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Automation in banking: 6 considerations for digital transformation

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Automation and banking have been two peas in a technological pod since the 1934 introduction of the IBM ® 801 Bank Proof machine, a check sorting machine.

Later innovations like the automated teller machine and the debit card continued the banking automation trend of digitizing analog processes. With the advent of the internet, machine learning, and cloud computing, there are still so many automation opportunities to explore. 

For instance, using AI for risk assessment, automating the classification of unstructured data, or reducing manual work can help you increase the agility of the overall organization, improve the customer experience, and get new features and products to market much more rapidly.

We’re going to explore six concepts to keep in mind for your bank’s next digital transformation project.

1. Understand the process to be automated

Knowing what you’re trying to automate is the first, most important step, and you need to think about the processes affected both up and downstream. 

Forrester reports that “managers often see automation as a technology initiative that can be led by the IT department.” This only gets you a fraction of what’s possible as IT will only be able to automate “separate and distinct parts of the process” rather than looking at things holistically. 

Therefore, banks must be willing to reengineer their processes completely rather than stick with “this is just the way we’ve always done it” or legacy thinking.

The best way to tackle this task is by mapping your process with a language like Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). 

Using this standard can make this process easier and give your team a visual way of representing the process. It doesn’t matter where the reader sits, in IT or the business side of the organization, if they understand BPMN they will be able to interpret the model and give feedback.

It’s for this reason that more and more organizations have adopted BPMN because:

  • It’s a respected standard by an independent third party rather than a proprietary language
  • Despite its simplicity, there is power in how ideas can be expressed cleanly
  • IT-forward organizations rely on it heavily because it makes hidden business logic more visible, reducing back-and-forth handoffs between IT and business functions
  • When executable, BPMN can drastically speed up implementation

 To get started using BPMN, check out our quickstart guide and free BPMN modeler here.

2. Decide if you are digitalizing or just digitizing

As we mentioned earlier, much of the previous automation efforts in banking have centered on the idea of digitization rather than digitalization. 

While the two words are 2 letters apart, they mean quite different approaches when it comes to automation. According to Gartner, digitization takes an analog process and changes it to a digital form without any different-in-kind changes to the process itself. Think of this like the transition from a check to a debit card.

Digitalization, on the other hand, Gartner defines as the “use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities”. A good example, in this case, would be the difference between calling a taxi station versus using a rideshare app to get a ride to the airport.

Take time to consider the process you’re automating and ask yourself:

  • Are there any opportunities to streamline or improve this process? 
  • Could there be a way that the process could drastically change with the use of current technologies?
  • What are some potential ways we’re stuck in legacy thinking with this process?
  • How can this help our internal teams (eg. easier to modify by the dev team, less manual work)

3. Change management principles for automation in banking

It’s easy to grasp the promise that automation in banking holds—But bringing these plans to fruition within a large enterprise can seem an insurmountable task.

This is where practicing proper change management principles comes into play, chief among which is having a cross-departmental group that meets regularly and shares updates or information. In other words, forming a Center of Excellence (CoE). 

These groups have been shown to help with centralizing and sharing information, fostering collaboration, and driving adoption. 

Recent surveys of IT executives show that an increasing number of teams are establishing these CoEs in order to share best practices and drive organization-wide digital transformation.

As far as Camunda clients go, we’ve seen it time and again with automation initiatives for our clients that a CoE can often spell the difference between merely meeting expectations and huge transformations for an organization.

  1. Consider the customer experience in banking

Customer expectations across the board in all industries are changing. Thanks to the huge digital shift in the last few years, consumers expect every single business to operate much in the same way Amazon does: efficiently, offering an unparalleled digital experience, and tailored to your preferences. 

In banking, these digital experiences are across various facets of an organization – from automated loan processing to customized product offerings – and consumers expect these things fast. If people can get a quicker decision from another bank (eg. in applying for a credit card), they will. As CIOReview reports, with nearly all US adults (88%) using financial tech in some capacity, many are more than willing to compare their current experience with potential alternatives.

What this means is that while continuing on your digital transformation journey, your teams should have an eye toward more composable architecture types such as those offered by microservices. Composable architectures grant you the ability to make updates to existing systems on the fly with little to no downtime and also allow for the rapid launch of new initiatives.

Business continuity is obviously a top priority for banking institutions. You’re going to have a lot of angry customers if your banking systems or app is down on their payday.

5. Respond to market conditions using automation in banking

Another benefit of composable architectures is the ability to leverage emerging technologies or make changes as the market conditions shift. 

These shifts will look different depending on organizational priorities, economic factors, and customer requests.

Capital One, for instance, was struggling with its back-office operations. Their previous process for processing legal documents was manual and error-prone due to complexities surrounding various state and jurisdiction-based decisions and actions. 

They were eager to not only address customers’ needs faster and save operation costs so they looked to automation in order. Find out how they modernized their case management systems using automation in their CamundaCon presentation.

By implementing your automation plan in a strategic way, you can work in a more agile fashion and get new products and services out the door quickly. This will allow you to account for periodic forces like inflation, staffing issues, and other economic forces as they happen.

  1.  Avoid automating everything at once

The jump between automation proof of concept to a full process automation program can be the difference between taking a dip into a swimming pool versus a dive into the Marianas Trench.

The fastest, most effective route to your overall digital transformation efforts lies in not trying to do everything at once. 

One of our clients, Intuit, used automation in order to streamline their workflows both internally and externally. They started with just a single workflow but scaled up to more than 20+ with a peak of over a million executions a day. To dig into how they did this, check out their CamundaCon session here. 

The moral of Intuit’s story is to stick with projects that have clear beginnings and endpoints. These might include applying for a new account, loan origination, or fulfilling certain regulatory compliance requirements such as Know Your Customer (KYC).

Our chief technologist, Bernd Ruecker has explored and explained this idea at length and has the following suggestions on how best to tackle this point:

  • Start with a project, not a program
  • Don’t start big and strategic endeavors too early in your journey. Instead, go step-by-step until you are ready to scale
  • Resist the temptation to create your own platform
  • Let your lessons learned influence your target picture, don’t just adopt some consulting company’s best practices
  • Provide reusable components if they increase productivity, but as libraries teams want to adapt (instead of having to adapt)
  • Define learning paths for new people or teams
  • Make sure to let projects breathe and project owners lead the decision-making process

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve consolidated all of our consultants’ methods and thinking behind the success of hundreds of automation projects in Scaling Process Automation at Your Company.


Once you’ve automated portions of your processes, it’s important to be able to piece them together across business functions and from the second a customer makes a request until the task or issue is resolved entirely. 

This means that process orchestration is just as important as automating them. 

For more examples of how automation in banking is changing the landscape, check out our recording of Process Automation Forum Live: Banking & Finance

There, you’ll hear how Morgan Stanley & Truist are using automation to streamline everything from customer onboarding and customer service to risk management and regulatory compliance. Explore the potential of process automation with a 30 day free-trial of Camunda 8 >>

Start the discussion at forum.camunda.io

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