The humanitarian crisis and economic slowdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is having a heavy impact on personal finances and re-shaping the way that people work. These factors, among others, could change the way that banks and credit unions operate going forward.
Before COVID-19 emerged, these institutions were already experiencing increasing consumer expectations and competition from non-traditional, digitally-enabled financial institutions. Banks and credit unions were already expected to harness technology in new ways to serve people better and faster.
Now, due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, these organizations are under even more pressure to operate as efficiently and flexibly as possible – to stretch resources, enable remote and contactless operations, and adapt swiftly to new market demands.
Ideally, this unprecedented time of volatility and disruption could be viewed as an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation initiatives. Now is the time for banks and credit unions to think innovatively and use the digital tools at their disposal to operate smarter while helping employees, customers and members to cope with new challenges and uncertainty.
Where to begin?
Modern digital technology has made the containment and social distancing measures during the pandemic more tolerable—supporting business continuity and allowing banks and credit unions to continue providing essential financial services.
While most organizations agree that strategic digital transformation has many positive outcomes, the concept in itself can be daunting. Even though 87% of companies believe that technology adoption can re-shape their industries, only 44% are prepared for potential digital disruption.
For some, choosing the most relevant tools and technologies can be a major obstacle that prevents these organizations from moving beyond the initial planning phase. Forty-five percent of executives think their companies do not have the right technology in place to implement digital transformation.
Outlined below are five steps that your organization can take to address these and other challenges.
1. Let your goals guide you
Before you can identify the most appropriate tools to transform your processes, evaluate your goals and let these guide your technology investments.
For example, as a credit union, a key objective may be to remain competitive and relevant as members’ needs and expectations evolve. Members may expect similar modern, personalized customer experiences from credit unions as those they are receiving from insurers and other service providers.
Additionally, providing your workforce with the tools to be more productive and efficient will allow your credit union to do more with less and provide more value to your members.
2. Identify transformation opportunities
Many businesses struggle to articulate and define the processes they want to modernize, or even battle to identify labor-intensive manual process components that could be digitized and automated.
Rather than relying on outdated process discovery approaches such as consulting and documentation, you can use a more digitally enabled route to gain a clear understanding of your current processes. For instance, readily-available process mining or process extraction tools can help you to digitally map out current processes using artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capabilities to analyze your operational event logs. This allows you to quickly identify areas for improvement and prioritize processes for digital transformation.
3. Combine technologies to achieve intelligent process automation
Many organizational processes are heavily manual and reliant on outdated content management approaches, such as sharing spreadsheets and documents over email. This way of working is not only inefficient but also reduces the quality of data accessibility and visibility. In this environment, people often waste time searching for up-to-date information or keying in data in multiple repositories, which also increases the risk of human error.
With this in mind, it’s prudent to aim for end-to-end process digitization, from the front office to the back office. In order to comprehensively change the way work is done and achieve important business goals such as improved customer satisfaction and operational performance, it’s necessary to think beyond just one technology approach.
Rather than a single tool, you could opt for a toolkit of complementary technologies that integrate well with each other, as well as legacy systems and on-premises architectures. Modern solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA), digital process automation (DPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be brought together to create a powerful intelligent automation framework that solves a wide range of process problems and accelerates change.
Ideally, given how fast circumstances can change, credit unions and banks would be wise to opt for technologies that support agile and continual digital transformation, as well as an opportunity to adopt new tools into the framework as these become viable, to maintain a competitive edge.
4. A strategic, phased approach
Once you have more clarity on the technology solutions you want to adopt to transform your processes, you can establish a phased digital transformation roadmap for your institution. This way, you can ensure that every technology you invest in and every process you digitize is aligned with your broader organizational goals in mind.
The ideal approach is to plan incremental steps towards your objectives so that you are always moving forward in the right direction, yet also have the agility to adjust your priorities and tools as the landscape evolves or your needs change. This will ensure you always align resources, people and process changes around current and future technology investments, to maximize ROI.
5. Use AI to augment human expertise
A range of AI capabilities are now more accessible, thanks to advances in this multi-disciplinary technology field. These include:
- Machine learning – which enables systems to ‘learn’ from experience, identify patterns and make predictions without being programmed to do so.
- Optical character recognition – which enables automation solutions like RPA bots to extract meaning from unstructured content such as images, scanned documents and emails.
- Natural language processing – which enables RPA bots to understand and synthesize natural language communications, both text- and voice-based.
These capabilities can, for example, be combined to augment chatbots and create intelligent virtual assistants that can interact with credit union members or banking customers 24/7, answering routine queries and executing simple processes. This helps to relieve skilled personnel from the most monotonous, time-consuming work so they can focus their uniquely human skills—such as emotional intelligence and professional knowledge—on more complex cases, or priority accounts.
Take it to the next level
When you combine technologies to digitally transform processes, you can also easily identify operational bottlenecks and areas for further improvement. This allows you to carry out multiple process fixes across your organization—amplifying your ability to enhance productivity, reduce risk and deliver a streamlined experience to customers or members.
Additionally, in regulated industries, automation helps to support compliance by reducing human error and ensuring processes are executed consistently every time. The systems you use will also automatically log every process step, providing a clear audit trail should you ever need to demonstrate how work was done and decisions were made.
Paving the path for intelligent automation
In the current environment, people need efficient and secure tools to work from wherever they are, as well as seamlessly transition between devices when necessary. Digital transformation powered by intelligent automation can make virtual working arrangements as well as contactless service delivery possible now and in the coming months.
Investing in technology to power new ways of working and serving people requires time and money. However, with a long-term plan and an intelligent combination of technologies, you can put your credit union, bank or other institution in a position to respond more rapidly to change, achieve more with less and continue adding value through turbulent times—and beyond.