By John San Filippo
Robotic process automation, or RPA, has been around for years. In the early years, RPA was used primarily for repetitive data entry tasks, providing a degree of automation where no true interface existed between unlike systems. However, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has given new life to RPA, allowing it to handle increasingly complex tasks with unprecedented efficiency.
At the recent SymWest conference, Finopotamus had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the topic with Joseariel Gomez, the founder and CEO of Shastic. Shastic has the distinction of being the only RPA platform on the market designed specifically for community financial institutions. It also has the advantage of being cloud based, so there’s no software to install, nor servers to maintain.
An FI Focus
According to Gomez, the ultimate goal of the Shastic platform is to make RPA more accessible to community financial institutions by making it easier to deploy and easier to maintain. “We shortcut a lot of the painfulness of setting up an RPA solution and all the time that it takes to configure it on premise,” he told Finopotamus.
Gomez acknowledged that there are several high-quality, general-purpose RPA tools available, but also noted that the barriers to deployment can be significant. “They give you the tool and you have to learn how to use it effectively,” said Gomez. “You either do it yourself or hire somebody to do it for you.” Either way, he said, that all adds up to extra time and extra money that isn’t required in the Shastic environment.
“We sit down with an institution and map out specific processes step by step to identify the gaps and where the most manual work is happening,” said Gomez. “Then we'll take the ingredients, head to the kitchen, and prepare and configure everything, delivering those tasks from the cloud.”
An Agnostic Platform
Shastic has partnerships with a number of leading technology providers in the credit union space, including MeridianLink, Access Softec and Finastra. While these partnerships make deployment of the Shastic platform even easier, Gomez confirmed that his software can be used in any technology environment a credit union may happen to have.
Speaking to the benefits of these partnerships, Gomez said as an example that Shastic has “a containerized environment that includes MeridianLink inside of our virtual private cloud.” This means that Shastic can preprogram common MeridianLink tasks and deploy them to any institutions using that system.
Reiterating that Shastic can be deployed with any technology platform, Gomez said that Shastic sought these partnerships after having deployed its software in those environments.
Exactly where and how a credit union deploys the Shastic platform depends on its goals, said Gomez. For example, RPA can be used to drive more loans.
“We found that more than half of the people who click an ‘apply now’ button to start an application online don't complete those forms,” claimed Gomez. He said consumers often abandon these applications without the credit union ever knowing who they are.
“One of the most popular RPAs for growth is where we actually monitor the member as they're moving page by page, through that form, through any third-party vendor, without having to integrate anything,” he explained. “If the person abandons the application and does not complete it after a certain period of inactivity, we will engage the member with a personalized text message and bring them back.” He said that this method of engagement brings back 10-15% of abandoned applications.
According to Gomez, RPA can also make short order of document collection for processes like loan originations. He said that credit unions typically take two or three days to gather various documents from the member, but RPA can reduce that significantly.
“An underwriter might add a condition or a stipulation in the loan origination system requiring, for example, proof of insurance or a paystub,” said Gomez. “We have AI that can read those messages in real time, understand what the underwriter needs, and then, using RPA, instantly request those documents via text message from the member.”
He added that when the documents are returned, RPA can push them into the loan origination system automatically. “By doing all this, we’ve been able to cut this process down from two or three days to less than a day – maybe even just a couple of hours – by eliminating all that dead time and manual work.”
The AI Advantage
Gomez explained that RPA on its own can only handle simple, repetitive tasks. However, with complex processes like loan originations, every instance may be a little different. This is where artificial intelligence comes into play.
“We use a form of AI called natural language processing to be able to read, for example, whatever the underwriter types for conditions,” said Gomez. “We can compare that using AI with a lot of other variables, like the status of the loan, whether this person self-employed – lots of information a computer can’t normally understand.
Gomez added that because the Shastic platform also incorporates machine learning, it improves its accuracy and efficiency over time as it learns. And because the system is cloud based, it can take what it learns from one Shastic customer and apply it across all Shastic customers.
“It might take a credit union 10 years working on its own to collect all the data points we make available to our customers out of the box,” said Gomez, highlighting another limitation of on-premise RPA solutions.
“RPA is kind of new to a lot of institutions,” said Gomez. “If you ask someone at a credit union their top use case for RPA, they probably don’t know. We’re changing that by making RPA easy, powerful and accessible.”
You can find additional information on the topic of RPA in Finopotamus’ two-part series, The Robots Are Taking Over Your Credit Union! Or at Least They Should Be.