Westpac has doubled its use of software 'robots' - both attended and unattended - over the past year to automate handling of process-intensive workloads in the wake of the pandemic.
Head of robotics and automation Abhi Kadian told Westpac Wire that the bank now has about 240 "unattended" software robots in operation, with a further 1060 "attended" automations – or “digital assistants” - also live, for a total of "more than 1300 ... digital workers".
The number of software bots in production has doubled in the past year to handle large-scale processing tasks such as qualification and approval of financial relief packages in the wake of the pandemic.
Kadian said the bank had systems for these processes, "but not all systems could do what we wanted them to do for so many customers as quickly as we needed them to, and we couldn’t just scale up people" to address the shortfall.
Instead, the bank turned to software robotics, with Kadian "repointing his entire team to the Covid response", working out which processes could be partially or fully automated.
“We’d eyeball a business process – literally watch a person click through the process – and within a couple hours, we’d make a call to say whether it needed humans or bots, then go straight into build,” Kadian said.
“In those first three months, we delivered 23 automations – each within an average of two weeks to build – and used 120 bots to execute around 200,000 transactions for customers – or the equivalent of 700 people’s work.
“Over the whole 2020 year, the bots processed about 400,000 transactions for Covid relief.”
Kadian said that the use of software robotics helped Westpac process bulk loan deferrals, refunds for business, and in the issuance of 40,000 debit cards for customers that could not attend branches.
Most recently Westpac was able to use software robots to expedite processing of assistance for Westpac customers affected by recent weather events.
“In moments when, as humans, we can't adequately support our customers as quickly as they need in a critical moment, augmenting our workforce with digital workers can help," he said.