LarcAI delivered a competent robot process automation solution using UiPath software attaining 54% increase in efficiency and overall effort displacement of 35% for Curo Fund services. This was achieved by automating pricing information extraction, consolidation and updates from emails and files received in addition to supplementary information sourced daily. The solution delivers mission critical updates to portfolio management systems responsible for deriving daily closing positions which is inherently a high risk function.

The primary drivers for automating these time consuming processes are to mitigate operational and compliance risk by reducing errors and managing backlog, whilst improving overall efficiency. Failure to deliver on-time and accurate processing exposes the business to significant fines and penalties which is avoided due to the effectiveness of the LarcAI robotic solution.

“As a business we are really pleased with the results of our RPA implementation. We managed to deliver
the first use case into production in a relatively short space of time, and are now rolling out other use cases
in other processes. We always believed that the nature of our business lends itself to robotic automation
and we are thrilled at how quickly we have been able to see tangible results”. – Curo CEO, Barri Maggott

Purpose of the Document

This document contains the case study relating to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) implemented by Curo Fund Services to serve their clients through their offering of leading wealth and investment administration services. The implementation was completed during 2017. The case demonstrates the success of LarcAI as a key provider in the field of intelligent robotics and the capability of the vendor to understand and solve complex customer centric solution objectives. LarcAI is a technology provider with extensive consulting capability to support the implementation of configurable intelligent robotic solutions. By using standard products available in the market, LarcAI adds value by transforming these products into intelligent virtual workers to interact with humans and complete suited tasks and activities to support human processing requirements.

Background Information

Curo Fund Services have identified opportunities in their operational processes to improve efficiencies to benefit their clients and streamline their operations by adding virtual assistants (known as robots) into their end-to-end processes.

The primary objectives of the incorporation of virtual assistants are to benefit and improve the following:

  • overall process efficiency
  • quality of process output and information simulation
  • overall cost of operations by addressing high-volume opportunities to benefit from automation savings
  • increase staff capacity to focus on value added processes
  • reduce annual errors and subsequent exposure to financial implications

In this case study, the focus is primarily on the removal of human intervention in repetitive data intensive processing surrounding the price sourcing process and procedures which often results in errors that potentially have significant financial implications.

The following process steps are required to address the operational objectives associated with this case

  • receipt of manual input containing pricing information
  • interpret the received information and validate the completeness thereof
  • update the relevant systems by copying and pasting or retyping the information
  • check the information updates to ensure correct transfer thereof between instruction and target system

The primary objective of this process is to update pricing information which has a material effect on the portfolio position management. Any errors would impact product pricing directly and could result in significant financial exposure and losses to Curo and potentially the client.

During the engagement and planning for automation, it was noted that the following aspects were of concern and had to be resolved when implementing the RPA solution:

  • ineffective control over email instructions could lead to instructions for pricing being omitted
  • errors in transferring information could lead to financial losses due to the service level agreement (SLA) with the client based on penalty structures
  • reputational damage due to errors which may not be identified in the process, resulting in incorrect positions potentially resulting in penalties and losses
  • general ability to provide for audit trials and traceability was a deciding factor to improve overall governance and control

The primary driver of the initiative was not to replace staff, but to use the existing staff more effectively and create the support structures through technology to enable higher efficiency, improved governance and control as well as accuracy when processing information and instructions. The design of the RPA initiative had to consider these requirements. Core values of Curo required the solution to be customer centric in all aspects and to provide improvements without affecting the morale and sentiment of the staff.

The challenge was to improve the time it takes to complete approximately 250 instructions per day and significantly reduce the error margin, and ensure that all errors are identified in an auditable and standardised process. The following results were attained based on the average workday by comparison between pre- and post RPA implementation:

The solution enables Curo Fund Services to re-purpose nearly 35% of the existing workforces’ effective time available to more customer centric value-added processes. Traditionally, in areas where repetitive processing is prevalent, retention rates are lower and training costs significantly higher to maintain competence. Improvement in retention and reduction in training content and workload will therefore reduce overall staff costs.

Reduction in repetitive job activities improves job satisfaction and has a positive influence on staff morale, which assists in staff retention by refocusing attention to customer centric business critical activities. Effectively, 65%2 of the targeted instructions are successfully performed by the robot. The remaining 35% of the workflow instructions fall outside the robot parameters – these are still processed manually. Based on the benefits attained, further opportunities have been identified and implemented, also demonstrating positive returns in line with the projected value proposition. Success of the implementations is considered
meaningful and allows Curo Fund Services to strategically position itself for future successes in robotic implantation to drive down cost of operations without impacting on customer centricity or social responsibility.

  1. The 54% savings is qualified based on the savings obtained within the scope of processes having been successfully
    executed. It specifically refers to the successful processing of in-scope processes having been successfully completed
    by the robot. An overall saving in effort of 35% has been achieved within the area affected by the introduction of the
  2. The 65% successful processing of transactions refers to the in-scope operations where approximately half of the total
    operations in this specific area are robot processing enabled. The balance of 35% represents transactions within the
    scope of robot processing where human intervention is required to successfully complete transactions. Coverage of
    robot process automation is limited in certain areas due to the specific out-scoping of processes to support the
    business rationale.

Solution Technical Rendering

Although the implementation design is technically complex and required extensive use of customisation, the process automation instance is very simple. 

Rendering the technical solution required the following key capabilities to be performed by the robot:

  • Locate the email instruction
  •  Interpret the context of the email instruction
  • Connect with supplementary data sources
  • Update the product pricing
  • Update the end-of-day positions
  • Create transaction log of the update transactions
  • Perform basic exception and error reporting
  • Allow for review and approve workflow staging
  • Produce an audit report for sign-off

Ensuring the viability of the robotic solution, reliability and serviceability was a critical consideration. Primarily due to the importance of the process and the reliance placed on the process execution and integrity thereof. This materially influenced the solution construct, internalisation of services and the technical rendering of the final solution.

As such, the logical design parameters were best suited to the open-source enabled, UiPath automation product. Meeting the future intelligent processing and machine learning capability requirements, the base product would need to allow for services enrichment. The potential to include future focussed services available in the market to reduce the risk of the robot becoming obsolete or needing replacement, was important to address. The following services were evaluated for inclusion into the robot core future construct as part of the delivery:

Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit is an easy-to-use, open-source, commercial-grade toolkit that trains deep learning algorithms to learn like the human brain.
Watson analytics services available on the Bluemix cloud platform from IBM enables your robot to learn, reason and consider context when processing data or requests.
Accord.NET Framework is machine learning framework written in C# and enables building production-grade computer automation enablers for commercial use.
ABBYY software provides optical character recognition, document capture and language software – products intend to simplify conversion of paper documents to digital data.

The present version of the robot providing the RPA capability has not been enriched, but provision has been made for future upgrades to incorporate the balance of the technology as the need may arise due to the maturation and evolution of requirements within the process and business strategy.

Implementation of the robot was supported with pre-specified iterations to ensure that the configuration would be business centric and meet the processing demands. These were based on the standardisation that was not enforced in the human interaction to source input for the virtual assistant.

Product and Implementation Partnership

Success of the technical rendering of the solution at Curo Fund Services as a service provider of fund administrative services is a direct result of choosing the correct solution and implementation partner with the skill and perseverance to enable the business vision.

Consulting partnerships with specific allegiances often pose a problem, because the benefit of functionality outside the core robotic automation products is seldom harnessed to deliver an appropriate and relevant solution for the business. Understanding these limitations has led to a process of selection which considered the following key aspects of the delivery competence and capability mix:

  • Nature and functional competency of the base or core product and its ability to assimilate and integrate with other digital domain competencies and services
  • Proficiency of the vendor, implementation partners and outsource providers to resolve full integration into the core product to meet the client requirements
  • Speed at which the integration assimilation, configuration and development requirements could be met to introduce a fully-fledged packaged solution, permitting easy upgrade and delivery continuity
  • Overall delivery competence and timeframe required of the vendor and outsource partner to implement, test and release iterations based on agile principles, expediting delivery to meet Curo expectations
  • Future focussed delivery strategies for the core products, integration components and delivery partner to ensure sustainability and prospect of meeting future demands
  • Ability to collaborate with external parties, consultancies and specialists to inform the solution architecture, delivery and future sustainability and where available, how mature and sustainable these support services are to meet the business requirements
  • Social responsibility initiatives supported by the development and implementation partners to ensure that potential displacement in the workforce is proactively planned and mitigated as not to damage labour relations or sustained economic empowerment of people in general

After the assessment of criteria, it was decided that the most appropriate combination in this instance was UiPath Robotic Process Automation software, coupled with the expertise and delivery capability of LarcAI as a Microsoft Gold Partner:

UiPath is a leading Robotic Process Automation vendor providing a complete software platform to help organizations efficiently automate business processes.
LarcAI mission is to craft Intelligent Robots by combining Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence powered by Cognitive Services
Microsoft technology provides a competent framework for implementation and technology
enrichment within the complex virtual services domain supporting artificial intelligence

Combination of the vendor products and their respective competencies, capabilities, track record with implementation and strategic fit with the organisation was a deciding factor in choosing the technology configuration. Selection of LarcAI as the implementation partner was influenced positively, resulting from their ability to provide specialist advisory services, highly skilled technical resources along with the relationships with universities to promote development quality, support leading edge innovation and provide opportunities for new student talent to develop and participate, and gain exposure within the prevailing business context.

Benefit Attained

Benefit of the solution to Curo Fund Services client has been significant. Although not the only RPA implementation at Curo servicing their client base, this instance has provided customer centric value and has thus far exceeded expectations.

The following benefits have been quantified within the first six months after having implemented the virtual
assistant (robot) indirect benefits:

  • Saving in processing time and resource dependencies
  • Mitigating the risk of fines and penalties based on incorrect information being provided affecting product pricing and daily positions
  • General efficiency and complexity around day-end procedures have been reduced and keyman dependencies have been removed
  • Staff retraining costs have been reduced significantly and the scope of training has reduced to output assimilation rather than the entire process understanding and execution
  • Implementation cost off-set to deliver a return on investment is estimated below three years (excluding fines and penalties) and less than two years if potential for recurrence of historical claims are included
  • User experience has improved drastically and internal customer sentiments indicate positively
  • Staff sentiment has improved due to overall improvement in job satisfaction
  • Workflow error ratio has improved drastically and compliance defects are rooted out due to effective governance and control measures using exception management to focus on problematic areas
  • Quality of information has improved and is virtually error free (where the robots are deployed and active)
  • Performance measurement has improved due to the auditability in the process and the ability to assign workflow with a supporting audit trail
  • Overall operational risk mitigation is a key benefit supported by consistency of performance and availability of records

Staff sentiment and adoption of the new technology is considered extremely important for the successful implementation and value realisation. Successful transformation of staff in support of the initiative has been attained by significant investment in change management focussing on:

  • Improved job security for those supporting the RPA value chain
  • Lower training cost associated with turnover in affected functions by reducing training content
  • Creating excitement when introducing virtual assistants to support process enablement
  • Support for future initiatives and opportunities being actively identified, driving change in the business