Ai Working With Keyboard
Ai Working With Keyboard

More time for the human touch thanks to robotics

Nordea has been successfully introducing robots to take care of manual repetitive processes in order to create more time for employees to focus on value adding tasks. After a period of development, the bank now has one of the most advanced robotics programmes in the Nordics.

At the beginning of 2017, Nordea’s Transaction Banking unit began to explore the possibility of using robotics to free up time for more customer focused activities. Following successful pilots in other parts of the bank, a ‘satellite’ TxB team dedicated to exploring the potential of robotics was established in order to develop in-house knowledge, learn more about process controlling and conduct robotic business analysis. The initial goal of the project was to reduce manual processing wherever possible.

Titti Litrico, now Change Hub Lead at Nordea and formerly the Project Manager for robotics in TxB, says: “One of our main tasks in the beginning was just to get a team up and running and explain to colleagues what robotic automation is and the positive effects it can have on an organisation. There can be some doubts and uncertainty when people hear about robotics so making sure our stakeholders gained a good initial understanding of robotics was a big part of our initial focus.”

From the outset we targeted processes that were only or mostly digital. Later on, we started to look more broadly and find ways to simplify processes and make them digital to a larger extent. Many of the technical capabilities that needed to be in place were created in parallel as well in the bank, making it easier over time to speed up implementation.

Titti Litrico, Change Hub Lead at Nordea

Once the process of assembling and training a team of robotics experts was underway, the search began to find suitable processes within the myriad of tasks and activities undertaken by the Transaction Banking unit that might be suitable candidates for the initiative.

Titti continues: “We were on the lookout for manual tasks that were governed by a defined set of business rules and had high volumes to begin with. We weren’t interested in tasks that happen twice a month in low volumes but rather processes that are frequent and repetitive. From the outset we targeted processes that were only or mostly digital. Later on, we started to look more broadly and find ways to simplify processes and make them digital to a larger extent. Many of the technical capabilities that needed to be in place were created in parallel as well in the bank, making it easier over time to speed up implementation.”

Becoming excellent

In response to the various robotics initiative springing up in different business units across the bank, Nordea established the Robotics Centre of Excellence to develop a centralised framework, leverage knowledge and create an overall governance model. Nordea’s Robotics Centre of Excellence absorbed the Transaction Banking ‘satellite’ initiative already underway as well as those from other areas of the bank, taking full Nordea wide responsibility for managing and developing robotics projects across the organisation.

Jacob Ejdelind, Senior Business Analyst, Robotics Execution, at Nordea, says: “At Nordea we define robotics as a software which in simple terms can be described as an extended macro functionality. For example, rather than a human opening a Contact Management System (CMS) and creating a note or updating an information point, this action is completed by a robot, utilising the same infrastructure and application as a human would do. Basically, we create fast IT macros that can do a bit more than just a standard data manipulation in Excel for instance.”

Titti explains: “If you look at the screen tool and simplify it a bit, it looks like someone is clicking through the different applications that a human would normally do but in a very speeded up way.  The software is the tool that is used to actually make robotics and that interacts with the particular application(s) that are used in relation to the different kinds of processes.”

At Nordea we define robotics as a software which in simple terms can be described as an extended macro functionality. For example, rather than a human opening a Contact Management System (CMS) and creating a note or updating an information point, this action is completed by a robot, utilising the same infrastructure and application as a human would do.

Jacob Ejdelind, Senior Business Analyst, Robotics Execution at Nordea

Developing a pipeline

Once a pipeline of processes that could potentially be carried out with robotics is gathered, they are then analysed individually in terms of their technical suitability and benefits in terms of the required investment.

Titti continues: “Over time our colleagues increasingly suggested processes that could be automated after they began to see what the robots could do. By creating an interest from the business and establishing a skilled team able to look at processes and really assess whether they were suitable, we started to create momentum. The natural learning process meant that the organisation collectively got better and better as we went along. I think that has been the journey throughout the bank.”

In Nordea’s Transaction Banking unit, robots were introduced for simple internal tasks such as product administration, gathering statistics and entering information updates across multiple data points.

Jacob adds: “One example of a project where we have recently benefited from robots was the updating of new prices in multiple files and databases. This is a very heavy manual task and the work effort required to do this with humans would have taken many days.”

Over time our colleagues increasingly suggested processes that could be automated after they began to see what the robots could do. By creating an interest from the business and establishing a skilled team able to look at processes and really assess whether they were suitable, we started to create momentum.

Titti Litrico, Change Hub Lead at Nordea

Nordic leaders

Today Nordea has one of the largest Robotics Centre of Excellence initiative in the Nordics, with almost one hundred employees working with robotics in different areas of the bank.

Jacob says: “Nordea’s work with robotics is very highly rated and we have become Nordic experts in the field. Our robots are currently undertaking automated processes all over the bank, including Transaction Banking specific initiatives. Overall our robots are handling something in the region of 5 million cases yearly, so it’s a massive scale that we are operate at.”

In the future, Nordea will continue to use robots to support the banks growth and efficiency strategy whilst exploring new technologies to leverage the potential of automation even further.

Jacob continues: “Our ambition in general is to allow humans to do tasks which they are great at doing like analysis, customer relations and other value adding activities, with robots supporting the repetitive tasks. For example, adjusting the price of a product in 5,000 different places requires the same action over and over again. No one is too happy to do that sort of task, but from a robotics point of view we’re super happy. Although we have come really far, we have only just started in using the full potential robots have to offer.”

Our ambition in general is to allow humans to do tasks which they are great at doing like analysis, customer relations and other value adding activities, with robots supporting the repetitive tasks

Jacob Ejdelind, Senior Business Analyst, Robotics Execution at Nordea

Titti notes: “The addition of robots to undertake manual tasks has in our experience been met positively in the organisation as they allow our colleagues to free up time and make priorities in their busy work schedules a bit better. They have been empowered and enabled to focus on the areas they really want to focus on. I have heard that some teams have been so proud of being able to create a robot that they have even given it a name, making the robot part of the team!”

What to look for in the beginning

According to Nordea’s robotics experts, an important success factor when introducing robots is to select the processes to be transferred very carefully.

Jacob concludes: “Having a suitable process is key to success, so it’s important to ask whether the process is solid and mature enough. Also, whether there are enough volumes in the process to make it worthwhile. Robotics is a really powerful tool, so selecting a poor process means the robots will make a poor process poorer and faster than a human would. There can also be processes that looked like good candidates to begin with but become unsuitable due to a sudden change in business demand, for example, or you find out the process in itself is actually too complex to be suitable.”

Implementation obviously takes an initial investment of time but the final result of being able to free up more time makes it all worthwhile in the end.

Titti Litrico, Change Hub Lead at Nordea

Titti concludes: “Another good learning from the beginning of the journey in the TxB satellite was to start piloting early and gain buy-in and understanding of the aims of the project from stakeholders before beginning to scale up. Implementation obviously takes an initial investment of time but the final result of being able to free up more time makes it all worthwhile in the end.”

For more information on robotics at Nordea, write to Jacob at jacob.ejdelind@nordea.com.

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