For the Financial Services Industry to Thrive Post-COVID-19, Automation Will be Key

  • Anubhav Mehrotra, VP and Head of Infrastructure and Cloud Services for Financial Services at HCL Technologies

  • 22.01.2021 08:00 pm
  • COVID-19 , Automation

The economic challenges emerging in COVID-19’s wake are sending shockwaves across the financial services industry. Right now, the general feeling is that the most significant impact on financial institutions is operational. Retail banks everywhere are assessing ways to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on daily functions, implementing work from home protocols and testing new business continuity plans by investing heavily in digital transformation.

As shown in a recent McKinsey report, we jumped five years forward in digital adoption in just eight weeks since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. Within a matter of weeks, banks transitioned to remote sales and launched digital solutions for flexible loan and mortgage payments, as well as for customer service.

It’s no surprise that financial institutions are turning to automation as part of this move – and they’re not just doing this for the cost reductions. In fact, they have started tapping into a vast array of benefits, including increased speed to market and operational efficiency, a superior user experience, agility and improvement in customer service.

Automation will also enable financial organisations to complete critical business procedures with greater accuracy than manual processing. For financial leaders, the time saved by automation can also be reallocated to higher-value efforts, such as improving customer service and focusing on the growth of the organisation.

Which core areas can automation benefit most?

Understanding the need to automate is one thing, but identifying specifically which processes to apply automation is another. It’s important to think about which particular processes have been most affected by COVID-19, and deploy targeted solutions accordingly.

Key areas where automation can address problems experienced by banks include:

  1. Digital migration in retail banks – With retail banks forced to reduce footfall in their physical branches, many have already set up procedures and strategies for a completely digital environment. The customer onboarding, sales and support can be handled through the bank’s app, website and email channels. For some banks, this is a massive digital migration of activities, and so automation using machine learning can establish a mechanism to support it, increasing efficiency and removing manual processing once the opportunities have been identified.
  2. Personalisation – Financial services organisations will have to prioritise customer experience in the coming months, so that users remain loyal in a world where the digital marketplace continues to heat up. Hyper-personalisation can help by delivering targeted features and advice for customers based on real-time data. Additionally, automated AI solutions such as analytics can remove friction across sales and service journeys, weaving through data to uncover actionable insights on the ever-changing customer behaviour.
  3. Automation of critical processes – With the majority of operations teams adjusting to working from home while still having to provide many vital services for customers, using digital analytics to automate core processes can take the load off of employees. Tasks ripe for automation include risk monitoring, scanning for information security threats and flagging them if they arise, and processing loan applications.

Putting your money where your mouth is

Once financial services organisations have identified the areas where automation should be deployed, the next step is to identify the best tools for the job. Many have turned to virtual assistants, which are laying the foundations for automation for a range of digital enterprises.

Mimicking human interactions, virtual assistants rely on NLP (natural language processing) and machine learning to interact with consumers in the way they prefer. This helps reduce human error and improve productivity, cutting service desk costs considerably. This is essential at any given time, but during COVID-19 when financial operations have become more digitised than ever before, organisations have reported an uptick in customer queries. Delivering real-time and relevant answers to these queries has therefore never being more important – and with their ability to scale and communicate across multiple channels, virtual assistants hold great promise.  

A more automated future

If one thing’s for certain at the moment, it’s that all industries must continue adapting their practices to the changing situation – and financial services is no different. The transformative power of automation has enabled many financial institutions to keep the lights on for millions of customers around the world, but to keep these customers, these efforts must continue over the coming weeks and months ahead, or customers will be lost. By digitally migrating, offering more personalised services, automating core processes and capitalising on the potential of virtual assistants, finance organisations can ensure they can continue supporting customers during COVID-19 and beyond.

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