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Intelligent Operations


Smart End-to-End Operations in Private Wealth

AI and Robotics are an everyday reality, and here to stay. They are not the predicted ‘apocalypse’, but have not become the alternative ‘nirvana' yet. As we observe trends in the area and try to adapt strategies to the rapid technological innovation, we are reminded of the need for a single view of operations as an end-to-end concept, something that crosses functional boundaries and occurs anywhere and everywhere in the business. What are the trends and their impact on operations?

The Unstoppable March of the Robo

Automating routine, repetitive processes with RPA is nothing new, albeit financial services were not among the early adopters. Even conservative Private Wealth is already well aware of the potential and a number of firms are deploying robotic solutions, some reaping early benefits. As more and more firms discover more use cases (processes occupying unjustified human effort and time) and automate them with RPA tools, two legitimate questions start popping up:

Wasn’t this supposed to be automated natively in the first place? Aren’t these robots just ‘patches’, fixing suboptimal systems and applications and if we upgrade to a modern, state-of-the-art platform, will it not bring all automation already embedded?

Sure, modern systems do by default much of what we task RPA with, however (a) they are a heavy investment, and (b) take years to implement. Meanwhile RPA costs thousands, rather than millions and takes just weeks to implement. We can reap immediate benefits and continue profiting all the time while we prepare for the investment, selection and implementation of a brand-new core system.

Is this all there is? Can RPA go a step further?

Robotic automation is already moving forward as we speak. Cognitive robotic solutions are becoming more common and different types and levels of machine learning are used to make the routine automatic processing more intelligent. Within the automated workflows it is now possible to see AI deployed in decision points, to make the process more agile, adaptive and effective than simple rules-based scripting. And there will be more coming, hence our emphasis on the intelligent keyword.

Is Your Business Really Intelligent?
The tired cliché 'intelligent enterprise’ has a long history of reinventing itself. From humble beginnings implying human intelligence (advanced process design and re-engineering, staffing businesses with knowledge workers and the early entry of IT), it grew big with the advent of database technology and 'Business Intelligence’ became a technology label in the 90s and early 21st century. In search of a 'next big thing’ it was replaced by the Big Data hype. Just as data science took centre stage and intelligence became a real possibility, the whole trend remained rather data-centric, serving the classical model of turning data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into value-creating human decisions. Now AI is finally changing all this by enabling technology to actually make decisions and intelligently run processes.

A challenge in adopting AI is that it exists in a multitude of forms and proliferating solutions. It is not easy to identify and prioritise use cases, and practically unsound to design roadmaps for enterprise-wide deployment. As ‘piecemeal’ as it may seem, localised implementation of separate point solutions is more likely to succeed and, over time, provide insight for a strategic direction. Specific applications may vary from, e.g. ID verification (in onboarding) to asset allocation, and from Siri/Alexa-style front-end interactions to deeply predictive and prescriptive fraud prevention. It is important to stay aware of latest technology capabilities and encourage the business (rather than IT) to come up with the candidate use cases for piloting. With time, confidence and appetite will grow but early adopters will have a competitive edge.

Operations... What Operations?
No textbook has defined it this way, but it is widely believed that, especially in information-intensive service industries, operations allegedly belong in the back-office. That, for many, is the equivalent of physical factory floors and production lines. Facing customers, interacting with them and delivering the core service (the raison d'être of the firm) ... 'just happens’ but it's often not seen as 'operations’. It is time to recognise the end-to-end nature of Operations (capital intended) and harmonise their evolution across the enterprise.

In search of efficiency and productivity, operating models in the sector have seen their own evolution through standardisation and 'industrialisation’, to functional cost arbitration, to complete process outsourcing. The case for BPO in Private Wealth remains strong, but the emerging trend of broader AI adoption is offering new levels of business benefits. AI can add value on the firm’s or the outsourcer’s side (or both) by smart automation of some decisions, but even more - by radically augmenting human capability for creative problem solving and building new value.

To know more about Intelligent Operations please register your interest for our upcoming Fifth Senior Executives Forum below:

Daniele Concari
Associate Partner
 Daniele Concari
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