Sandeep Gawade brings accounting expertise and an appetite for innovation to his role as an operations manager for BNY Mellon in Pune, India. His constant search for ways to improve client accounting and reporting services has taken him in an exciting new direction – robotics. He recently worked to develop and implement the first software robot, or “bot,” in Global Institutional Accounting Services.
When did you join BNY Mellon, and what is your job like day to day?
I joined the company in Pune in November 2009 as part of the UK Transfer Agency. Since March 2013, I’ve worked in Global Institutional Accounting Services for the EMEA region, initially as an assistant manager and now as operations manager. I oversee five teams, and our job is to reconcile clients’ accounting books to the custody system on a monthly basis. It’s defined, standardized, detailed work, and we are always looking for ways to become more efficient.
You’re an accountant. How did you immerse yourself in technology?
I’ve always been interested in how I can help improve processes, and BNY Mellon is a place where we are constantly encouraged to stretch ourselves. I don’t have a technical background, so I taught myself how to create small apps and tools using online resources like Google.
My colleagues and supervisors admired the fact that I learned these things on my own. It helped me increase my digital knowledge and will no doubt be an added advantage in my career. Now that I know the technology as well as various technical systems and languages, this will help me to bridge the gap between the teams and schools of thought.
How did you get involved with robotics?
BNY Mellon is constantly developing and deploying new technology as part of a broad transformation and digitization program. Two years ago, a robotic process automation team from India went to the finals in our annual global innovation competition, or A.C.E. for “Accelerate, Collaborate, Execute.” They saw potential for software bots that interact with certain applications to perform high-volume, repetitive tasks. I happened to be part of a robotics discussion group in an online forum, so I followed the project from the beginning and paid close attention as they progressed.
After the competition was over, it was time to take these concepts to the development and launch stages. I raised my hand, and my supervisors encouraged me to do a pilot in Global Institutional Accounting Services. We needed to do a “proof of concept” to demonstrate the bots’ feasibility in real-life situations, and that was where I came in. Working with our software vendor, Blue Prism, we determined where we could program bots with rules that simplify tasks. We could see that bots had great applicability in our data-reconciliation work, but we needed to determine exactly how we would use them.
What processes does it make sense to automate with bots?
Robotics is a technology that can liberate the financial industry. Of course, not every process can be automated. Candidates for automation would include processes that:
Robots are reliable and deliver what they are designed to perform. They’re not affected at all by factors like workload, absenteeism, attrition, stress, or holidays. In fact they reduce risk and improve quality in a controlled environment.
Automation releases our people to focus on decision-making activities. It also eliminates tedium – we hire people with advanced skills to analyze data, and it’s disheartening for them to spend 30 to 40 percent of their work time on rote tasks. With help of robotics, we can increase their efficiency and help them focus on more productive work, including direct interactions with clients.
What other developments are you working on to streamline work?
We’re already working on a project related to machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. It is similar to robotics, but one step ahead in that it detects patterns in data and adjusts program actions accordingly. We’ve completed a proof of concept, and Global Institutional Accounting will be the first to implement this kind of technology. It’s likely we will see more hybrids of machine learning and robotics in near future. We need to be choosy and see where automation will help.
There’s a real energy around trying new things – always, however, with the right risk framework and controls in place. We’re building know-how, momentum and success every step of the way.