Daily Management Review

Robots And Process Automation Deployed By Banks Amid Pandemic To Handle Workload


Robots And Process Automation Deployed By Banks Amid Pandemic To Handle Workload
Robots that were built hastily helped several lenders cope with the deluge at banks that were overwhelmed with loan requests from businesses struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
During the crisis, these bots were among the many quick technology fixes that were used by banks across the industry which sharply contrasted with the slow progress made in improving technology in the past two decades top cope enhance technology even when faced with increasing competition from increased competition from fintech companies.
Even though globally banks are being forced to cut IT spending this year for the first time since 2009, according to data from IDC, due to the pandemic, the process improving technology has been accelerated by the pandemic to an extent.
"Bots allowed us to process a much higher volume of applications than we would have been able to do before. It meant the timelines didn't get longer with the massive volume," said Simon McNamara, chief administrative officer at Britain's NatWest, which has granted more than 13 billion pounds ($16.90 billion) of state-backed loans.
This pattern has been similar for banks globally wherein previously, technological changes usually took months to upgrade. These were done in a matter of days during the pandemic. 
The number of new accounts opened digitally by corporate or fund clients during March had increased by 300 per cent year on year at Citigroup with a 25 per cent rise in the number of its clients using its online and app services.
"We were seeing this trend pre-COVID but it accelerated during COVID," Naveed Sultan, Citi's C.N global head of transaction banking, said. "The traditional ways of working became almost non-existent."
But IDC research showed that some IT based projects such as large-scale customer data mining to offer more personalised services could be put in the back burner for now as banks need to set aside a budget for an uptick in loan losses due to the pandemic.
According to IDC data, it is expected that there will be a reduction of 1.7 per cent this year in global IT spend by banks at about $200 billion compared to a total global spend of $203.5 billion in 2019. And then it is expected that bank growth will slow down for the next three years even though at a slower pace.
An IDC surveys of bank executives has shown that a spike in workloads as a result of the Covid-19 crisis has forced banks to give priority to process automation.
With borrowers coming under strain, data analytics tools to speed up loan application processing and credit checking were deployed by Santander's UK division.
"We had prepared but the volume was higher than expected," Santander UK's chief technology officer Carlos Selonke told Reuters. "It's a huge focus for us, making changes to increase our velocity."
Bots to assist client advisers in handling the immense inflow of coronavirus crisis loan requests from businesses in Switzerland were developed within three days at Swiss bank UBS, said Mike Dargan, global head of group technology at UBS.
"We had four main focus areas, remote working to enable the employees at UBS, system stability, as we saw a lot of volatility, cyber security, and operations continuity," UBS's Dargan said.