From theory to practice: Onboarding digital labor in financial services

August 2016


Digital labor is rapidly becoming one of our clients’ hottest issues. In response, PwC is preparing an ongoing series of papers over several months to help our clients understand how to benefit from digital labor—and avoid some common pitfalls. This paper addresses why digital labor hasn't seen more traction despite its obvious benefits.

The promise and the reality of digital labor

For financial institutions in a challenging market, using automation in repetitive, business rule-driven work to rapidly cut costs, improve quality and scalability, and operate 24/7 is obviously appealing. And there are success stories, for both administrative and technical applications.

But there are many more firms stuck in a proverbial “analysis paralysis,” perhaps even with multiple successful pilots but little movement toward broader adoption.

There are three big issues that firms tend to struggle with when implementing this technology:

  • By rushing in and looking for quick savings, they’re trying to solve the wrong problems
  • By operating in silos, they miss the opportunity to scale by learning from mistakes
  • By focusing on functionality, they don’t build a foundation of support for a broad rollout

Define what success looks like

If everyone understands the value of digital labor, why are so many firms stuck at proving the concept? There are many reasons, and they vary by firm, but several themes have emerged. In some organizations, champions haven’t mobilized the right people for approval. Sometimes, firms charge ahead to solve a transactional issue without really understanding the business case involved. Still others are concerned that digital labor could run afoul of a compliance process based on human activity. Ultimately, these are all change management issues.

Success, by design

We view the adoption of digital labor in financial services as a step in a larger transition: helping find those capabilities that truly add value, and spending less effort on those that don’t. In this way, we’re describing a change to a financial institution’s operating model. Though this involves software, thinking in terms of technology is short-sighted; understanding its effect on process and on people will be at least as important to the program’s success or failure.

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Contact us

Kevin Kroen
Partner, FS Advisory, Digital Labor/RPA Leader
Tel: +1 (646) 471 0238

Grainne McNamara
Principal, Digital
Tel: +1 (646) 471 5347

Thomas Torlone
U.S. Leader of Enterprise Business Services, PwC
Tel: +1 (513) 349 6122

Michael Engel
Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) Leader
Tel: +1 (646) 313 0200

Charles Centrelli
Director, Financial Services
Tel: +1 (646) 471 4584

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