Scaling Automation in Financial Services

Scaling Automation in Financial Services

By Fernando Ramirez, Client Services Partner 

Throughout history, there has been a continuous drive to conceive creative approaches for reducing human labor. In today’s Financial Services context, automation entails harnessing digital technologies to minimize or eliminate human intervention in various processes. The current suite of solutions includes workflow software, digital robots, Natural Language Processing (NPL), Natural Language Generation (NLG), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), digital signatures, and, the ever-present buzzword of our time, Artificial Intelligence, along with its underlying algorithms.

The application of automation can span across business, corporate, and IT operations to address different organizational goals, such as streamlining non-value-added activities, combating talent shortages (which have been particularly pronounced in IT in recent years), enhancing employee satisfaction and retention, improving customer experiences, expediting operations, and reducing expenses and errors. Given the array of solutions available today, automation can be implemented to a different extent across all organizational processes. Below, we’ll explore—in the context of financial services—the various uses of automation for business, corporate, and IT functions and provide actionable steps for creating an automation-ready organizational posture. 

Automation’s Move to the Front Office 

Automation can be used to augment a wide range of business processes across sales, service, marketing, risk, and compliance that involve extensive paperwork or information processing. Examples of such processes include onboarding, lending origination, AML (Anti-Money Laundering), KYC (Know Your Customer), claims and disputes management, recommendation engines, marketing activities, customer service chatbots, clearing, trade surveillance, and suspicious activity reporting. Initially used to streamline back-office functions, automation is extending progressively to the front office, significantly lightening the load for agents in branches and call centers. Some notable results financial institutions achieved include a 20-30% cost reduction in assisted channels origination and servicing processes, 10-30% sales acceleration, and up to 85% reduction in false positives for AML transaction monitoring. 

The Demonstrable Impact of Corporate Automation 

The use of automation is rapidly reshaping corporate processes in human resources, finance, accounting, auditing, and procurement. Tasks like timekeeping, candidate screening, financial analysis, reconciliations and reporting, audit planning, and source-to-pay can now be completed with very little manual effort. Moreover, automation in business intelligence is expediting research and analytics workflows and enabling the C-suite to gain decision-making insights in seconds (instead of waiting weeks for PowerPoint presentations). Some of the noteworthy results achieved in this area include an 85% reduction in time spent by Finance on month-end close reporting, a 60-80% time efficiency gain, and a 20% cost reduction in automated processes. 

Relentless Automation is Reinventing IT 

IT process automation enables developers to rapidly code, test, and release environments and software, acting as a nimble and reliable partner for the business units by accelerating innovation time-to-market, helping to address customer expectations, keeping up with new financial regulations, and enhancing protection against cyberattacks. Automation can be deployed across networks, security, cloud, data centers, and the edge. Numerous success stories worldwide demonstrate the benefits of automating IT services and operations, including demand and asset management, tech orchestration, code management, testing, system maintenance, environment provisioning and clean-up, user requests management (e.g., password resetting), and incident management. IT automation kills two birds with one stone: improving the efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations while meeting business requirements, expectations, and goals. A 20% reduction in software costs, 40%-80% increase in developer productivity, and 75% reduction in time-to-market for new products and services are just a few examples of the results achieved by companies that have implemented automation across their IT functions. 

Cultivating Automation at Scale 

But… why now? What makes automation particularly crucial for Financial Services today? Banks, for instance, have been automating their operations since the 1960s—from ATMs and Teller Cash Recyclers (TCR) to basic macros, workflow, and more sophisticated solutions. But the time has come to deploy automation at scale. The technology has reached maturity, and valuable insights can be gleaned from pioneering financial institutions that have already undergone this journey. Based on these use cases, we recommend ten actions to position financial services firms for success in the automation at-scale journey: 

  1. Prioritize high-ROI opportunities with a holistic view of the value beyond financial metrics. 
  2. Choose your destination, design the roadmap, and start with small steps. 
  3. Self-fund the transformation, realizing quick wins to prove the value and reinvest in further optimization. 
  4. Find C-suite sponsors in key stakeholder areas (business units, channels, operations, risk, IT, etc.). 
  5. Have a continuum of innovation mindset instead of a one-off approach to automation. 
  6. Establish an automation hub to ideate and implement new solutions and oversee the digital laborers until the technology becomes more autonomous.  
  7. Designate an Enterprise Automation Lead. 
  8. Identify a pilot area with limited impact on customer experience and revenue to test the model. 
  9. Plan the transition from human to digital labor by reskilling and hiring to perform value-added activities and communicate the vision upfront to manage employee expectations. 
  10. Select reputable partners who offer technology solutions and services with a proven track record of successful outcomes. 


To learn more about how AHEAD helps financial institutions navigate through their automation journey, get in touch with us today. 


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