Appian Automation Maturity Index.

Research Report Part 3.

Written in collaboration with Longitude,

A Financial Times company.

Lighting The Future

What comes next on the automation journey for industry-leading firms in financial services.

How should financial services firms automate processes that span dozens of systems, departments and technologies? What are the foundations of future automation excellence? And how will that next phase change how automation is used today?

These are among the big questions we explore in the Appian Automation Maturity Index research program. In this, the final part in a three-part series, we look at the impact of unifying workflow platforms, low code, robotic process automation (RPA), and artificial intelligence (AI). We also explore some of the hallmarks of firms with mature automation capabilities.

Imagine you are hired as the head of risk at a private wealth manager. The business, which we will call PWM, provides customized investment management services to thousands of clients. Each client has completed an investment policy statement (IPS) that specifies the investment goals, strategies, and risk tolerances they want implemented.

One of your responsibilities is to ensure that PWM’s investment teams act in accordance with these many different IPS agreements. How would you meet this challenge?

As a bare minimum, your internal audit team could periodically select random samples of 50 accounts and verify whether these are compliant with the relevant IPS. This would allow for any corrections to be made to that small sample, and it could support a rough approximation of how well the business adheres to IPS guidelines.

But there would still be zero visibility of thousands of accounts, leaving the company with unknown, unmanaged risk in a key area. That was the imprudent approach of one real private wealth manager before it revolutionized its governance of IPS agreements with an automated — and significantly more systematic — solution.

From Candlelight to Floodlight

Under the new approach, any potential deviations from IPS guidelines are detected automatically, triggering alerts to investment and risk professionals managing the relevant account. It is fully embedded into the investment management and trading processes.

From having only a dim sense of the hazards they faced, it is like PWM now has a spotlight tracking every IPS agreement, helping to the business continuously monitor and mitigate risks that were previously hidden in the dark.

This leap forward is one among hundreds of examples that show how financial services firms are using automation to evolve their operational models and integrate the strengths of RPA, AI and human talent into seamless, unified workflows.

This report is part of a research program that explores the current and future trajectories of automation. Our survey of senior financial services executives from around the world reveals how firms that have more mature automation capabilities are gaining significant advantages over slower-to-adopt rivals. (See “Research Methodology” for full details of the survey sample.)

We divided our survey results into three groups to get an in-depth understanding of how automation-mature organizations differ from average firms and those that have fallen behind:

Leaders: Respondents who say their organization is an industry leader in automation, including innovative and/or sophisticated automation solutions (20% of the sample).


Laggards: Respondents who say that most of their organization’s automation efforts/investments have failed to add value (15% of the sample).


Mainstream: Respondents who did not fall into either the Leader or Laggard groups (65% of the sample).


How to knit capabilities into workflows

The intertwined threads of complexity and risk have always been part of the fabric of every bank and asset manager. What makes new approaches to automation so powerful is that firms can now manage these strands with new levels of speed, intelligence, and control.

But how is it possible? How are banks and asset managers connecting so many different capabilities and processes? How do they practically integrate their systems with the menial work of bots, the signals from AI models, and the ingenuity of human minds?

The Leaders use platforms. Almost all of the Leader group have partly or fully adopted unifying platforms to manage business-critical process automations. The vast majority also say they are ahead of their strongest rivals in adopting low-code platforms to accelerate the development of applications and automated workflows.

We use a unifying platform/application to manage all our business-critical process automations.

Adopting low-code platforms to accelerate the development of applications and automated workflows.

We generated what I call a ‘wow effect’ — the business was amazed that we could release a change within a week.

Giovanni Gallucci Head of Process Automation, ICCREA Banking Group

These modern workflow and automation applications, particularly low-code platforms, are powering incredible progress. IT departments that once took months to code complex processes are now delivering bigger and better projects in weeks.

“After the first two projects we delivered using our low-code platform, our work was so fast compared with the previous, coding-heavy approach that our business stakeholders did not believe we could possibly have completed the work,” says Giovanni Gallucci, Head of Process Automation at ICCREA Banking Group. “We generated what I call a ‘wow effect’ — the business was amazed that we could release a change within a week. They could not believe it, because they were used to a different way. The time to market we can now achieve has been truly disruptive internally and created great enthusiasm.”

Platforms Unify Teams

Gallucci goes on to explain that a big part of the positive impact of his team’s low-code approach has been the way they work with the wider business, and how operations professionals can now effectively design the automated processes. “We are just the arms and hands,” he says, “They model and optimize the business process, we support them with our technology skills. We work like one team, mixing these two competencies. But when it is complete, they understand it better than us. From this point of view, it has been a really amazing experience.”

What Gallucci is describing is the start of the democratization of automation: the increasing capacity of non-technical employees to design and manage automated workflows with little or no support from developers. Democratization has only just begun, and even among our Leader group automation is still owned and controlled by the IT function.

The IT function owns and controls all automation in our organization.

But putting democratization aside, it is important to recognize that low-code automation platforms are enormously beneficial to IT teams. “Developers really like these tools, because they can use them to achieve things quickly for their users,” says Stuart Duncan, Partner at NextWave Consulting, which is an advisor to some of the world’s largest banks, asset managers, and fintechs. “These platforms also help developers to communicate more effectively and directly with business stakeholders because the interfaces are visual and intuitive, which means there is less of a need for a business analyst to act as an interpreter between IT and other business areas.”

High Performance is Data-powered

Data is the fuel in the engine of automated processes. Motors fed with dirty, volatile, or insufficient fuel do not run well, and automation engines are no different when it comes to the quality, reliability and availability of data.

“Data is probably the most critical dependency on the path to automation maturity,” says Stuart Muirhead, Managing Director, Head of Wholesale Middle Office at HSBC. “Banks on this path need to build their ability to consume and re-use data properly and draw from the various sources of data that exist both inside and outside of the institution.”

This is a view echoed by many, and failure to advance the data agenda is one of the main barriers to progress in automation. “You need to do the hard yards on your data — cleaning it, integrating, and making it available in real time,” says Sathish Muthukrishnan, Chief Information, Data and Digital Officer at Ally. “We are investing heavily in this space because it is the foundation of future automations.”

We make full use of our internal data to add significant value to the business.

An Intelligent Trajectory

The future automations mentioned by Muthukrishnan are likely to incorporate more and more machine learning models and other forms of AI. Even among the Leaders, who have already made impressive progress in this area, there remains a vast range of untapped opportunities — even for rudimentary forms of AI.

RPA will contine, but it is going to become business as usual. We are going to continue seeing more RPA integrated with AI, and this will come into play in many different areas

Jean-Philippe Gerbi Managing Director, Chief Information Officer, Americas, Crédit Agricole

My organization is able to use real time AI insights to help anticipate change and automatically deploy appropriate responses.

“I think we are going to start seeing much more AI,” says Jean-Philippe Gerbi, Managing Director, Chief Information Officer, Americas at Crédit Agricole. “RPA will continue, but it is going to become business as usual. We are going to continue seeing more RPA integrated with AI, and this will come into play in many different areas of the business, including compliance and client on-boarding, and especially in enhancing customer experiences.”

In Part 1 of this series, we explore the recent surge of automation maturity in the financial services, the strategies that define leading firms, and how automation excellence supports significant competitive advantages.

In Part 2, we explore how the Leaders are building new levels of speed and agility with their automation capabilities, while delivering key benefits for customers and employees.

Go to our interactive benchmarking tool to see how your own organization compares against leading organizations on the Appian Automation Maturity Index.

Research Methodology

This research program has been produced by Appian in collaboration with Longitude, a Financial Times company.

We surveyed 500 senior banking and asset management executives from around the world about the drivers, challenges, and opportunities on the path to automation maturity.

The results underpin the Appian Automation Maturity Index, which is designed to help financial services firms assess their progress towards automation excellence.

The 500 respondents were from nine countries, four sub-industries, three levels of seniority, and a wide range of company sizes. They spanned both technology- and business-focused professionals, including those involved in management, strategy, operations, BPM, finance, IT, data science, sales, risk, legal, regulatory, and specialist automation roles. To qualify for the survey, respondents must have made some specific investments in automation.

Respondents are from a range of sub-industries, spanning buy-side and sell-side organizations.

All nine regions have advanced financial centres but a range of economic and regulatory differences.

Only senior executives qualified for the survey, with the majority (55%) being c-suite and direct reports.

Respondents came from companies of all sizes - 86% of those with more than $10bn annual revenue are in the Leader group.

Appian helps organizations build apps and workflows rapidly, with a low-code automation platform. Combining people, technologies, and data in a single workflow, Appian can help companies maximize their resources and improve business results. Many of the world’s largest organizations use Appian applications to improve customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and simplify global risk management and compliance.

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