As I was reading this survey from PwC’s website called “What PwC’s 2017 survey tells us about RPA in financial services today,” along with several Gartner reports, it inspired me to share my views on how Ephesoft fits into the narrative.

RPA in financial services today

2017 and the first half of 2018 have witnessed a wide adoption of RPA in the financial services industry.

According to PwC’s 2017 survey, a growing number of financial institutions have implemented or are in the process of implementing RPA. The data shows that operations, Finance and IT are the biggest beneficiaries. Additionally, Gartner predicts that “by 2020, 20% of organizations that used RPA will have replaced it with another tool, either for a lower total cost of process or improved straight-through processing.” Their research validates that growing trend of incorporating RPA into digital transformation processes, along with new vendor RPA entrants into the space, forcing costs and barriers to entry down. Gartner’s research also supports that the financial service industry will be drawn to RPA tools to cut costs and make an impact on helping both loan applicants and account openings by offering better customer service.In fact, the “2017 CEB Gartner 2017 Financial Services Technology Adoption and Investment Survey results indicated that more than 60% of financial institutions are using or plan to use RPA during the next 12 to 24 months.” (Source: Gartner) RPA technology enhances the customer journey, improving transactional experiences like making deposits, payments and trades as well as relational experiences such as event-driven activities like new account opening and other account services.

The PwC survey also shares best practices for successful implementations of this impressive technology. Average ROI seems to be around 14 months but can be as low as 6 months while others don’t see the benefits until 24 months.

RPA is extremely effective as a point solution for enterprise users who needs to automate repetitive tasks on their computers using combination of keyboard, monitor and mouse. Gartner’s foundational research report Robotic Process Automation: Eight Guidelines for Effective Results states that, “processes that are most suited for RPA have a high transaction throughput of structured digitized data, with relatively fixed processing paths and/or user interfaces, which do not change frequently, and are rule-based activities.” With most organizations reporting that 80% of their data is unstructured, this presents a large problem for incorporating RPA tools.

Why IPA (Intelligent Process Automation) instead of RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

The vast amount of unstructured data is why organizations need to look at IPA, or Intelligent Process Automation. Organizations must “feed” or onramp their RPA systems with a comprehensive set of structured data, which is exactly what IPA solutions encompass.

PwC’s survey indicates that RPA is in its early stages and it has a great potential to do much more than just repeating something without intelligence. The rise of AI and machine learning (no, we’re not even close to SkyNet yet, so don’t panic) will push RPA to mainstream practices soon, which is why some vendors are developing and adapting IPA. Intelligent robots will learn from users’ prior decisions to auto-adjust themselves. It will be harder to implement these new robots at first but that will ease off eventually.

The PwC survey states, “We’re also seeing a bigger push towards broader orchestration, integrating business process management, OCR (optical character recognition), NLP (natural language processing), and other technologies, enabling an overall digital back office.” While I agree OCR, NLP and digital back office are critical to business process automation, it is not enough to only use OCR to scan a document, which is different than extracting invoice amounts and payment due from an international invoice. The difference between two $/£/€/¥/₳ amounts might cost the entire ROI of the project. Organizations must extract the relevant data into structured environments in order to avoid mistakes and enhance RPA solutions into intelligent platforms.

How Ephesoft fits into RPA

At Ephesoft, we live and breathe these terms with every project. The result of this innovative digital transformation is helping us develop great partnerships with RPA vendors like Blue Prism and UiPath so that we can bring IPA to our clients today – especially in accounts payable, insurance, mortgage, account onboarding, KYC and trade finance. Our RPA partners know that we have perfected using OCR and NLP for metadata extraction using our supervised machine learning algorithms. We have already enabled hundreds of enterprise customers for digital transformation using our multi-channel service that spans from mobile cameras to fax machines to email inboxes using our out-of-the-box connectors or through OpenAPI Web Services.

RPA vendors recognize the need to partner with Ephesoft, so they can focus on making their robots AI-powered, while Ephesoft focuses on bringing AI and supervised machine learning-powered technology to turn unstructured content into actionable data. The combination of both capabilities empowers RPA/IPA vendors to provide a complete solution by streamlining and automating the full business process.

According to PwC’s survey, such use cases were in reconciliations, customer onboarding, KYC and trade reporting. These use cases are part of Ephesoft’s core competencies. We turn invoices and shipping manifests that comes in PDF format into data so that RPA can reconcile the data with purchase orders in ERP systems for accounts payable (AP) departments. We turn the data from passports and driver’s licenses into structured, spreadsheets so that an RPA tool can read them.

By turning high-volume and unstructured content into data, Ephesoft’s platform enables RPA to shine and quickly automate many business processes. Without Ephesoft’s content capture platform, workers still need to manually key in the data. Therefore, Ephesoft can help you recognize ROI in only a few months, rather than 14 months when it’s used with RPA technology.

Contact us to learn more about how Ephesoft can help boost your RPA platform or help drive IPA to your organization.