also extra costs, such as installation fees, setup charges, software licensing fees, cloud storage costs, and maintenance fees.
Training Requirements for Staff Members
Accounting automation involves using advanced technology to automate certain processes. So, it creates a need for trained staff members who can handle the new technology. Training requirements vary depending on the type of software used.
Some common training includes record-keeping procedures, software applications, and troubleshooting skills.
Regulatory Compliance Issues
Accounting automation can be a time-saver, but it also requires firms to be aware of the applicable rules and regulations. Companies must ensure that their automated systems are compliant with relevant laws and regulations such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and other applicable accounting standards.
Besides, they must also comply with legal requirements related to taxes, financial statements, and other reporting obligations.
So, businesses must consider the complexities of regulatory compliance when automating accounting.
Security and Data Protection Concerns
As businesses move their accounting processes to the cloud, they are exposed to a wide range of potential security risks. Data breaches can cause significant damage to the business’s financial and reputational integrity. Besides, the complexity of automated accounting systems can make it difficult to identify and detect suspicious activities or errors in the system.
To ensure data is kept secure, businesses must have strong measures in place to protect against unauthorized access, encryption, and regular backups of data.
Furthermore, companies must train their staff on the proper use of the system. It helps staff to know how to protect confidential information from being accessed or misused by unauthorized personnel.
Businesses may also need an experienced IT team to monitor and maintain the system to keep up with any changes or updates for optimal performance.
Accounting automation has come a long way in the past few decades. It is likely to continue to advance in the future. As technology continues to evolve, more businesses will likely begin taking advantage of automation in their accounting processes. So, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges and prepare to stay competitive.
Author bio: Kassidy Li is a Certified Public Accountant and online entrepreneur who is passionate about helping people to solve problems and grow wealth with accounting knowledge and technology. She has 10+ accounting experience in small to large-scared corporations and expertise in financial accounting, management accounting, budgeting, and payroll.
Three ways data can help financial organisations thrive in today’s economy
By Rinesh Patel, Global Head of Financial Services, Snowflake
Financial organisations are caught in the middle of an ever-evolving landscape caused, in part, by emergent fintechs, shifting consumer expectations and increased regulatory change. Businesses are therefore turning to their data, re-imagining how they collect, process and analyse it, to drive growth and opportunity.
Despite this intention though, firms can often find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of data at their fingertips. Data tends to reside in individual departments that have no secure, efficient way of sharing it with other teams, creating silos of information. When teams need to collaborate, organisations are faced with additional costs and complexities in the movement of that data. The current infrastructure used by many financial institutions is not able to support the changing requirements of the industry, where data is the lifeblood.
Firms looking to harness their data should leave behind their outdated legacy architecture and implement an enterprise data strategy with a cloud-native platform. They can reposition themselves to accelerate time to market and value, with differentiated products and improved client offerings to gain a critical competitive advantage. Here are three ways that financial services are using better technology and enhanced data management to add business value.
Adhering to regulatory requirements
The volume of global regulations and reporting obligations has risen exponentially in the past decade, creating greater complexity and security challenges for firms capturing and processing data. Many of these regulations were taken by supervisors to ensure financial stability after the financial crisis of 2008. Regulators have greater expectations of firms with the aim of risk mitigation and transparency. With advanced technologies facilitating data capture, storage and analysis now available, supervisory bodies are also keen in part, to ask for additional disclosures because it’s now possible to demand more documentation and seek greater transparency.
The landscape of differing interpretations, overlapping regulatory requirements across asset classes and geographies and strict, even unrealistic deadlines for implementation have forced customers to take tactical quick-fix solutions, elevating operational risk and the chance of regulatory fines. Compliance departments have therefore been spending years building reporting processes, managing inconsistent data sets, maintaining ageing data stores and importantly overseeing differing levels of governance, adding more cost and complexity to the task at hand. For a large multi-segment global bank or asset manager this fragmented and manual approach to data management and analysis is not sustainable given the scale of processes and multi-geographic considerations that they have to comply with.
As regulators continue to push the long-term structural change agenda, financial services must now ready themselves to meet more robust reporting requirements to comply with the ever-changing regulatory landscape. The objective is to simplify and better manage data across teams with the governance and security provided by technological capabilities now offered through modern cloud capabilities to drive needed reporting. This will allow firms to replace old and inconsistent data with a centralised data architecture, providing a single source of truth. The time and cost reduction from data sourcing, ingestion, and the normalisation of data for analysis, can shrink to significantly streamline reporting processes.
Customer 360 experience
Consumers provide financial institutions with a vast amount of information, ranging from their banking habits to their behavioural preferences. Financial organisations have traditionally been slow to tap into the totality of this information to provide a better experience for customers.
The quest to provide greater visibility and a 360-degree view of customer behaviour is at the core of financial services organisations’ priorities. Customers want smooth, easy digital experiences that can speak to their desire for ease of use and convenience. This is seen in the ways virtual banking consumers have opted for technologies that are simple to interact with, self-directed and frictionless when it comes to carrying out digital transactions. New regulations, such as PSD2 and rules around open banking have also primed customers to expect more.
The challenge for legacy institutions is to bring the ease and usability of digital-first platforms with the sophistication of a major, global provider. Tapping into the full spectrum of data created by consumers is central to a successful transition.
Wealth advisory, investment management professionals are increasingly looking at data capabilities to support ongoing relationship management with their clients. Using data to understand customers in this way helps banks to successfully move customers up the wealth value chain. Wealth management organisations can digitise the investment process – from finding customers to managing accounts, and offering bespoke plans. Effective use of data in this sector can free up time for advisors, helping to retain key customers and charge higher commission levels thanks to a new level of personalised service.
Developing an effective ESG strategy
Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations have grown in significance with increasing stakeholder pressures, driving a response by firms to prioritise their sustainability agenda. To understand, evaluate the problem and take action, firms need access to technology providing holistic ESG data capabilities and solutions, with performance and scale.
Financial firms are amassing large data sets from the public sector, including government reports, scientific bodies and private sector reports, to understand and address the climate challenge. Businesses are moving with urgency to acquire robust data sets, to meet ESG criteria and sustainability metrics needed to evaluate impact and make progress against their own commitments. There are several pervasive business use cases for teams experiencing ESG data challenges, including portfolio construction, financial planning and regulatory reporting that will require an effective ESG data management strategy.
Ever present challenges in the ingestion, standardisation, and sharing of ESG data will be at the forefront of every organisation – as they process the magnitude of the challenge and transform their operations to address the issue. With cloud-native solutions, firms can use ready-to-use query data across established marketplace data sets. They can then share that data across teams in a secure, governed way – with greater speed to market. Organisations can meet the need for scalable analytics, and access a data ecosystem to build their own proprietary ESG applications for different user and workflow requirements.
A business fit for the future
With data cloud solutions, businesses can effectively analyse the vast amounts of data available to them, equipping them to meet the ever-changing financial landscape. Leaving behind legacy systems will open up a multitude of opportunities and benefits that will drive business growth. This includes developing a 360 view of the customer, improved data governance and the opportunity to use data to support an effective ESG strategy. Without the ability to harness data through the cloud, companies will get left behind the competition and struggle to meet the standards that modern consumers expect.
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