Emea Content Editor, Computer Weekly
Published: 13 Jan 2022 11: 00
Ikano Bank exceeded its target of saving 100,000 hours during 2021 with time to spare, through the use of UiPath’s robotic process automation (RPA) software across its business.
After a nudge from the CEO and previous experience in one of its operations, the bank embarked on its automation journey in late 2018. It has since automated 168 processes, built an in-house RPA team and embedded automation in every department’s thinking.
The Swedish bank is owned by the same family that founded Ikea. It offers credit cards and savings accounts, loans and loans to consumers, and credit services for businesses including retailers.
At just over a quarter of a century old, Ikano Bank has about 1,200 staff in eight countries, including the UK, Sweden’s neighbouring Nordic countries, Germany and Austria.
Viktor Torner, team manager of the automation office at Ikano Bank, says growth, through mergers and acquisitions, had resulted in a fragmented process and application landscape, which it believed could be solved through automation.
This was something the company’s CEO had identified before approaching the operations development department to kick off the work on automation. Torner was at the time a process manager in the company, responsible for “a little bit of everything related to process improvement”.
It was not Ikano’s first encounter with RPA. A transformation project that ran in 2017 and 2018 in its Polish branch had a robotic process automation workstream but was never completed.
“The project ended up being scrapped, but our CEO had good experience of RPA implementations in previous roles,” says Torner. “He approached my manager and asked if we wanted to do some work with RPA.”
First automation project comes to fruition
A new team was formed. The new team was formed after a coffee machine meeting. Its first project involved updating customer information in a core banking system.
“During a review of one our systems in Sweden, it had been noticed that a number of customer names had not been kept up to date, after changing through marriage, for example,” says Torner.
“The idea to use automation came from one of those coffee machine moments. I met someone at the coffee machine, and he informed me about the problem. I suggested that RPA might help.
” We had a go at it and in a matter of days, we had created a process to scan customer records and compare them with public records in government databases.” He says. “A total of 34,000 customer names were automatically updated over the following few weeks.”
Previously, operations staff would have printed a list and updated the records manually.
The automation team knows the importance of communicating with people throughout the company in order to solve their problems through automation. This was evident by the coffee machine moment. The department is separate from the IT department.
” I was not in IT and this is still true today, because we deliberately kept the RPA Project on the business side,” states Torner. “We collaborate closely with our colleagues in IT, but organisationally we remain part of operations.”
Going from strength to strength
Since kicking off its RPA journey in late 2018, Ikano Bank has automated 168 different processes and reached a major milestone. “In 2021, we had a KPI to deliver 100,000 hours in saved time – we hit the target before the end of the year,” says Torner.
The bank’s RPA successes have seen the automation team grow and become more prominent. It had only two developers when it began the initiative. Torner was a business analyst. It now has seven full-time RPA developers and four process analysts, as well as a virtual organisation on top, with about 50 people from departments across the bank working with the automation team.
The team employs an agile scrum methodology with three-week sprints during which it “churns up to eight automation projects,” says Torner. The team’s largest project is an ecommerce process automation. This was done in partnership with Ikea in Poland to automate the onboarding and financing of Ikea customers.
” “It took quite a while but has been most commercially successful,” he said. “We have onboarded tens of thousands of new customers and a large part of the overall Polish business.” Within 12 months, the turnover generated has been over 150 times the amount of invested budget.
Change management a company-wide effort
Torner says addressing staff fears over how automation would affect their jobs was an important early challenge to address.
“Change management is always a challenge, especially in automation work, b