Expert: Chris Thorne, Senior Solution Consultant at SS&C Blue Prism Facilitator: Gilly Green, Managing Partner at FoxRed Insight
High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) expect their wealth management firms to use technology to provide faster response times and enhance operational efficiency. Indeed, the vast majority think technology should and could positively affect client relationships. But it is also known that around two-thirds of a wealth manager’s time is spent on non-client interactions.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is essential to embed within a business to power automation and efficiency – particularly in a very manual industry. Thus, identifying areas for automation and looking at the art of the possible is needed to maximise efficiencies and automation, provide structure, monitoring, and continuous improvement over time.
This is rapidly moving beyond a nice to have and more of a must have because unless a business can get past being bogged down by administrative tasks, they cannot provide value to clients and within wealth management, value is everything.
One of the biggest efficiency challenges is that, within wealth management, many processes rely on third- party data. The issue is that if the quality or timeliness of that data is substandard, then that impacts the efficiency of any downstream processes.
“We had a process that was heavily reliant on third-party data, and the amount of chasing and verifying that we had to do made the whole automation process so much harder to the extent that we had to question whether it was a worthwhile process to go through in the first place.”
Thus, RPA can provide process automation and drive efficiency, leading to operational efficiency and better service levels to customers. But can it ever be used to replace humans?
“We want to get rid of all these agents in this call centre because we think robots can do it better. And over time, technology starts to grow and become a bit more intelligent, albeit we still need recourse to human beings for the more complex stuff.”
It was thought that the obvious examples of where RPA could help include the fact-finding process or the client-reporting process. Indeed, if the firm can find specific processes to use automation to drive efficiency, it can identify the value the RPA provides in delivering the client experience backed by the assistant.
“Firms should not automate just because it is possible to do so. Instead, the need is to think carefully about what to automate and make it a value decision based on both cost saving and growth.”
The key is to understand what the end objective is and what feeds into that end objective; that is the point to work back from. Taking client onboarding as an example, the various steps involved in getting a new client into the system are lengthy and cumbersome. For example, some clients still use paper documents, but could the system accept scanned signed letters or is a digital signature software required? Could email boxes be managed automatically, and documents retrieved and sent to the onboarding team? The end point is clearly better and swifter onboarding, but there are numerous facets to that overall process, and so is the granular view of what needs to change and why.
“Suppose you automate your core processes as much as possible. In that case, it gives you a foundation for execution that you can then build and scale out because everything you do at the core is done efficiently, and you can focus on everything else.”
Monitoring is also important to further drive business processes forward with the aim of having continual improvement to initial implementations. This could include identifying where bottlenecks are now appearing and applying further automation to that particular part of a process.
In this way, the adviser is freed up to deliver on the relationship and provide value. However, there was also discussion on whether a tipping point would come where the clients are happy and comfortable with all the technologies that are currently coming to the fore, and whether this would render the adviser extinct.
“In the not-too-distant future, the client will start to trust the technology and rely on the AI for the advice and the expert knowledge, and the role of the adviser will need to change and evolve if they are to survive.”
Returning to the initial point, the participants agreed that while RPA is undoubtedly useful, not everything that can be automated should be. Indeed, to try and identify the end objectives, the steps to be taken in achieving that, and the difficulty of measuring and monitoring along the way to ensure those objectives are achieved is considered key.
This is even more important given the industry’s rapid evolution. But the role of the adviser is also evolving, as are the range of technologies now available to support in the quest to provide enhanced customer experience.
- The industry spends too much time on administrative tasks and not enough on building the client relationship and improving their experience
- Providing a different experience, whether through online portals or other tools, helps to streamline processes and unify operations to provide a whole end-to-end journey
- Efficiency is fast moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’ if the wealth manager is going to provide value.
- The industry is generally at the early stages of technology adoption
- A deconstruction exercise is needed to determine what the technology can and cannot do. And to see where the limitations reside and whether the solution is tactical, having a short burst of activity to resolve something once and for all. Or whether to go down the strategic line of managing something on an ongoing basis