Webinar reveals that the bots are here to make life easier for finance

Bots are changing the way finance teams operate, including Hyundai Automotive SA, says CFO Thinus Venter.

A jam-packed CFO webinar, entitled Meet the bots: How Hyundai SA transformed finance using robotic process automation (RPA), provided unique insight into how using bots for repetitive work can make a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Thinus Venter, CFO at Hyundai Automotive SA, kicked off the session by acknowledging that there can be initial resistance to starting such a process, largely because RPA is seen as a mountain to climb.

“Once you start getting into it, it is not so difficult to do,” he reassured attendees.

Hyundai is fully owned by the Motus Group and has around 100 dealers across the country, with 45 of those dealerships being directly owned. So, operations comprise wholesale, distribution and retail. This results in a huge amount of inter-company transactions.

“Like all finance roles, we touch all sides of the business and have an impact on importers and dealerships. So, two businesses and one balance sheet. We often hear that the finance role is boring and tasks are repetitive. It can take one team member three or four days to capture information and they do the same thing every month, so does a human need to do this or can a robot do that?” he asked.

Thinus added, “In the days when I first started in finance, we would receive boxes of invoices from clearing agents, and someone had to go through those invoices, capture duty, VAT, clearing charges, vehicles, parts, etc. All that is gone now. We still receive the boxes – but now it is to archive.”

Hyundai set up sundry invoicing on a monthly basis many years ago, and has been on the RPA journey for about a year.

“It took time. We are finished with the importers and are now rolling onto the dealership side. You need to decide process by process or transaction by transaction and make a decision. It took time and we are now rolling out onto the dealership side. We have automated 12 or 15 different types of transactions,” he said.

By Thinus’s calculations, this has saved in excess of 800 human hours a month. He points out that companies considering RPA do not need to be concerned about the skills required to make such a transition.

The complete package
Rudolph Janse van Rensburg, CTO at TreasuryONE, explained that although RPA is a scarce skill and there is a shortage in the South African market, the most important person is the process owner, the internal business people.

“Our client base information shows that 30 percent use us in the beginning and have a plan to build internal capabilities,” he said.

This capability can take the form of a business analyst or developer. “The business analyst understands the process, so it is two or three months to upskill and it can take three months to a year to upskill a developer,” Rudolph explained.

He then took attendees through a high-level view of the current RPA landscape, focusing on three factors:
Market update: The early adoption phase is over globally, and the early majority phase has started with RPA now considered a part of the standard enterprise software landscape. Gartner research shows that 93 percent of organisations will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022. In South Africa, however, it is still in the early adopter stage.

Automation anywhere: Everything is going cloud so it is not advisable to take an on-premise solution and try to fit in with a cloud strategy. With the introduction of POPIA, it is also useful to know that companies can be cloud native with RPA deployment in-country.

Platform expansion: Once the market moves to mass adoption, then the platform is looked at. Now, in addition to attended automation and unattended automation, there is a digital assistant (Aari) that can be used to create and customise web forms and put decision bots into the process.

“In finance, for example, creating a quote into an order is a good case study for the use of Aari. Data can be fetched from different sources and the user sees a customised screen. You can have the complete workflow package. For example, a bot cannot verify a signature, so the sensitive data will be authorised by a person,” Rudolph explained, as he took attendees through a video demonstration of Aari.

He added, “So, there’s the power of unattended bots and the customisation of own forms and an online sign-in platform which speeds up process and makes people more productive. The bot takes care of process and people in-between to make decisions.”

The advantages of such a solution are evident in the data, with Hyundai bots now processing large transaction volumes and simultaneously performing the GL reconciliation for 200 invoices a month. By making use of a sweeping bot, Hyundai is also able to process 1,500 journals a month, with cash sweeps from the bank statement, taking interest rates into account, and thereafter providing a report on inter-company balances.