FS Leaders vs. Laggards: How Automation Can Offer a Competitive Advantage

  • Guy Mettrick, Global Financial Services Industry Lead at Appian

  • 15.02.2022 02:45 pm
  • #Automation

Over the last few years, the pace of change within the financial services industry has accelerated in terms of the variety of services available to customers and the technology supporting them. As disruptors grow in prominence, traditional banking groups are increasingly threatened.

According to a new study produced by Appian in collaboration with Longitude, a Financial Times company, the biggest factor that separates the ‘leaders’ from the ‘laggards’ is the extent to which they’ve adopted automation technologies. Market leaders often stand out for their efficiency, nimbleness, and ability to adapt to offer new products - all hallmarks of automation excellence.

Why is automation so important?

Imagine two banks, each looking to maintain their datasets and update missing information to comply with regulation. One creates an app that regularly scans and identifies missing data, compiles a report and customer communications automatically to request for additional information. The same intelligent app can also read and classify customer responses for follow-up actions, flags unusual entries for the customer services team to investigate further. The other bank asks the customer services team to manually identify missing data, chase up customers, and enter the data by hand, risking errors in the process.

The gap between these approaches is stark, yet they come from real process examples. Automation makes a marked difference to a business by introducing speed, accuracy and efficiency. It reduces the workload of valued customer-facing staff while resulting in better quality outputs that help meet the increasing demands of compliance.

The study involved 500 global C-level executives whose organisations can be categorised into 'Leaders' (using sophisticated automation), 'Laggards' (who are failing to gain value from automation), and the 'Mainstream' (everyone else). Almost all Leaders derive cost savings and competitive advantage from their automation investments.

Unification is key

When different functions and departments become aware of automation opportunities, there is the risk that these efforts are siloed across the organisation — without any centralised coordination. This can lead to wasted resources, a proliferation of systems and platforms, preventing truly end-to-end process automation that spans multiple departments.

Looking at the Mainstream group in the research, 67% of people are achieving some degree of cost savings from automation, while only 49% use automation to add a competitive advantage. Double the percentage of Leaders reported a competitive advantage gain at 98%. Businesses should ensure that they have a joined-up approach - an enterprise-wide automation strategy or centre of excellence – as this can make a massive difference.

Innovate to differentiate

Although there’s no single route to guaranteed automation success, the research demonstrates that the most unified, complete views of automation across an organisation reap the greatest benefits. From customer experience to employee satisfaction and the future of the enterprise, the ability to integrate people, AI, RPA, databases, workflows and systems on a low-code platform can reduce risk while supporting change management and compliance. 

Within the financial services industry, competition is fierce between heritage players and new tech disruptors. Those with the upper hand and competitive advantage are those that invest in automation for agility, business strategy and long-term success.

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