Dr Andreas Kornelakis and co-investigators Professor Damian Grimshaw, Professor Marcela Miozzo and Dr Chiara Benassi have been awarded £21,000 for a study of task automation in the financial services industry in the UK and Germany. The research will be funded by the ESRC-funded Digital Futures at Work Research Centre.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that launches programmable software bots which can automate routine, rules-based tasks. It is already in use in many sectors and is particularly advanced in the financial services industry where bots perform back office operations, for example, processing invoice payments. Unlike some other new technologies, RPA integrates seamlessly with legacy systems and improves the connectivity between new and old systems, so that it is widely expected to deliver major cost savings and improvements in productivity.
The team will focus in particular on how the uptake of this technology affects employment and skill development in the sector; does RPA automate individual tasks, or whole jobs? Are workers simply replaced by bots, or redeployed to perform more complex roles requiring human problem-solving skills? By comparing organizational changes in the UK and Germany they will explore how different institutional contexts, such as employment relations, innovation and skill systems, affect outcomes.
Robotic Process Automation has great potential to deliver productivity gains in many industries, but is also feared as a job-killer, while it requires investment in human capital. Since the financial services industry is well-advanced in its adoption of RPA, it offers fertile ground to understand the broader effects that automation may have on employment in many knowledge-intensive service industries.– Dr Andreas Kornelakis