Rethinking Strategies and Processes With RPA

Sep  15 
Staff Writer   

One bank's story of using robotic process automation and data to improve efficiencies and engagement 

When First Foundation Bank's leaders decided to implement robotic process automation (RPA), they knew it would mean rethinking strategies and processes and making cultural changes to build a data-driven organization. But by automating routine, repetitive tasks, the growing organization created a scalable foundation for effectively using data to engage employees and serve customers.

In a recent conversation, Jami DeHaven discussed First Foundation Bank's implementation of RPA. The Irvine, California, bank's senior vice president and director of enterprise delivery services said before the organization made the transition, it tightened its processes, standards and integration between different business units.

"Creating a bot to automate a bad process doesn't fix anything," she said.

The bank prioritized client-facing processes where automation could improve timeliness and accuracy.

Onboarding is a good example. Enrolling a new commercial client requires adding an online administrator to each of what could be hundreds of accounts. That may take a bank employee a few hours compared to a 20-second turnaround for a bot.

DeHaven said there was initial concern that employees may drag their feet on implementing RPA, believing the technology could threaten their jobs. But, she said, the opposite occurred as the initiative took shape.

"Employees kept asking, 'Can we build a bot for this?'" DeHaven said. "From the beginning, we've focused on building a culture where people felt engaged and empowered to be part of the solution."

The bank has been able to move knowledgeable employees who were overwhelmed with monotonous tasks to more value-added work. Not only does that benefit the bank, it helps employees grow their careers with the organization.

From the beginning, we've focused on building a culture where people felt engaged and empowered to be part of the solution.

– Jami DeHaven, First Foundation Bank

Using RPA to Fight Fraud

During the pandemic, online account opening surged. That's good for growing deposits but can open the door for more instances of identity theft. Criminals may try to open and fund accounts using someone else's identity, withdrawing the opening deposit as soon as it's posted. By the time it's typically batched and flagged, the money is already out the door.

First Foundation Bank now leverages RPA technology to flag every new customer who tries to use ACH to withdraw funds from a newly opened account. An employee can then review and verify the transaction or stop the withdrawal. Using a bot for the integration handoff expedites those alerts, potentially saving the bank from substantial fraud losses.

Driving Dynamic Processes

The bank's departments worked in tandem to find new efficiencies and uncover better processes. The biggest lifts, DeHaven said, came from using the bank's vast data for improved reporting and to bridge the gaps among various business units.

RPA technology changed how the bank works, including how it disseminates its reports. It now publishes reports to dashboards instead of downloading and emailing filtered, standardized reports. 

As it taps into its strategic partnership with Fiserv, First Foundation Bank continues to discover additional benefits and returns on its RPA investment. From the beginning of the implementation, the bank relied on its strong relationship with the Fiserv Systems Integration Services team to help bridge integration gaps, develop bots and provide additional expertise.

Because the bank uses Fiserv products and services almost exclusively, DeHaven said it didn't make sense to build out the infrastructure to monitor and scale its RPA technology.

"Fiserv has access to resources who know the data and applications the best," DeHaven said. "So why not leverage those resources?"

The value RPA technology brings to First Foundation Bank was underscored when it won the Celent Model Bank 2020 Employee Enablement Award for the business intelligence delivery framework that supports its automated processes.  

"We needed a scalable foundation to get better control of our data and drive dynamic processes," DeHaven said. "RPA technology has more than proven itself."