Technology, Bots and Automation...oh my!

Everyday, entrepreneurial Albertans start new business ventures and take risks to evolve and grow existing companies. At ATB, one of many points of pride for us is that we believe wholeheartedly in taking the leap alongside business owners to help them be successful. In the most black and white terms, that means providing loans and advice.

Our support of Albertans hasn’t wavered for over 81 years - but the ways we had been managing their loan agreements hadn’t changed too much either. When we challenged ourselves to rethink banking and make it more human (by pushing technological boundaries) - we saw some major opportunities:   

  • Make loans smarter
  • Build in standard process and consistency
  • Reduce risk 
  • Put the customer first

What can we automate?
To scratch the surface, we started with one portfolio of business loans (1,300 loan agreements) where customer loan agreements were structured around margining (when customers borrow against their accounts receivables or inventory).
In short, when we offer a loan to a business, we’re also saying, “We believe in you”. Yet we ask them to submit regular documentation for us to review in order to comply with the loan agreement.

To date, these types of loans have required a hefty investment of time - on both the borrower’s side as well as internally for ATB. The businesses need to provide documentation to us every month, which our team reviews before potentially adjusting the loan parameters. It was taking our team way too long to get through the paperwork (repeat: PAPERwork) and when a business owner is waiting to hear back, the inability to know where they stand with their bank has major implications to their daily operations.

The inefficiency was something we felt we could solve through automation. Using two internal machine learning experts, a product team was spun up and the challenge was outlined:

  • Teach bots to read and interpret reports and statements (computer vision and machine learning)
  • Determine an MVP of what could be automated (audit what is being done manually now and determine how to encourage high internal adoption)
  • Accomplish an error rate of less than 5%
  • Shift response rate from 30+ days to 24 hours

We’re not replacing you with bots, we’re making you better with bots. By automating monthly margining and covenants reviews and reporting, we proposed that we could reduce risk (humans are more likely to make calculation errors than bots), gain back valuable human time, and (most importantly) make things easier on our customers who are doing their best to maintain their end of the agreement—so we should be fast and effective on ours.

Now bots scrub monthly statements from customers. Send the update directly to the relevant ATB advisors to interpret, file the electronic documents into the appropriate places, make timely changes in our systems, and the customer gets an update automatically. 

For the first deployment of the margining bots within the system for these 1,300 loan agreements - within the first four months we eliminated 189 hours of time normally spent on manual process, and gave that time back to team members to lean into other meaningful work.

What’s next?
The technology is being tested on monthly statements right now, and covenants (wherein specific agreements around the loan that relate to factors of the business’ ongoing financial health). Moving forward, we have our sights set on scaling the technology to be capable of more onerous analysis such as bi-annual financial ratio calculations with various loan agreement structures.

As we build more and more ‘machine’ into the DNA of ATB, we do so with the ultimate strategic lens on making our operations more human. Deploying bots in our loan assessment processes has allowed our team members to spend less time in Excel spreadsheets and more time doing personal check-ins with business owners and being better advocates and advisors.

Stay in touch with us as we continue down the road to customer obsession through innovation.

We are ATB transformation - innovating at the forefront
of robotics, AI, blockchain and the future.