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Accenture’s Dominic Stanyer looks at robotics process automation in capital markets.

Dominic Stanyer is a managing director for Accenture Capital Markets.

The prospect of big cost savings, faster processing and more control have many capital markets firms considering robotics process automation. But thinking about a virtual workforce and making it a reality are two different things. Accenture’s Dominic Stanyer examines the common pitfalls associated with large-scale implementations and explains how organizations could set themselves up for success.

What sets robotics process automation apart?
Most capital markets firms are familiar with desktop automation, where a manual operator initiates a sequence of automated steps. Robotics process automation—or RPA, for short—is one step further along the continuum of automation options. In this case, robots or virtual workers are programmed to execute repetitive activities normally performed by humans, without assistance.

What makes RPA particularly appealing to organizations is the level of scalability, control and information it can provide. Removing the need for human intervention up front really opens up possibilities.

Why do you recommend establishing an RPA center of excellence?
A centralized RPA factory or center of excellence can enforce consistent standards, minimize duplication, maximize efficiency and more generally could help to ensure that the organization’s RPA strategy and goals are achieved.

Lack of consistency is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to getting the most out of your virtual workforce. Firms with minimal cross-departmental collaboration and a siloed way of working have to deal with multiple sets of infrastructure, agreements, templates, procedures. Not only is it a drain on resources, but it also prevents scalability across the organization.

How can firms successfully integrate robot and human workforces?
It’s natural for employees to have questions about automated solutions and virtual workforces. They want to know how robots will log into applications, and who will be responsible for their actions. Codifying policy and governance measures early and thoroughly is critical, as is communicating any changes to stakeholders.

I recommend assigning robots their own credentials so that they can act independently of human users. It’s the best way to take full advantage of your virtual workforce capabilities. That being said, most business processes will continue to have human oversight in the form of an “owner” who is ultimately responsible for making sure things run smoothly. The same would be true with a human team—but in this case, the workers are virtual.

What’s one factor most firms don’t think to consider when it comes to RPA implementations?
Data restrictions. In capital markets, certain processes are subject to data confidentiality requirements. Automation isn’t out of the question in these instances, but firms need to carefully consider their staffing and technical architecture. If separate architecture is required for certain geographies or areas of the business, firms need to budget more for infrastructure and be prepared to use higher-cost local resources.

What does the future hold in terms of automation in capital markets?
Right now, we’re seeing RPA vendors invest heavily in product features. Today, that’s advanced reporting, analytics and optical character recognition (OCR). Tomorrow, it will be speech recognition, natural-language processing and cognitive learning. With each iteration, the capabilities—and value—of virtual workers are increasing. Ultimately, we’re heading toward a future of fully automated, fully autonomous solutions powered by artificial intelligence. It may come sooner than you think.