Storming into banking and finance: “That’s what banking robots are doing”

“A department delivering four man-years of work can deliver the equivalent of ten man-years with a robot on the team,” says Hans Kristian Aas, Nordic FutureTech lead at Accenture Nordics.  

THE ROBOTS ARE COMING: “Much of the work carried out by today’s employees is based on rules – something that robots can take on. That amounts to enormous potential,” believes Hans Kristian Aas of Accenture.

The 33-year-old is currently working on how Norwegian banks and insurance companies can adopt new technology to achieve operational efficiencies.

“Companies use too many resources on case management, production and control work. Much of the work carried out by today’s employees is based on rules – something that robots can take on. That amounts to enormous potential,” he believes.

“A good example would be a bank’s handling of credit applications. A robot can take care of setting up cards and consumer loans and amending credit limits. Another example from the insurance sector is the management of pension agreements: amending dates, amounts and frequencies, for example.

Right at the starting line

When it comes to digitisation, finance has been ahead of many other sectors over the last few years.

“The solutions have been very good. While the automation now being carried out by robots was possible before, the latest methods are more efficient and intuitive.”

LIMITS: When asked about the tasks that robots are unable to do, Aas replies that “these might be creative processes, making important decisions or something as simple as interpreting handwriting”. The 33-year-old is currently working on how Norwegian banks and insurance companies can adopt new technology. 

Figures from Accenture show that global investment in financial technology amounts to over NOK 180 billion. That exceeds the entire value of the Norwegian banking giant DNB at the end of September 2016.

“The majority of the players starting up in robotic automation are still in their first year of using the technology. This means that so far there are relatively few cases in Norway of any considerable yields being realised,” says Aas.

He believes that a minority of players introducing robotic automation are doing so in order to drive down staff costs by downsizing, while most are freeing capacity to do other things.

The definition of a robot, according to the Norwegian encyclopaedia Store Norske Leksikon, is “a computer-driven unit which, with the aid of sensors, can receive data from its surroundings, process it and react by implementing actions in relation to preprogrammed rules”.

Robots are often imagined as physical bodies with arms and legs. Banking robots that carry out automated tasks, however, are so-called “software robots”, meaning they are virtual, without any bodily form.

“One advantage of robotic automation is that it increases strategic flexibility and the ability to turn around. Employees are freed up for more important tasks. 

A banking robot can’t do everything – at the moment

Today’s banking robots have their limits. Tasks which are not based on a set of rules but which demand human assessment cannot be completely automated.

“These might include creative processes, making important decisions, or something as simple as interpreting handwriting,” explains Aas. 

However, the next wave of robots could change this, according to Accenture.

“We’re seeing an increase in the pilot testing of advisers with cognitive skills that can be used directly with customers.

In the short term, these robots could probably use technology that helps them interpret and understand free text, enabling them to fill out forms, write reports, monitor situations and provide better customer experiences.

“By then, the robots would also be carrying out advisory activities. The customer gets a better and more efficient service while companies increase their worth considerably without having to increase their human resource.”

Hans Kristian Aas

Nordic FutureTech lead, Financial Services, Accenture

I am the Nordic FutureTech lead in Accenture Financial Services. FutureTech consists of highly qualified people across the Nordics. Our purpose is to help Nordic financial institutions to identify what technologies they should use (and not to use), pilot that technology and implement it full scale in order to succeed in the market place. Accenture also work closely with Nordic FinTech companies and is an incubator to accelerate growth and scale globally. FutureTech is despite the name business and customer-oriented, and the technology is of often just the enabler to achieve great things. We don’t talk about innovation – we deliver it every day together with our customers.