My company, DBS Bank, is the largest bank in Singapore. To improve the customer experience across our operations throughout Southeast Asia, we’ve been engaged in digital transformation for some time. Our goal is to make banking invisible to our 12 million customers. Yet we still relied on some manual processes that lessened our efficiency.

Slow manual processes can lead to poor customer service. Because they are error prone, manual process can increase risk, while manual work such as fact checking paper documents increases costs and ties up human resources. And manual processes can only be scaled by hiring more employees, further impacting costs.

We needed a way to automate manual processes to improve the customer experience, increase employee productivity and reduce risk. As we’ve been expanding rapidly through acquisition, we also sought to scale process volume without adding headcount.

Applying robotic process automation

Our solution was robotic process automation, or RPA, in which software bots can emulate human execution of clearly defined, repeatable processes. Not only would RPA accelerate our processes, but it could help keep automation costs down through the reuse of developed automation objects.

As we experimented with RPA, however, we realized it could increase risk unless we standardized the automation program. Different functional groups across our geographies might use different RPA tools or incompatible procedures, raising the possibility of operational glitches. We also needed guidelines to inform business and technical staff about RPA’s applicability and limitations.

Once we understood the need for enterprise-wide RPA governance, we decided to create a center of excellence (COE), a body of intellectual property for managing the program.

For assistance in building the CoE and developing RPA applications, we selected IBM. Our reasons were IBM’s strong technical expertise and successful record of automating processes and developing transformational capabilities in the banking industry.

Starting in June 2017, IBM Global Business Services consulted on building the CoE and IBM Global Technology Services helped with RPA application development.

Achieving excellent results

The results have been game changing for DBS Bank. In a short time, we created a CoE that helps standardize, document and govern our automation program. Now we have clear guidelines on which tools and technical standards to use, when RPA is appropriate, when a process should be improved before automating, and how to manage RPA across the enterprise.

On the development side, IBM helped us automate some 100 complex business processes, freeing up 2,500 work hours that we can apply to higher-value tasks. Here’s an example of the effect on an analytical process. Money laundering analysts used to spend from 30 to 45 minutes manually gathering account and transaction data for analysis. An RPA-enabled data search takes just 15 minutes.

Having started the program in Singapore, we are extending automation to operations in Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. It’s clear that RPA moves DBS Bank closer to our goal of making banking invisible to our customers.

Watch Anand Singh Chandel discuss RPA in banking:

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