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How the use of robotics is transforming finance and accounting

Posted by Grace Townsley

September 10, 2021    |     3-minute read (620 words)

Robotics are beginning to revolutionize how finance and accounting companies are doing business. 

Sixty years ago, the emergence of physical robotic systems began automating production facilities. Within a few years, output was significantly boosted and human labor at these factories shifted to a new set of tasks. Now, the robots are at it again. This time, they’re revolutionizing the way companies do digital tasks.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to the use of virtual bots to complete simple, repetitive tasks. RPAs can be used for a variety of office functions like data entry, data clean-up, form creation and filing, clearing transactions, or even shuffling a customer through a sales funnel. 

Once the RPA is programmed with a “trigger,” such as a customer requesting a new bank account online, the RPA can instantly begin a series of automated actions. These could include creating the customer’s file, sending them a welcome email, running a credit check, and adding their name to the banker’s follow-up call list. Activities that would normally take an office assistant several minutes to complete are now finished within seconds, and without human error. 

For computer-dependent processes, RPAs can essentially mimic the work of humans, at a fraction of the cost of employment. These systems can be programmed to operate 24/7, allowing businesses to process data and automate activities around the clock. For businesses that use RPAs in their customer service processes, this means faster order fulfillment, quicker automated responses, and fewer customers falling through the cracks.

The finance and accounting industries were early adopters of RPAs

According to a report by Forrester, of the companies surveyed that currently use RPAs, 36% of them are in the finance and accounting space. Overall, 1 out of every 3 bots in use today are in the financial industry. RPAs are particularly effective for these companies because the streamlined and error-free automated process helps ensure all regulatory and compliance requirements are met.

In a report by Deloitte, one bank described how they created RPAs for 13 of their internal processes. Over the year, these RPAs facilitated over 1.5 million requests. In doing so, the RPAs completed the work of about 230 full-time employees at only 30% of the cost. 

RPAs are particularly helpful for these businesses and institutions because RPAs offer:
  • Simple user interface. RPA systems are intentionally designed to be simple to configure– no coding needed. By using a drag and drop system or automation selector tool, RPAs can usually be set up without a developer. 
  • Major time savings. RPA systems can complete filing and data updating tasks significantly quicker than a human. Not only do these systems free up time for employees to work on more detailed tasks, the efficiency of the RPA also helps reduce processing time.
  • Happier employees. Small, tedious tasks can quickly grate on employees. By utilizing RPAs, employees can focus on tasks that are more thoughtful and strategic. 
  • Improved accuracy. RPAs, when configured correctly, are significantly more accurate than human activity. Plus, the workflow is easier to audit if issues do arise. 
The future of RPAs

Basic RPAs rely on human configuration for the initial set up. A human must create the rules and parameters in which the automation is fired, operates, and concludes. These RPAs are process-driven. But advanced RPA systems use artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and analysis to learn and adapt processes over time. They’re data-driven. While a basic RPA functions only as it was programmed to do, AI-powered RPA systems can identify and suggest process improvements over time. 

While still a young technology, it’s likely the use of both basic and advanced RPAs will continue to spread across these business sectors and others.

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