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Analytics, RPA and Blockchain Will be the Game Changers for Federal Bank: Shalini Warrier

The year 2019 has been a tough one for the Indian banking sector with the PMC Bank and Yes Bank crisis and the growing volumes of Non Performing Assets (NPAs). And, the year 2020 hasn’t started on a promising note either with the Covid19 outbreak unleashing a global economic crisis.

While banks have always been at the leading edge of digital adoption, today more than ever digital is pertinent to their staying competitive, efficient, cost effective and most importantly delivering superior customer experience.

Shalini Warrier, Executive Director, Federal Bank, is counting on analytics, RPA and Blockchain as the game changers shaping up the bank’s future. “Analytics, Blockchain and RPA are key areas of focus for the bank that give us more benefits and something that we are investing time and energy in,” she adds.

While the bank has been quite active in the areas of analytics and RPA, Blockchain is a relatively newer initiative on the block.

Analytics

With data and its most effective use being the key to Federal Bank’s strategy, the bank is putting significant weight behind its analytics programme. At the core of this programme is the Oracle Autonomous Datawarehouse platform and an in-house analytics team that is continuously and extensively experimenting with and trying out various hypothesis. Champion Challenges is what Warrier likes to call the exercise. “If we think there are two hypothesis but not sure which one will effectively work, we try both with different sets of users to gauge the feedback and response rate and accordingly fine tune our plan going along. All of this would not have been possible unless we have the capability that the autonomous data warehouse platform by Oracle provides us,” explains.

The bank has already implemented key business use cases of analytics that are built on the Oracle platform. These include analyzing effectiveness of marketing campaigns, sentiment analysis on social media and ATM availability. Warrier adds that there are a lot of other use cases that the analytics team is continuously working on building on the Oracle platform and enhancing the analytics capabilities of the bank.

Here are details of some of the key analytics projects already live at Federal Bank.

  • Campaign Analysis: Talking about the analytics use case around campaign analysis use case, Warrier explains that at any point in time the bank has 2-3 campaigns running with various e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Amazon, Big Basket, Myntra, etc. to get customers to use its debit cards on these platforms. “It’s really important for us to know which campaigns are working and what made them work as well what didn’t work to fine-tune and plan our future campaigns. When we send out mailers and emails to a set of customers and they don’t respond, we want to know what went wrong. And, that’s whole lot of data crunching. Analytics really helps us derive those insights to ensure that we are investing in the right campaigns and guide us around how we can really optimize our campaigns to be more effective,” explains Warrier.
  • Sentiment Analysis Using Social Media: With customer experience at the centre, another analytics use case that Federal Bank is keenly looking at is sentiment analysis using the social media platforms. The bank is leveraging analytics using the Oracle platform to understand what its customers as well as non-customers are talking about the bank on social media and how they perceive it. “There are multiple factors that need scrutiny when gauging people’s perception and experience with the bank on social media and analytics is helping us do that,” exclaims Warrier. In the age of customer experience making or breaking companies, social media can’t be ignored. This step by Federal Bank will be vital in draw real actionable insights around how we can serve our customers better and up their experience,” exclaims Warrier.
  • ATM Analytics: Another interesting business case where Federal Bank is leveraging analytics technology is around ATMs. Analytics enables the bank with a unified, single view of ATM availability, branch operations, and network availability across its 1200 branches and 1600 ATMs country-wide. This further helps the bank make better business decisions and personalize services better for its end consumers. Insights like which ATM has more walk-ins, why customers in a particular locality use a competitor’s ATM though there’s an ATM by their home bank nearby, etc. enables the bank make more strategic business decisions.

The bank is in the process of building another use case around ATMs, which involves applying analytics to ensure optimal cash amount in the ATMs. Too much cash in an ATM may impact the bank’s cash flow and too little may lead to customer service issues and ATMs going down. According to Warrier, this requires taking into account various considerations like past patterns, current circumstances, upcoming long weekend, events or festivals, among others. While the bank currently has a rule-based tool, it is now converting it into ML using autonomous capabilities for more accurate prediction.

Robotic Process Automation

Federal Bank has made significant strides in RPA, which is its other key focus area. The bank has partnered with UiPath and has already automated around 120 processes using RPA. According to Warrier, RPA is helping the bank save significant man hours and cater to the rising volumes, which have gone up by 20-25%, without increasing support team in operations.

Blockchain

In Blockchain, which is a relatively newer focus area for the bank, it has gone live with a successful project around cross-border remittances from the Middle East into India and is seeing immense benefits from a transparency standpoint. The bank is now working on enhancing it’s Blockchain capabilities and is exploring further use cases. “Blockchain is something that most banks like us are learning. What will be the right use cases and what are the areas it can bring benefits is something we’re learning as we go along,” she explains.

Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition

While the bank is working on enhancing its capabilities around the three outlined focus areas, experimentations are also underway around AI and facial recognition technologies. Over the next few months Warrier expects to get some of these experimentations into commercial production.

In terms of AI, the bank has built an  AI enabled chatbot that is today able to handle almost 30% of the internal queries from the employees across its branches. These could be queries related to computations or any customer queries at the branch that the employee is not able to answer. Instead of calling a central help desk, they can now get the queries instantly answered over the chatbot. The next step is to enhance the chatbot’s capabilities.

While this experiment in AI is more internal in nature, the bank is looking at expanding the use of the chatbot to more customer use cases to see how best it can answer customer queries. The bank’s existing chatbot ‘Ask Anita’ on its website is currently able to answer only basic queries. The objective is to enhance the capabilities to make it more sophisticated.

On the facial recognition front, the bank is working on using the technology for employee access. It has deployed a facial recognition tool at its head office wherein the camera recognizes the employee to grant access and log in attendance. The bank is working on improving and scaling it up.

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