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How to emerge as a digital leader post COVID-19

Jun 26, 2020 / Digital Banking

Financial institutions relied on intelligent technology to maintain customer service and find innovative ways to keep their operations running amidst social distancing, stay-at-home orders and decreased physical operations resulting from COVID-19 restrictions. Now financial institutions need to ensure their technology also empowers them to emerge from the pandemic period as leaders.

Two strategies can make the biggest impact as banks use AI-enabling technology to better manage the unprecedented volumes of customer content and processes. It involves making better use of content and choosing the right systems for automation.

Rethink how to effectively leverage your data and process

Among the biggest challenges that banks have encountered since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is finding ways to effectively, quickly and accurately handle large volumes of content from SBA PPP application and forgiveness programs, refinancings and more. This has necessitated re-examining processes, pivoting workflows and re-evaluating how technology is utilized throughout the organization.

Banks need to automatically extract context, intent and meaning from documents. This is usually achieved by integrating AI technologies such as machine learning, optical character recognition (OCR), and natural language processing (NLP) into business-critical workflows. When banks leverage advanced platforms that understand content and detect changes in behaviors (whether customer behaviors or operational), they can pinpoint patterns within processes that delay customer service responses and impact delivery of service.

Having a better understanding of content and processes supports compliance initiatives and helps banks avoid hefty fines and losses from fraud. One single document – an identification document, a W-2 form or proof of residence – contains data that needs to be extracted for systems of record, for critical decision-making and for detecting patterns of activity. Systems that don’t leverage content intelligence capabilities of AI, OCR and NLP are not able to progress beyond simple data extraction to more intelligent, integrated and business-critical use cases.

Thriving in the ‘now normal’ means optimizing processes and content in a manner that enhances compliance, streamlines workflows and revitalizes the customer experience.

Better prioritize automation initiatives 

For organizations across a diverse array of industries and geographic markets, the pandemic accelerated use of automation tools to maintain business continuity. This was especially true in the financial services industry, where banks accelerated adoption of automation to help process high volumes of applications and streamline other important workflows.

Leaders, however, should question automation for its own sake. Automating a broken or ineffective process doesn’t fix the process itself. Automation must be done strategically in order to be effective.

A digital transformation report from BAI published earlier this year noted that almost anything can be automated or digitized, which makes it imperative for financial leaders to sift through digital possibilities and strategically select automation initiatives that deliver the greatest value. The report further stated that while many digital solutions may make work easier and faster, it did not necessarily make these solutions transformative.

To discern which processes would benefit most from intelligent automation, complementary technologies such as process mining and content intelligence are needed. Process mining tools discover, monitor and analyze an organization’s workflows across every branch, department and system, providing a complete view of how operations are running in real time.

In fact, an ABBYY survey of senior decision-makers in the U.S. and Western Europe found that 70 percent of decision makers stated their robotic process automation (RPA) projects were more successful by using process technologies. Fixing broken processes and enhancing efficiencies before deploying automation projects helps ensure the greatest return on investment for digital transformation initiatives.

It’s important to note that platforms such as RPA cannot by themselves efficiently and accurately process unstructured content such as invoices, application forms, or free form documents. Content intelligence technologies are needed to make RPA digital workers smarter by equipping them with the cognitive skills needed to understand unstructured content. This is critical in today’s environment as banks are being required to process large collections of diverse content types, many of which were not previously a part of pre-existing workflows.

Automation tools paired with digital intelligence technologies enables true digital transformation where it matters most for banks: operational efficiencies, regulatory compliance, and the customer experience. Businesses that adopt intelligent solutions that effectively process content, streamline workflows, and optimize business-critical operations will emerge as leaders in the post COVID-19 world.


Reginald J. Twigg, Ph.D., is director of product marketing for data capture at ABBYY.