Robotics “just one pillar” of American Express’s treasury automation strategy

By Michael McCaw | 6 November 2018

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is just one element of American Express’s treasury move to automation, the company’s vice president, payment strategies - global treasury McKay Colton told an audience at an industry conference in Chicago.

“Robotics is one pillar of our automation journey,” said Colton, discussing the company’s digital roadmap. “Robotics is one theme of that automation. We’re also looking at blockchain and other options for automation.”

American Express’s journey towards automation started in 2016 when the firm started working with software provider Blue Prism – since then other partnerships and initiatives have followed. At that point, the firm started to explore RPA’s capabilities, and such was its success that the firm started to build infrastructure around it. Then in 2017, the firm began using Datawatch – a business intelligence tool – to gather, analyse and disseminate information. Datawatch and Blue Prism were then combined, before this year, when Open Source was launched – a machine learning tool.

When the firm set out to explore and incorporate robotics into its processes, it did so with the assistance of third-party advisors, but now most of the work is carried out in-house.

“When we first started we were heavily reliant on outside providers, consultants, etc, who really got us started in getting the infrastructure set up, getting the pilots up and running, working with some of the early tweaks,” said Colton.

“But once we got that in place it’s really become less of an internal technology support function, and more business support. Now our technology group holds the servers rather than on individual desktops and they help ensure that things are up and running, and we have the integration on those servers so bots can access various applications and systems.”

Considering robotics generally, Colton pointed out that it could be used far and wide.

“There are a lot of great applications, and there’s different reasons to implement robotics and automation across various companies. At American Express we have focused on two primary reasons for automation: it’s employee engagement and financial integrity. We view automation and robotics as a way to improve the employee experience. You’ve got entry-level positions that come in, take a process over, improve that process the best they can, but then they run it over and over again. That can be tedious and mundane. Our entry level positions are exciting because people get to work with robotics and it takes less time to do those mundane tasks.”

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