Just as robots have been performing routine, repetitive tasks on the floors of factories for decades, that same concept is now being applied to the financial industry with tremendous results. Intelligent process automation (IPA), powered by AI and machine learning technologies, promises to revolutionize how financial organizations operate, maximizing efficiency, cutting costs and ensuring optimal service levels.
This advanced technology has the potential to transform just about every area of the finance function. In particular, IPA will enable finance professionals to make the critical shift from transactional to strategic.
When rote, manual tasks are automated, skilled finance experts will spend less of their time running reports and performing provisional data analyses. Instead, they will be able to quickly and easily gather and analyze the essential data they need to enhance performance and deliver better support. No longer bogged down with busy-work, these experts will have the time to engage with other lines of business and deliver the forward-thinking guidance that leadership needs to pursue new opportunities.
Let’s take a look at a few real-life examples of how intelligent process automation can be applied in financial institutions.
A good portion of today’s accounting teams spend far too much time performing manual reconciliations across a variety of systems. At the enterprise level, this can involve thousands or tens of thousands of individual transactions across multiple systems, both internal and external.
In reality, many of the mismatches found in reconciliations actually follow similar patterns. For instance, an entry was made twice in error or someone accidentally keyed in a negative sign instead of a positive. Intelligent process automation is capable of not only recognizing these patterns, but also identifying the issue at hand and correcting it. In many cases, this can be done without the need for any human input.
Some estimates indicate that up to 80% of these simple reconciliation tasks can be automated, freeing up skilled staff to focus their efforts on the smaller percentage that are more complex or require human judgment.
For most corporations, the end of the month or quarter is a stressful time that requires all hands on deck to handle the financial close. This process typically involves a number of different systems, multiple finance teams and several lines of business, there are a multitude of dependencies that require tracking and management. For instance, certain accounts cannot be closed until all related sub-accounts are closed by the subsidiaries.
Intelligent process automation can alleviate much of this complexity by:
- Automatically tracking the status of completed tasks across multiple systems
- Automatically initiating close processes upon completion of dependent tasks
- Updating the close calendar to provide visibility into the status of the financial close process
Financial Planning & Analysis
FP&A is another complex but necessary process eating up a significant portion of time, particularly for senior executives. It involves creating and approving budgets, analyzing spend, managing those budgets, etc. With IPA, routine budget requests that follow a common pattern don’t need to be signed off on. Instead, only unfamiliar or unusual requests will require review and approval.
Prior to submitting a request for executive approval, the intelligent process automation platform can analyze the pattern (i.e. dollar amount, similar requests that were made in the past, etc.). If it determines that similar requests received 100% approval in the past, the software can automatically process the approval without the need for human intervention. If an anomoly is detected, it can reroute to an executive for manual review.
PwC predicts that by 2020, financial services organization will begin to ramp up their AI adoption, streamlining operations and re-shoring jobs. And given the tremendous benefits intelligent process automation has to offer, it’s obvious why.