Ikano Bank’s robot team exceeds 2021 targets

Ikano Bank surpassed its goal of saving 100,000 hours in 2021 with free time, thanks to the use of UiPath robotic process automation (RPA) software in all of its activity.

After a nudge from the CEO and previous experience in one of its operations, the bank embarked on its automation journey in late 2018. Since then, it has automated 168 processes, established an internal RPA team and integrated automation into the thinking of each department.

The Swedish bank, owned by the family that founded Ikea, offers credit cards, savings accounts and loans to consumers and credit services to businesses, including retailers.

At just over a quarter of a century old, Ikano Bank has around 1,200 employees in eight countries, including the UK, neighboring Nordic countries of Sweden, Germany and Austria.

Viktor Törner, Automation Office Team Leader at Ikano Bank, says growth, through mergers and acquisitions, has led to fragmentation of processes and applications, which she says could be solved through automation.

This is something that the CEO of the company had identified before approaching the operations development department to start work on automation. At the time, Törner was responsible for processes within the department, “taking care of a bit of everything related to process improvement”.

This wasn’t Ikano’s first encounter with RPA. A transformation project that ran in 2017 and 2018 at its Polish subsidiary had a robotic process automation workflow but was never completed.

“The project ended up being scrapped, but our CEO had good experience with RPA implementations in his previous roles,” says Törner. “He contacted my manager and asked me if we wanted to work with RPA.”

The first automation project materializes

A new fledgling team was created. After a random coffee machine meeting, the new team got their first project, which involved updating customer names on a central banking system.

“During a review of one of our systems in Sweden, we noticed that a number of customer names had not been updated, after changing by marriage, for example,” says Törner.

“The idea to use automation came from one of those coffee machine moments. I ran into someone at the coffee machine and he told me about the problem, and I said that this might be something we can solve with RPA.

“We tried and within days we had a process in place to scan customer names and compare them with names in public records in government databases,” he says. “A total of 34,000 customer names were automatically updated over the following weeks.”

Previously, operations staff printed a list and updated records manually.

The automation team understands the importance of talking to people across the business to solve their problems through automation, as the coffee machine moment proved. To this end, the department works separately from the IT department.

“I wasn’t in IT, and that’s true today because we deliberately kept the RPA project on the business side,” says Törner. “We work closely with our colleagues in IT, but from an organizational point of view, we are still part of operations.”

From strength to strength

Since launching its RPA journey at the end of 2018, Ikano Bank has automated 168 different processes and achieved a major milestone. “In 2021, we had a KPI to achieve 100,000 hours of time savings – we reached the goal before the end of the year,” says Törner.

The success of the bank’s RPA projects has seen the automation team grow in size and status. When he launched the initiative, he had two developers, with Törner in a business analyst role. It now has seven full-time RPA developers and four process analysts, as well as a virtual organization at the top, with around 50 people from different departments in the bank working with the automation team.

The team uses an agile scrum technique with three-week sprints, during which it “produces up to eight automation projects,” says Törner. Its biggest project to date is an e-commerce process automation, conducted with Ikea in Poland, to automate the onboarding of Ikea customers applying for financing.

“It took a while, but it’s the biggest commercial success,” he says. “We have onboarded tens of thousands of new customers and a large part of the overall Polish business.” In 12 months, the turnover generated was more than 150 times the amount of the budget invested.

Change management, a company-wide effort

Törner says addressing staff fears about how automation would affect their work was an important first challenge.

“Change management is always a challenge, especially in automation work, because one of the main motivations behind many projects is cost reduction, and it’s hard to escape that,” he says.

The bank didn’t want the automation team to be a feared squad. “We made choices at the beginning of the journey, which allowed us to overcome this problem,” says Törner. “The department that is today the automation office does not take responsibility for change management, we just offer automation support, but the person responsible for the team and the department can manage this in a normal way .”

There are now 50 people from across the bank working closely with the team. “We consciously have an open door policy and people join us for three week sprints from different departments. It created transparency and it’s fun for people to do something different,” he says.

About Wanda Dufresne

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