The virus has caused financial turmoil for many of their customers who are grappling with issues such as reduced incomes or job loss. Many are turning to their bank for assistance in the shape of loan payment deferrals.


While amending loan conditions and altering agreed payments are nothing new for banks, having to do this at a large scale is something they have never faced before. According to APRA figures released in May, 6 per cent of mortgage customers and 13 per cent of small businesses have asked to defer loan repayments. Those loans are worth more than $150 billion.

In the pre-COVID world, banks traditionally handled requests for loan payment relief on a case-by-case basis. Each customer’s circumstances were carefully scrutinised before any decision was made.

However now, faced with a deluge of requests, many banks are finding the systems and workflows that had worked in the past are unable to cope. Manual processing and long approval chains simply can’t keep up with customer demand.

The role of RPA

One approach to the challenge is the deployment of robotic process automation (RPA) technology. Used effectively, RPA platforms can streamline workflows and automate many of the steps that have traditionally been completed by humans.

In the past, a bank has typically followed a manual, multistep process to alter or defer loan repayments. A customer request is captured in a document that is then sent to the bank’s credit department for an extended approval process, usually involving multiple sign-offs.

If approved, details of the changes are then logged in the core banking system so that payment timings and amounts can be altered. This is most often a manual step completed by banking staff.

Using RPA tools, the entire process is streamlined. The initial customer request is captured via a digital form on the bank’s website. It is then sent through an automated workflow to each of the parties that must grant approval.

Once the final tick has been given, the RPA platform then automatically communicates this fact to the core banking system where necessary changes are made to the customer’s loan account. The entire process can be completed in just minutes, compared with the hours or even days required in the past.

Introducing RPA can also help a bank fully document and improve its internal processes. Rather than relying on inefficient paper trails, automated workflows can be created that match exact requirements and ensure prompt responses for customers.

The move to open banking

As well as helping banks overcome their COVID-19 response challenges, RPA is also helping many ready themselves for the widespread introduction of open banking. Open banking is designed to allow customers to go to a different financial services company and authorise them to make an assessment of their financial standing by accessing records held by their existing bank.

Because open banking relies on the efficient exchange of information between financial firms, having an effective method of achieving this is critical. Here, RPA can be used to aggregate customer details from a range of different systems and applications. The data can then be compiled and provided to an authorised external party without the need for human intervention.

As the number of open banking-related requests climbs in the coming years, banks will need to have such systems in place or risk becoming swamped. Expecting current manual processes to do the job is just not realistic.

Putting RPA to work now, amid the virus-related pressures, can help position a bank to weather the challenges of the future.

Christian Lucarelli, vice president sales APAC, Nintex