- Quality – Robots reduce manual intervention and are effective at following tedious and detailed instructions, producing work that is free of duplication and errors. This is a benefit that cannot be overstated in the work produced by accountants to meet regulatory requirements.
- Speed – Robots do not need coffee breaks, vacation time or sick days. They work around the clock, speeding up processing times and throughput and increasing capacity as a result.
- Governance – Robots support better compliance (and, therefore, organizational governance) by embedding requirements into the automation rules.
- Security – Cognitive computing work is machine-based, which reduces risk of security threats and data breaches within the organization.
- Business continuity – Robots allow processes to be switched easily and smoothly to other servers, which expedites disaster recovery processes (when needed), providing a boon in protecting important, often irreplaceable, information.
Will embracing robots help you embrace your future?
How can robotics support family offices today?
Currently, the best opportunities for family offices lie in the realm of RPA, whose strength lies in automating repetitive, manual tasks performed by people interacting with computers. An RPA robot operates exactly as a human would, logging in and interacting with applications, opening emails and downloading attachments, and storing files in well-defined locations.
These robots don’t automate entire processes, they fit seamlessly into existing processes and take on components that are low value added. They effectively become part of the team, and RPA projects often result in more satisfied human employees and higher performing workgroups with outcomes that are better because humans are freed up to focus on spotting issues, making decisions and analyzing data that is more quickly produced with fewer errors.6
An excellent example is the preparation of tax compliance forms. Tax work requires judgment, but also, for example, endless cutting and pasting from system to system and values testing. RPA software frees the tax professional to focus on key decisions, while removing the strain of repetitive tasks that can be better automated, a burden that predictably can lead to boredom and errors. Cases have shown that, from an efficiency perspective, a compliance process with medium to large data manipulation activity can often save 30% to 50% of that part of the process.7
What should you do next?
RPA and cognitive automation are rapidly being deployed throughout the world of financial services. It is expected that family offices will soon follow suit and adopt robotics processes for their own purposes. This has the short-term potential to help family offices achieve new levels of efficiencies in their often diverse and highly customized processes, while supporting them in creating services for the long view. The emerging capabilities of AI and cognitive technology have enormous promise in helping families draw the rising generation into engagement with their legacy, but also in managing the uniquely long game of transferring a legacy that will endure for multiple generations.
- Start small and grow your capabilities over time.
- Consider establishing a pilot program that draws on the strength of an experienced partner. Professional services firms are acquiring experience with most of the technology providers in this space, and have the specialized skill set needed to make RPA processes work in tax, accounting, administration and other specialized workflows.
- Involve your team. Employees often hear about the promise of robotics replacing white-collar workers, but the real-world experience has been that robotics allow workers to focus on more valuable tasks and employers to build higher-functioning teams.
- Make RPA a business-led initiative, not an IT-led initiative. Bots can be configured within the teams that are close to the business processes and have the expertise required to make them work.
6 “A New Approach to Automating Services,” MIT Sloan Management Review, fall 2016, Digital McKinsey December 2016.
7 “The role of RPA in Intelligent Tax Automation, ” Taxnotes.com, http://www.taxnotes.com/tax-notes-today/tax-system-administration/role-robotic-process-intelligent-tax-automation/2017/03/29/18880826, 2017.