Harnessing the power of low-code automation in financial services

Harnessing the power of low-code automation in financial services

By: Luke Thomas, Regional Vice President APAC at Appian


While the pandemic gave organisations no choice but to embrace remote working, for many financial services organisations, the digital transformation journey goes far beyond the use of video conferencing apps for team meetings.

As part of a recent industry event exploring new and innovative ways to transform business, senior leaders from across the APAC financial services met to share their thoughts on what has been a challenging, yet transformative, 18 months for the banking world.

As part of Appian’s APJ virtual event, clients ANZ, Bendigo Bank and UnionBank of the Philippines were joined by a partner at KPMG to share their thoughts on breaking down silos, simplifying processes and scaling up services to improve customer experience.

For Australia-based multinational banking and financial services provider ANZ, the pandemic sped up the need to automate. “Although we were already seeing a trend towards automating, once COVID hit, the automation and tracking of processes were at the forefront of our thinking,” Bryn Pender, Workflow Delivery Manager at ANZ says.

It’s a similar story for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – as Ben Boase, Service Owner Workflow & Robotics at the retail bank explains, the shift in remote working led to an acceleration of its digital transformation journey.

“As we no longer have the ability to physically communicate with someone in the office, it’s become increasingly important to have an automated and digitised audit trail of who’s done what, when they’ve done it, and what the success of each step in the process was,” Ben says.

The pace of digitisation has been even higher in the Philippines during the pandemic, points out Ronaldo Jose M. Puno, Senior Vice President, Head of Solutions Delivery at UnionBank. This is because despite being the third-largest economy in Southeast Asia, 71% of the country’s 72 million adult population remain unbanked in the Philippines.[i]

“The large majority of our population still deals in cash. But when the pandemic froze people’s movements, there was a need to pay wages and to send money to loved ones. This forced people to adopt digital banking solutions at record pace,” Ron says. 

Simplify, simplify, simplify 

As part of their digital transformation journey, we usually find our financial services customers begin to quickly experience the most benefits and efficiencies when they unify a range of technologies on a single platform, such as a low-code automation platform.

At Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Ben says utilising and unifying automation and robotics has led to a 40 per cent reduction in administrative work for the bank. “By building a process using the Appian platform, we’ve been able bring disparate processes together and centralise a lot of the admin work,” he says.

For ANZ, Bryn previously felt there were a number of silos across the business. “Historically we would have a certain solution to fulfil a particular function – whether that be risk management, collateral management, etc. But with low-code solutions such as Appian, we can fill the gaps between these core systems. If we have a use-case that doesn’t fit with a particular system we have, we can use low-code solutions to deliver this use-case at speed – this is really exciting for us,” he says.

Three years ago, UnionBank’s digital roadmap consisted of 50 different capabilities, enabled by up to 75 different technology solutions. But with the use of  a low-code platform, Ron says UnionBank’s technology stack now consists of five different platforms that build 85-90 per cent of the workflows and processes for the bank.

“We had to rethink our entire digital technology roadmap. We no longer needed to purchase 75 different technologies, and this dramatically reduced our overall cost and total cost of ownership over time. Secondly, this reduced and simplified the potential technical debt we would be acquiring,” Ron explains.

Speed, agility and collaboration 

Low-code automation platforms not only simplify processes, they also speed them up – this helped financial organisations be flexible and agile as demand and regulations were drastically changing during COVID-19.
“With low-code platforms, there’s no question in terms of the benefit of being able to think up, design and roll out a new process or workflow in a matter of days or weeks as opposed to months,” Ron says.

UnionBank has had great success utilising ow-code automation to transform its loans business and successfully transformed a three-week manual process into a five-minute digitised process.

“This process includes providing digital platforms to capture information on a mobile device at retail branches rather than a paper-based process. We also used Appian to automate a lot of the easier aspects of the application by creating our own internal rules so that we can approve elements of the application instantly,” Ron explains.

These efficiencies not only create a much more positive customer experience, but also have major financial benefits. “After we improved this process, we’re now able to reduce our backlog of applications and our output is at a much greater rate than our input. We’re able to process those loans and make more money because we have achieved the potential revenue that was stuck in the backlog,” Ron says.

Similarly, low-code automation provided Bendigo and Adelaide Bank with the ability to adapt quickly to rising market demands.

“In response to the pandemic, the Australian government mandated the provision of loans with certain conditions to small to medium enterprises. In the space of one to two weeks, we were able to utilise the Appian platform to deliver a workflow solution that helped a very small team manage an incredibly huge influx of new inquiries,” Ben says.

In an industry that features a very high level of compliance and regulations, as well as partnerships with other financial services organisations, rapid adaptability is a crucial factor.

“We have a lot of subsidiary companies and some of them have heard about the success that we’ve had in Appian and have also made investments to use Appian as a platform. Here we can basically zip up the Appian application and give it to them. We’re able to just provide it to them, and because they have a much easier starting point, they can just go ahead and customise it however they need,” Ron explains.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank are also leveraging the capabilities of low-code technology to enable better relationships, workflows and communications with third parties.

“We’ve built some applications that look after the post-settlement processing area of a lot of our loan applications. We’ve been able to build some applications that we expose externally to some of our mortgage broker network and to panel solicitors. That’s really enabled us to improve our processes and reduce our overheads,” Ben says.

What’s next for financial services tech?

While there have been huge strides in digital transformation and the utilisation of technologies such as low-code automation over the past 18 months, for many financial services organisations, this is just the beginning of the journey.

Historically, regulators have slowed down the acceleration of change and technological advances in the financial services sector, but according to Ben, there has been a shift in attitudes recently – especially with regards to the benefits of cloud technology.

“We implemented Appian back in 2014, so our platform is currently on-premise. Over the last three to four years, we’ve seen our organisation pursue a cloud-first strategy and I think this is where we will see this continue to go,” Ben says.

Ron references a similar experience and says that a few years ago the Philippines Central Bank was very apprehensive about cloud solutions. But with cloud providers like Google and AWS investing millions of dollars into the security of their systems, organisations are now acknowledging that data stored on cloud solutions is much safer than on-premise platforms.

In terms of other future priorities, Bryn at ANZ says low-code automation offers the opportunity to harness speed and Ben from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank sees further opportunity to simplify and modernise processes with low-code automation.

Looking to the future, Ron says UnionBank is focused on two things: hyperpersonalisation and hyperscale. He says as low-code technology provides the ability to scale and increase volume very quickly and efficiently when unanticipated peaks in demand occur, the Appian platform will play a vital role in delivering on these objectives.

To watch the discussion in full, visit: www.appian.com/content/events/apj/en.html.

[i] Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey https://www.bsp.gov.ph/Inclusive Finance/Financial Inclusion Reports and Publications/2019/2019FISToplineReport.pdf