Financial services firms are under an unprecedented amount of pressure as they face mounting costs, fines and regulatory requirements.

Increasing customer complaints and consumer distrust are only adding to the increasingly challenging environment.

As a result, more businesses are turning to robotic process automation as part of the answer to help improve efficiency.

RPA, a software solution programmed with a specific set of rules, is prized for its ability to handle large volumes of digital data very quickly. These bots work by repeating a certain sequence of mouse clicks faster and more efficiently than a human could.

However, these tasks become much harder for robots should they require individual assessment for variations. On the other hand, humans tend to struggle to maintain complete accuracy when undertaking repetitive, mundane, detail-oriented tasks.

Nevertheless, it is not always so black and white, and businesses often struggle to find a balance between both their human and code-based employees.

Over the next year, the RPA market will see dramatic and rapid maturation, with Gartner forecasting the industry to grow a huge 57 per cent. Automation will no longer be focused on reducing headcount and start being built on improved employee engagement.

RPA, if used correctly, presents numerous ways to overcome the current barriers. Automating business processes means organisations can save time and money, reduce re-work, improve accuracy and free up employee time to focus on delivering excellent customer experience to grow the business further.

However, implementing RPA is often more challenging than first anticipated.

The ‘Process’ part of RPA is frequently overlooked, yet it’s crucial to remember its significance. Often, there is a disparity between what business leaders think is happening and what is actually happening. Only by determining the current and future state of processes can RPA be genuinely effective in achieving a full and financially-viable ROI.

RPA should enable robots and humans to work in perfect harmony. Machines excel at repetition, data interchange, information management and intelligently helping the overall organisation’s progress.

Instead of acting as a replacement, RPA works most effectively in augmenting human employees, and sits alongside existing efforts to optimise processes. Creative thinking, strategic planning, long-term projects, product development, customer research and satisfaction, collaboration with colleagues, and idea generation will continue to require complete human engagement.

The key to successful RPA lies in firms taking a strategic approach to business processes automation, bearing in mind that some tasks are simply better suited to humans.

Businesses will see greater value in first concentrating on optimising existing processes, before introducing automation. This will ensure the right problems are addressed and that time is not unnecessarily wasted on improving the wrong processes.

In summary, RPA cannot be a standalone consideration. Companies must take into account where and when to apply RPA best, striking the perfect balance between humans and robots.

The benefits of this approach can only be achieved once business models are refined and the end to end operation of the business well understood with target areas of improvement simulated, prioritised and implemented with clear objectives and ROI to hand.