AI ILLUMINATIONS: What Financial Services Firms Should Look For While Automating Business Processes

Brian Bristow, Senior Vice-President, Business Analysis, Wealth Management at | Phil Sheridan, Director of Technology Consultation and Business Development at

Leaders of most Financial Services firms and several Advisors keep wondering where and how to start automating their business processes for the best results. And that’s quite normal. The answer to that question is not simple; it is rather multifaceted.

In his recent article in this column, Babu Sivadasan, CEO of, an autonomous enterprise platform for firms across several industries, had highlighted the need for Financial Services firms to think about adopting automation for end-to-end transformation, rather than taking a piecemeal approach.

The true starting point is thinking about where automation can make processes and experiences better for both internal and external stakeholders, from employees and partners to customers and prospects, says Phil Sheridan, Director of Technology Consultation and Business Development at

“People—especially the ones on the field—make everything happen,” says Sheridan. “They are responsible for the client experience from start to finish.”

Having said that, automation brings the biggest impact when implemented in the middle and back offices. For any new technology or process to work, it requires buy-in right from the C-Suite all the way down to the processing associates, who carry out the day-to-day tasks.

In fact, people doing the most basic roles often know where change is most needed, Sheridan says. Quite obviously, these are also the roles within financial firms where employees  are likely to be displaced by technology.

“Hiring associates for these roles is very challenging right now,” Sheridan says. “If your firm is on a consistent growth path, automation has to be at the top of your priority list, so you can continue to recruit employees, new Advisors and attract fresh business.”

Financial firms are at a crossroads today, says Brian Bristow, Senior Vice-President, Business Analysis, Wealth Management at

According to Bristow, process inefficiencies within wealth management firms can create the need for increased staffing  in these client processing roles. At the same time, the public demands these behind-the-scenes tasks be completed more efficiently. The increased costs of doing business are often passed along to the financial services professional, which puts pressure on their top line compensation and the price the client pays for services.

“Ultimately, Advisors have to either charge the clients more and pay themselves less, or let the cost be absorbed by the firm (i.e., broker-dealer) Bristow says. “It eventually acts as a drag on their ability to grow.”

Sheridan says, RIAs, broker-dealers and other wealth management firms compete for the same talent and use the same processes to onboard most of their Advisors, except for a small, very-high producing segment that gets more of a prioritized, white-glove treatment.

Otherwise, Advisors usually must wait in line for processing via a broker-dealer, home office, or custodian.

“On the other hand, I have also seen Advisors who have built very efficient practices still struggling to keep up with new technology, regulatory updates and firm-mandated changes.     They’d be happy to have someone come in to automate their processes and thus help them reduce the time and cost involved in running their businesses,” says Bristow.

While embarking on an ambitious automation project, firms should be certain they’re not just automating a broken process only to take the human element out, Sheridan says.

“Here’s a straightforward question you can ask—why does a process work the way it does, or why do you take this step in the process? If the only answer you get is ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ it indicates that the process needs to be reviewed in its entirety,” he adds.

At the same time, employees should not have to conduct special processes or procedures, or take extra steps, to move information through a workflow.

These concerns are best addressed when an efficient third-party conducts a comprehensive process review on behalf of financial services firms.

“At, we specialize in enabling financial services firms to achieve end-to-end business process automation. As the first step, we conduct a thorough review of their processes. Subsequently, our team of intelligent automation experts propose solutions to streamline the processes and point out areas where automation can fit into the overall strategy to help the firms make efficiency gains and realize economies of scale,” Sheridan says.

Now, this is not as easy as it sounds in today’s multi-channel wealth management firms. Let’s take the example of the account application and opening process.      

Typically, the process involves pulling all the relevant data together so the Advisor can onboard a new client or facilitate a trade—but today this consumes a lot of time spent on manual data entry. It requires the Advisor to use multiple systems that feed data to the broker-dealer in different formats,” Bristow says. “In most firms, the Financial Professionals must process the information in different systems for which they have to enter the data multiple times manually. The ‘holy grail’ is to tie all these processes together so it is streamlined, efficient, and consistent on the front-, middle- and back-ends.”

These different systems, even within the enterprise, usually don’t talk to each other, says Sheridan. But an intelligent automation platform like can help to move information between systems without having to enter the data again and again.

Another pain point specific to wealth managers, especially broker-dealers, is the volume of forms they have to deal with every day, both in paper and digital forms.

“You might have 20 different mutual fund companies or insurance carriers, and each could have 10 different products that might be approved at a broker-dealer. Just imagine the different ways these forms can come in—mail, fax, e-mail. Trying to keep up with the volume of all the data in these forms that are attached to crucial processes could be a nightmare. This is where automation comes in, extracts the data, and carries it across the company’s entire process ecosystem,” says Sheridan. “Intelligent automation simplifies and accelerates business processes that work with multiple systems and pieces of information.”

As an app-based, no-code/low-code intelligent automation platform that enables Advisors and professionals to build their own process automations, which learn and evolve based on changing business needs, bridges that gap for wealth management firms.