The Financial Automation Imperative

Learn how automation helps financial service companies overcome three digital transformation challenges to ensure compliance and improve customer experiences

Introduction

Many financial services organizations have embraced automation as a part of their efforts to drive efficiencies and accelerate digital transformation. Many teams want to maximize resources, and leverage financial automation to drive resilience and better customer experiences. According to the 2023 State of Process Orchestration Report, 96% of IT leaders believe process automation is critical to achieving their digital transformation goals. Despite its importance, more than three in five decision-makers describe digital transformation as difficult to achieve.

The majority of financial services organizations face significant challenges along their digital transformation journeys, including:

Contending with legacy systems and modernization
Meeting regulatory compliance and risk requirements
Addressing rising expectations for omnichannel customer experiences

At the same time, financial services operations are business-critical and high stakes — there’s no margin for error. These processes often involve tasks conducted by diverse endpoints — the people, systems and devices involved in executing an automated process. In addition, financial services processes are often complex. They rarely follow a linear series of steps, and instead should be described by advanced workflow patterns.

What is an advanced workflow pattern?

To execute a process, you need to coordinate the execution of its tasks. This coordination is based on a certain process logic, which is typically complex and needs to be described by advanced workflow patterns, or patterns that involve reacting to events or handling complex business process logic across multiple endpoints. 

Dynamic parallel execution

Dynamically coordinating many tasks at the same time. For example, a robo-advisor processes thousands of stock trades in parallel, which involves being able to coordinate thousands of tasks dynamically at runtime. Dynamic parallel execution is critical to maintain scalability and resilience, with systems that operate 24/7 with high availability and seamless performance.

Message correlation + abortion

A lack of message correlation can sometimes be the culprit for misalignment. For example, a customer attempts and fails to cancel a check with an online retail banking system. After troubleshooting online they call into the contact center. The customer becomes frustrated if the agent doesn’t know what they’ve already tried online. This company needs a customer number or unique identifier that can correlate events online with the customer’s phone call. This correlation is technically challenging to do properly – especially at scale.

Time-based escalation

Escalating processes that aren’t completed within a specific window of time. For example, a mortgage services provider requires completion of a series of steps for a customer to gain approval. If an appraisal isn’t ordered within a specific timeframe, a process orchestration system could flag and escalate that request to the appraiser to complete within three days.

Process orchestration plays a critical role in achieving financial services organizations’ ambitious digital transformation goal. This eBook will show how process orchestration helps address the key financial automation challenges described above. It will provide real-world examples of financial services organizations that have leveraged process orchestration to:

  • Accelerate digital transformation to drive efficiency and resilience
  • Meet compliance and risk requirements, and
  • Improve the customer experience

What is process orchestration?

Process orchestration coordinates the various moving parts (or endpoints) of a business process, and sometimes even ties multiple processes together. Process orchestration works with the people, systems, and devices that are already in place – while achieving even the most ambitious goals around end-to-end process automation.

Process orchestration is for organizations whose business processes have:

Endpoint diversity:  Processes span across a number of possible endpoints (people, systems, devices). For example, people may be working with different front-end devices, or different applications that execute their tasks when invoked via an API.

Process complexity: Processes are described by a more complex logic than just a simple sequence of steps. See examples of advanced workflow patterns above.

Addressing key financial automation challenges with process orchestration

Contending with legacy systems and modernization

The problem

Legacy systems are still pervasive in financial services. In fact, more than 800 billion lines of COBOL code run on mainframe systems in production today. The COBOL programming language was developed in 1959, and the professionals that maintain it are quickly aging out of the workforce. According to Deloitte, over the past five years, organizations have lost 23% of their mainframe workforce, with 63% of these jobs remaining unfilled. 

In addition, most legacy systems run business-critical processes. Whether it’s an out-of-the-box legacy system or an inefficient homegrown system, many financial services organizations are moving billions of dollars with decades-old technology. What’s more, lack of visibility into processes makes digital transformation difficult; few team members understand how legacy processes work and how to integrate them alongside modern technology. Taking legacy systems offline to “rip and replace” them with modern alternatives is often too disruptive and expensive, particularly for teams with aggressive goals around efficiency and resilience.

How organizations address this challenge today

Many automation teams address the challenges of legacy systems by automating distinct, local processes using technology like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) paired atop a legacy system’s GUI, or SaaS workflow tools. While these tools solve a specific problem, their use also leads to even greater challenges, including:

Difficult-to-integrate, siloed processes

Complex tracking of processes for compliance

A lack of cost-effectiveness, with no consistency and reusability of processes or components

Unclear observability to maintain processes or fix inefficiencies

How process orchestration can help

Digital transformation can happen more gradually with a process orchestration system in place. Why? Process orchestration enables teams to work with the legacy systems and automation technologies they already have in place, and orchestrate them together. Connecting and integrating otherwise siloed process endpoints can make processes run more smoothly from end to end, even with a legacy system in place. 

Over time, teams can gradually replace local automation technologies like RPA and other workflow tools with modern, microservices-based applications. This gives teams more runway and flexibility to phase out a legacy system, rather than taking it offline all at once. Let’s learn how Goldman Sachs manages their microservices-based applications at enterprise scale, after gradually replacing their monolithic system.

Platforming for the future at Goldman Sachs

Since 2015, Goldman Sachs has used Camunda as the engine of its microservices orchestration platform to deliver financial automation at enterprise scale, breaking up its original monolithic system. With more than 60,000 unique users working with the platform each year, Goldman Sachs sees about six million tasks executed on its microservices automation platform each week. In 2020, the company’s priorities for the microservices orchestration platform changed. As increasing demands on the service emphasized the need for throughput, scalability, and resilience, Goldman Sachs sought to build a new platform capable of adapting to these use cases. At the same time, the internal payments team at the company recognized a need for a platform that would provide additional security, the ability to quickly recover from disruptive incidents without data loss, and an overall smoother payment handling process.

Watch the video:

Enabling Core Banking Use Cases with Camunda 8

Recognizing the need for a solution that could provide microservice orchestration across all of its teams and meet the changing demands of its clients, Goldman Sachs set out to build a new platform. Goldman Sachs’ Enterprise Process Automation Platform was born.

Why build a central automation platform to improve financial automation?

The vision for the Enterprise Process Automation Platform was to centralize all required operations to provision, model, deploy, execute, and monitor any workflow-enabled application. Building this platform with Camunda 8 as the horizontally scalable BPMN workflow engine would enable a higher level of automation, functionality, and adaptability for both Goldman Sachs and its clients. 

Finally, it was essential to Goldman Sachs that this new platform offered maximum visibility.

Some of the key features of this new platform included:

  • Automated data retention, data purging, data backups, and data lake integration to enable analytics.
  • Cluster provisioning integrated with data forms for better load balancing. 
  • Alert automation for self-protection and self-healing. 
  • Mirrored user experience for Camunda 7 and Camunda 8 users for consistency.
  • Integration with manual tasks and forms using current Goldman Sachs proprietary tooling to improve process automation.

When the platform is running, we are provisioning a lot of information that is important to put together. We expose this information in the workflow control center and separate this information into separate categories for the platform provider and clients.”

Javier Sabino
global architecture lead, digitization and workflow engineering
Goldman Sachs

Extending Camunda with custom extensions

Goldman Sachs also extended Camunda 8 to incorporate non-functional requirements for five key categories. Sabino explains:

  1. Performance Testing: “Clients come to us with non-functional requirements before they even have their services ready. So we invested in a testing harness which allows us to configure clusters, execute services, and produce some reports which will show the best configurations for clusters to serve clients’ purposes.”
  2. Security: “We integrated Camunda with our single sign-on solution…we also added extensions to support data encryptions for clients.”
  3. Disaster Recovery: “We invested in a solution that helps Goldman Sachs recover from disasters, such as losing full regions, in less than fifteen minutes.”
  4. Observability: “We have solutions which show you how your workflows are progressing. But we also invested a little bit further. We are extracting a lot of information from the platform to make sure the platform is healthy.”
  5. Deployment Automation: “We have many clients who have different ways of executing…we needed a way to automate the solution. The most important extension for this has been our custom containers.”

Each of these extensions has added additional layers to the Goldman Sachs Enterprise Process Automation Platform, benefitting both internal teams as well as clients.

Meeting banking regulatory compliance and risk requirements with automation

The problem

Compliance and risk management requirements are always evolving and require financial services organizations to be agile. 

As one example, the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in the U.S. has increased emphasis on risk management and regulatory reporting. Banks can expect increased regulatory scrutiny around asset stress-tests such as DFAST (Dodd-Frank Asset Stress Test) or CCAR (Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review). Banking automation is interconnected with this challenge, as certain triggers around interest rates or other economic indicators can serve as early warning signs for banks to reassess their portfolios, including potential challenges with liquidity and losses.

Other compliance challenges are closely related to legacy systems, as regulators often flag legacy technology as a risk. Or, teams are not following regulatory protocols. A few examples include:

The transfer of customer information

Using homegrown systems or Excel spreadsheets to transmit personally identifiable information (PII) and financial data.

Routine compliance checks, such as KYC/AML

In payments or credit card processing, KYC checks can take too long and be cumbersome if not automated appropriately.

Overall, a lack of business process visibility doesn’t provide the traceability needed for modern compliance requirements or recordkeeping regulations. In addition, many financial services institutions are the sum of many corporate acquisitions over the years, resulting in systems that are not integrated or consolidated. This dynamic creates a compliance headache when it comes to data profiles. Often, there is no golden copy or single, unified customer profile across technology systems because these systems don’t share information.

Modern financial services organizations strive for business composability. In other words, they want to have flexibility when it comes to creating and changing products for customers, on top of a platform that provides consolidation around customer profiles, as well as capabilities such as risk scoring, and more.


How organizations address these challenges today

Often, an audit or regulatory change is a forcing function to change these systems and put repeatable, auditable automation technology in place. For example, the SEC recently changed the securities settlement cycle for most routine trades from two business days after the trade date (T+2) to one (T+1). While regulatory changes like this and audits certainly provide a sense of urgency, teams shouldn’t wait to implement compliance updates in a timely manner.


How process orchestration can help

As referenced above, process orchestration for financial services ties together disparate process endpoints from end to end. This can be particularly important for compliance purposes, for example, reconciling customer records across multiple systems.

What’s more, process orchestration provides visibility into complex processes, as described by BPMN or DMN frameworks. For example, visibility helps prevent errors in long-running processes. One example is the credit process. If there’s an anomaly, someone needs to manually check; human task management must be integrated and orchestrated alongside automated processes.

Orchestrating human tasks

Alongside legacy systems, orchestrating human tasks remains a major challenge for financial services organizations. Many automated processes require human involvement, such as escalations, errors, compliance reviews, and more. Process orchestration makes it simpler to accurately define human tasks within an automated process, efficiently complete the tasks, and keep processes flowing seamlessly.

Read More:

Incorporating Human Workflows into Process Automation

What’s more, process orchestration provides a repeatable, traceable system upon which teams can innovate. Often teams use Automation Centers of Excellence (CoEs) to establish these repeatable systems and empower teams to use them independently. 

A process automation CoE is a team that spans IT, development, and business stakeholders. Their job, at a high level, is to accelerate the adoption of process automation and process orchestration across the whole enterprise.

Generally there are two CoE models: centralized and decentralized. At a basic level, here’s how each operates:

Centralized

Implementing automation projects on behalf of business units throughout the organization.

Decentralized

Providing enablement, frameworks, training, and guidance so teams can execute process automation independently.

Further reading

Building a Superior Automation Center of Excellence

Learn More

A CoE can help achieve compliance goals by establishing consistent, reliable and reusable frameworks and selecting reputable tools for the organization.

Establishing a Center of Excellence at National Bank of Canada

National Bank of Canada is the sixth-largest bank in Canada, with approximately 25,000 employees. With a CoE of only two people, the team narrowed down three distinct goals: 

  • Build in-house expertise around process automation: Working with Camunda Consulting, the company was able to build their own expertise, through a mix of training and contextualizing that knowledge within concrete projects. 
  • Build a community of BPMN/Camunda experts: Bringing together IT, ops, and business stakeholders, the team set up a one-hour weekly meeting to discuss process automation and Camunda. Over time, they’ve actively managed the community by providing guest speaker presentations, demos, challenges for discussion, and more.
  • Create governance foundations: The team centered its governance around three pillars: standardization, KPIs, and reusability. The CoE reduces wasted work, and provides support for kickstarting projects, including code examples, infrastructure, and more.

As a result of the CoE, demand to automate business-critical processes in Camunda is growing. The team has 27 completed projects, with four to five in active development. The community has grown to 40 meetings with more than 100 participants. And time to start new projects has accelerated from weeks to just days.

Watch the video:

Learn more about National Bank of Canada’s CoE strategy

Addressing rising expectations for omnichannel and digital customer experiences

The problem

The consumerization of financial services has put pressure on traditional financial services organizations to digitize their services quickly. This is true for not only retail, but also institutional organizations.

Upstarts have challenged long-standing institutions and taken market share away by providing convenient, on-demand services — from offering new retail banking services, to streamlining trade settlements, to managing real-time or high-volume transactions. 

Digital customer experience demands have been escalated by the pandemic’s shutdowns, accelerating digital transformation timelines. Per Deloitte’s research, Wells Fargo reported a 35% increase in remote check deposits in 2021 and a 50% growth in online wire transfers compared to 2020. In addition, digital channels accounted for 61% of US Bank’s total loan sales in the three months ending February 2021, up 39% from the year prior. At the same time, many customers prefer in-person relationships for high-touch interactions.

How organizations address these challenges today

Many organizations have moved quickly to implement automation efforts. As a result, digital customer experiences are fragmented or siloed, leaving customers frustrated and resulting in churn. Organizations seek a true omnichannel customer experience that spans physical and digital channels, but it requires process orchestration to truly implement this from end to end at scale.

How process orchestration can help

Using process orchestration, financial services organizations can design “mega-journeys” and orchestrate components of existing systems together to accomplish their customer experience goals. In some cases, that might include designing fully orchestrated automated systems to meet customers where they are banking, whether that’s digitally or in person

Embracing a higher degree of automation

In many cases, digitizing the customer experience means embracing a higher degree of automation. The results are intended to create efficiencies for both customers and employees alike.

For example, straight-through processing is a goal for many organizations’ processes. Organizations want less manual interaction to improve performance, save costs on low-margin activities, and reskill employees for more valuable work. For example, for trading activities, banks need a high percentage of straight-through processing to comply with T+1 regulations (SEC compliance date: May 2024). This requires tight integration of services, quality data, electronic trade confirmation, and integration with standing instruction databases.

Let’s look at how one organization created an omnichannel customer application experience, leveraging process orchestration on top of its existing technology stack.

Transforming customer onboarding at Truist

Headquartered in Charlotte, NC, Truist is the seventh largest bank in the U.S. It was formed by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust on December 6, 2019. The bank has more than 2,000 branches across 15 states and Washington D.C. Through its consumer and commercial banking, securities brokerage, asset management, mortgage, and insurance products, the bank generates more than $20 billion in revenue annually. 

To enhance the digital customer experience, Truist created the OMNI digital account opening solution. OMNI enables customers to start, stop or finish an application on any channel or device, including in-person at their local branch. As a part of creation of OMNI, Truist needed a process orchestration solution to bring together a suite of approved applications across the two original, merged banks. The team used Camunda alongside a BPMN standards-based workflow to orchestrate processes within OMNI, resulting in a seamless omnichannel onboarding and account application process for their customers. 

OMNI is projected to process 1 million applications per month, with Camunda orchestrating 5 million API calls and 100 workflows per month, across 12 million process instances per year.

Watch the video:

Learn more about Truist’s implementation and vendor selection criteria

Conclusion

Some financial services organizations are just getting started on their process automation journey within a single team or line of business. Others may have been automating for years, but struggle to unify and gain visibility into various process endpoints, including legacy systems and human tasks.

For both retail and institutional organizations, process orchestration can help to effectively:

Tie together diverse process endpoints spanning people, systems, and devices

Run complex processes described by advanced workflow patterns

As a result of implementing process orchestration technology, financial services organizations can gradually modernize their legacy systems, meet compliance and risk requirements, and improve the customer experience — capitalizing on the technology investments they already have today.

Camunda for banking and financial services