Robotics: the new “digital workforce”

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the latest tools to emerge in the field of digital finance.

Published 15. September 2017

RPA refers to software and algorithms that enable repetitive, rule-based processes and activities to be automated with ease in order to boost productivity and improve quality within a very short space of time. RPA is increasingly being put to use in companies, particularly in the financial function.

It is swift to implement, requiring no access to the existing system landscape (“system agnostic”), and offers a short-term return on investment (months rather than years). These distinguishing features set RPA apart from other automation solutions or even off-shore/service centre models.

Although “robotics” it not a completely new technology, it has recently attracted more attention. Technologies, products and the supplier landscape have gained considerable prestige, particularly as new functions have been added to some of the more familiar applications. The remarkable market growth of RPA is being driven forward even further as a result.

Most companies interested in implementing RPA in the financial function are currently still in the pilot phase and are initially testing the technology for a limited number of activities. There are also a few pioneers who have already defined a company-wide RPA strategy and intend to use RPA for end-to-end processes and introduce the technology throughout their company.

If RPA is to be successfully integrated into a company, the appropriate RPA processes and associated robots must be carefully chosen, and employees must be actively involved in the development stage. By selecting a realistic, comprehensible RPA approach, it is possible to achieve prospective gains of 30%+ .

The above diagram illustrates the automation potential of the main processes in the financial sector. Transaction processes such as process-to-pay, order-to-cash and record-to-report in particular have an automation potential of around 30-45% through the use of RPA solutions.

The invoice receipt process can be almost completely automated, for example. The calculation of income tax provisions can also be significantly assisted by RPA.

The possibilities outlined above show that RPA is already ready for the market, and demonstrate how the use of RPA in the financial function can increase efficiency and improve quality. However, it is important to incorporate the technology into the existing operating model, and not to view RPA in isolation.


Christian B. Westermann

Partner and Leader Data & Analytics, Zurich, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 27 97


Zack Tian

Intelligent Solutions Development, Zürich, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 26 24



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