For decades, Wall Street has exported back office jobs overseas. India, China, and the Philippines all benefited from the move offshore. The thinking was banks should focus on what they were good at and outsource everything else. Sending jobs abroad helped shore up bank balance sheets, too, as the back office moved from fixed to variable costs. But technology always catches up. It may not bring those back office jobs back, but Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, has returned many of these activities back onshore and this time, it's computers handling them, not humans. What is Robotic Process Automation? Imagine bots, or computer programs, that can automatically handle the types of reconciliation that happen at the end of every day in a financial institution. Books are balanced, accounts tallied, and transactions matched. Files are shared and filings made to regulatory bodies. That's RPA. It's a catch-all phrase for a series of technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, used to automatically handle mundane, repetitive tasks. While RPA can be used in any industry, its early adopters are financial institutions and as heavy users of offshoring firms, the industry is one of the biggest consumers of RPA technology. Forrester attributes the interest in RPA to the fact that robots can be deployed with minimal process change, ROI is straight-forward to calculate, and it's a "fresh alternative" to big spend business process management (BPM) programs. By the numbers
- According to a study by Markets and Markets, the robotic process automation market is estimated to reach $2.467 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of over 30 percent between 2017 and 2022.
- 53 percent of top global firms count RPA as their top investment focus, outstripping any other investment priority.
- It's still early for the technology as hype exceeds real-world value. It's estimated that only half of today's RPA implementations are actually making progress.