IT in Banking

WesBank's RPA Academy creates digital-savvy employees

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Corne Janse van Rensburg, head of business enablement at WesBank.
Corne Janse van Rensburg, head of business enablement at WesBank.

Vehicle and asset finance firm WesBank has seen transformation in its talent pool after establishing its Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Academy over a year ago.

This is according to Corne Janse van Rensburg, head of business enablement at WesBank, addressing delegates at ITWeb BPM and Automation Summit 2019 at The Forum in Johannesburg yesterday.

Presenting a case study entitled "Loving your robot: A short story about the introduction of RPA into WesBank", he explained that the FirstRand-owned financial services company has deployed 15 robots and automated over 30 processes across its systems, since embarking on an RPA journey five years ago.

RPA, he added, is revolutionising the banking sector through data management, improved customer service, keeping track of project processes, streamlining business processes and cost-reduction for the business, client and its partners.

Investing in upskilling employees is an important part of the RPA journey that has led to the introduction of the RPA Academy, run by the WesBank Robotics Centre of Excellence, noted Janse van Rensburg.

"WesBank has been very busy with the automation projects for the last five years, having digitised various processes, including the debt collections, data management, customer engagement channels and debt review processes.

"Implementing robotics is not an IT challenge, it's a people enablement challenge, so we have to take our people along this journey and provide them with the ability to be re-skilled and up-skilled, which is a significant part of efficiently executing our RPA strategy."

The academy empowers WesBank employees with the tools and resources that enable them to manage RPA projects. The classes, which take place once a week over a period of 10 weeks, consist of workers from various business units, comprising risk and compliance, IT, finance and human resources.

"We use the Blue Prism Digital Workers programmes which help build intelligent automation skills that make it easier for employees to leverage the power of leading-edge cloud, artificial intelligence and cognitive capabilities to deliver true operational agility. So far, we have seen great return on investment, with automation bringing triple bottom line benefits to the customer, stakeholder and business."

While the RPA Centre of Excellence is accountable for the delivery of RPA within WesBank, Janse van Rensburg stressed the importance of a strong collaboration with IT, the BPM division, the finance department, as well as to get executive buy-in, which all play an important part in the success of the initiatives.

"Given that RPA is a business-driven initiative, the executive buy-in and guidance of other departments is critical to ensuring the RPA strategy is aligned with the vision of the organisation. This creates an ecosystem within the organisation, helping to overcome obsolescence."

Job displacements

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that between 400 million and 800 million of today's jobs will be automated by 2030, as digital platforms and other innovations change the fundamental nature of work.

Discussing how the implementation of automation will impact the various roles and responsibilities of employees within his organisation, Janse van Rensburg pointed out that RPA brings with it the normal elements of disruptive technology, in that it speaks directly to people's fear of change, and in particular the fear of job losses.

"Global case studies on RPA show that robotics is not about the reduction of head count, but it's about creating the capacity through automation, and utilising that capacity to improve the business, customer service and internal investments by automating mundane and repetitive tasks.

"This helps to maximise your employees' creativity, helping them provide a better service, in shorter turn-around times. In addition, some of the academy's high achievers progress to become RPA developers within the business.

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