The Infosys Finacle – Efma report on retail banking mentions that 53% of the banks feel that pervasive automation will be one of the key drivers for digital transformation in the coming year. While this makes a good case on behalf of automation, the foremost question on everyone’s mind at the moment is, how are technologies like automation along with artificial intelligence, will impact the workforce.

This new wave of automation will free up the workforce from mundane and repetitive tasks, and enable them to focus on adding innovations to the business value chain. The first wave of automation belonged to simple workflow automation, with flexible rule-based processing that spanned across multiple departments. Next was robotic automation for some applications that were part of a larger process, and this needed some amount of human support. With these automation systems in place, a lot of the tedious business processes within an organization were streamlined, and the amount of busy work for the workforce was reduced. This in turn resulted in an improvement in efficiency and performance and brought down staffing issues and expenses.

Now that the processes were streamlined and human intervention was reduced, the next wave is the era of self-learning machines. These machines learn automatically as they execute processes and modify business rules to become smarter. As these machines learn and make processes more efficient, they enable businesses to provide a more consistent experience to their customers. Cognitive machines that can learn and act are already implemented in the financial services sector to provide financial advice and security against fraud. With time, these cognitive machines will leverage the data gathered from customers to provide them with financial advice and help banks to innovate their value chain.

Automation will not be limited to just within the organization, but in this open ecosystem banks will use blockchain as an enabler for inter-organizational automation. This will be the driver for banks to act as a value aggregator for the consumers and their partners. 2017 will be the year where machines and humans will work in tandem for better business outcomes.

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