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How new RPA technology is supporting Monmouthshire Building Society customers and staff

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood June 4, 2024
Summary:
SS&C Blue Prism’s RPA technology is proving its worth for Monmouthshire Building Society

Robot with bright yellow headphones and laptop on blue background © lerbank-bbk22 - Canva.com_.png
(© lerbank-bbk22 - Canva.com)

The first two years of RPA (robotic process automation) use at Monmouthshire Building Society (MBS) has saved the organization 10,750 working hours - the equivalent of £226,000.

The mutual building society’s RPA Manager, Jack Lavington, says the figure derives from better overall internal management of workflows and a big reduction in errors and inconsistencies within data records.

The quality of the data that teams working with has improved as a result, which has meant a significant drop in the amount of time staff need to quality check documentation around customer mortgage applications, he adds.

Better data via RPA’s help has also meant the management, quality and accuracy of data input from brokers has risen from a pre-automation average of 45% to 95%, states Lavington.

Use of the software has also resulted in better fact-checking at end-of-year reporting, meaning a a much smoother process, with much less need for last-minute updating.

He adds:

By asking our colleagues to treat a new virtual worker as a human, we’re building their confidence, as they can see the quality of the output and accuracy that’s resulting.

A context of service

At the heart of the introduction of automation success is a super-helpful new member of staff - ‘Beanie.’

Onboard since January 2022 and named after one of Monmouthshire Building Society’s very first customers over 150 years ago, Beanie is the internal ‘robo-colleague’ face of MBS automation, says Lavington.

‘She’ does so by working alongside MBS frontline staff to speed up the completion of manual and repetitive tasks.

This, says the MBS RPA team, allows colleagues to focus greater time and effort on delivering a more personalized service to customers.

So far, 20 automated solutions across nine business areas are being helped by the system, which has no need for vacation or even tea-breaks.

These areas range from Finance, IT, lending operations, product, and customer contact departments, MBS reports.

For example, Beanie scans documents submitted by an applicant via the Society’s broker portal, checks it, and then pipes it into MBS’s core banking platform.

Then, ‘her’ human colleagues evaluate mortgage applications and carry out the next stages of the process, like carrying out financial checks on aspiring homeowners or other potential MBS financial services, like its retail and business savings products - or the financial planning, legal, and funeral plan services provided by partners.

Both Lavington and Beanie are doing all this in the context of the Society’s everyday business.

Active since 1869 and still headquartered in its original base of Newport, Wales, the Building Society has a network of branches and agencies across South Wales and the Southwest of England.

Monmouthshire is a ‘mutual’ - so it is owned by members, and therefore tries to re-invest profit back into the Society to benefit current and future members.

This cultural value also helped shape the role of RPA.

Lavington says: 

There were some initial fears, but over time I think people have seen that the main goal here in introducing robotics is to free up their time to really focus on providing a great service for our members.

Fewer human errors

Lavington goes on to explain the context for robotic process automation being introduced at the Society.

Colleagues were struggling to deal with a lot of workflows and work-load peaks and troughs, driven by demand spikes due to external factors like suddenly attractive market interest rates, or the launch of customer-exclusive products.

These ‘fluctuations,’ as he dubs them, were causing delays and some bottlenecks, as the organization was not able to operate the equivalent of 24x7.

He says:

We hoped automation would help in completing tasks a lot quicker, with greater accuracy, and fewer human errors.

We also wanted to look at bringing down high operational costs - looking at all the low-value but high-volume operational processes that we could automate.

Over time, that's probably changed slightly; we still want to look at those areas, but we’re now looking to tap automation to also plug gaps in our legacy system, and other tactical fixes like that.

In any case, since introducing Beanie and her automation sisters, processes now continue 12 hours a day by default.

They can also be switched to 24 if there is increased demand, he says.

Lavington says after a selection process, the chosen platform to do this was UK RPA provider Blue Prism - now SS&C Blue Prism, following its $1.6 billion acquisition in March 2022.

However, the main driver of RPA change at the organization has been IT service provider and Blue Prism delivery expert, Davies Group.

Lavington notes that this team was very effective at helping MBS transition into automation via tools like RAP possible candidate process identification.

An early win here was automating the MBS mortgage broker process.

This, says Lavington, involved seven distinct steps and handovers, and whose automation made the whole thing a lot quicker and more accurate.

Another big help from Davies Group: building up internal MBS’s competence.

Central to that was the partner’s familiarity with the so-called ‘Robotic Operating Model’ (ROM) SS&C Blue Prism uses.

This, he states, has proven so useful that the Building Society is happy to move to the latest version of the methodology - ROM 2.

Next steps

Use of Beanie will continue to grow at MBS, says Lavington.

He sees this happening in the system’s evolution from what his vendor partner calls the rise of ‘intelligent’ automation and Gartner ‘hyper’ automation - as in, the addition of AI and other technologies to drive more ‘strategic’ use of the approach.

Lavington and the rest of his RPA team are also looking at a potential ‘automation-first’ approach across the Society, as well as interest in intelligent documentation and more exploration of using RPA APIs to better link legacy information feeds.

He says MBS is also interested in machine learning and natural language understanding as the basis for potential chatbots.

Summing up, for Lavington, being able to rely on robo-colleague’s help in resolving inconsistencies in the way his organization works with customer data has improved both the overall quality of MBS’ service to its members, as well as freed up colleague time for more complex tasks.

He concludes:

People are more on board now with the robotic change and are even starting to push for more of it in their area. That’s because they can see it's not there to get rid of humans, it's more to amplify them in their role. 

And that's definitely the view and the message we are taking here.

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