The advancement of technology has a big difference in our everyday lives, including banking. This is due to the influence of Financial Technology, or Fintech, and the provision of technological innovations which are innovating banking. One of the notable innovations which have been a game-changer in the banking industry is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) which is responsible for automating business processes in the banks. Robotic process automation has recently made its entrance in Africa and quickly become a important technological innovation that is going a long way in making a difference in the African banking sector. Some banks in South Africa and Nigeria have already adopted RPA into their banking practices and are defining the future of banking to compete squarely with Fintechs and attract new customers.

Robotic Process Automation or RPA as it is commonly called, combines automation along with artificial intelligence to successfully aid in the effective dispensation of banking activities to manage banking activities and also help banks comply more closely with regulators.

Two businessmen using a computer at office and smiling

The application of RPA has led to the increased productivity in the banking service in relation to the automation of regular banking duties. This is made possible by the use of robots who have been technologically equipped with artificial intelligence that enables them to carry out manual banking activities faster and more effectively than the human workforce. Some of these activities include account opening, customer service, processing of credit cards, processing of loans, and customer onboarding.

Account opening can sometimes be stressful as a result of the long period of time it takes before the validation of customers’ information and is widely a common theme in the African banking sector.  RPA makes it easier and faster for this task to be done to spare customers from going through this experience when they want to open bank accounts. RPA is designed to assist banks faster in the validation of customer information ranging from their identity to their financial records. It also carries out all necessary checks to determine whether the customers conform to the banking compliance regulations and also alerts the bank on any irregularities or misconducts associated with the customer in reliance to the compliance regulations before it proceeds with the creation of the account in order for the customers to access them.

Customer service is the main responsibility of banks. As such, it is essentially the most important determinant of a bank’s success or failure in terms of its business transactions and relations with their customers. RPA tackles the issue of bank employees’ inability to attend to their clients who want to make inquiries whenever there is an abundance of workload in the bank at that moment. RPA provides the right automation tools that make it possible for these issues to be avoided without affecting the quality of the customer service delivering from the banks.

RPA tools also ease the long period it takes for the processing and activation of credit cards. One of the issues surrounding the credit card processing and activation is the long period of time it takes for it to be done. This is sometimes due to the huge workload on the bank staff and the structures or procedures associated with credit card activation which is time-wasting at times.

RPA tools resolve these issues by taking care of the validation and compliance rules faster and also alerts the bank on any concerns that may come up from the process in order for them to take action to address them. As a result, customers can get access to their cards and be satisfied. The same thing also applies to the processing of loans.

With regards to customer onboarding, RPA takes care of it by filling all customer-related information automatically by taking into account the previously available data of the customer. By matching it with previous data, the RPA software carries out the validation of the identity of the customer and begins the onboarding process once the validation is finally done. The whole process is very quick and more precise which in turn allows financial institutions to quickly get the customers on board and thus enhance the customer’s experience.

Before an account is opened or functional, financial institutions make it compulsory for the customer to fill in the Know Your Customer (KYC) form. This action is a precaution put in place to ensure that all account owners comply with the law in relation to banking and do not indulge in illegal activities to make their money. Given the enormous importance of KYC and the enormous amount of customer information to be checked in a short period of time, financial institutions have implemented RPA to help in the verification of the identity of the customer by checking the previously known records of the customer. Banks grant the customers’ permission to access their account on the condition that RPA handles the verification process in compliance with the appropriate legal requirements. The rapid validation process also enables the enhancement of customer experiences and improvement in gathering customer information faster.

RPA tools also have the ability to assist banks in their efforts to tackle money laundering which is one of the biggest issues confronting the banking sector not only in Africa but worldwide. The implementation of RPA software in banks assists in transaction collection and begins the validation of the source of the money by tracking the transactions and drawing the attention of the bank to any suspicious wrongdoings that may be detected in the process. As such, the bank can take action to address the problem to support the reduction of financial crimes and prevent any threats that may affect the reputation of the bank and the banking sector in general.

For its worth, RPA is cost-effective to implement in banks. The RPA software via its automation tasks reduces the cost involved in carrying out banking activities in comparison to the cost involved in paying humans to undertake those activities. All that is needed is its setup and programming to perform the functions it is supposed to do, which is easy to do. As a result, the monies saved from using RPA can be used by the banks to undertake other banking projects.

One of the main factors behind the success or financial growth of banks is the full commitment of employees towards their jobs. This can, however, be non-present in the workplace when there is a huge workload on the employees on a continuous daily basis. RPA indirectly provides a solution to this problem by taking some of the heavy workload placed on bank employees which in effect boosts their morale in the workplace to enable them to perform their jobs diligently.

In contrast to humans, the RPA is designed to be free of errors. RPA, with its automation processes, properly functions with the absence of any mistakes surrounding customer and financial data collection which are normally associated with human “labor” and sometimes prove to be costly when it affects data analysis and affecting decision making. RPA takes care of all of these issues and makes sure that there are no discrepancies associated with the banks’ service rendering and operations of the bank.

Jayson is a senior staff writer at Impact Tactics. He writes about AI, RPA and emerging technologies and the opportunities and challenges implementation brings.