“You need to start thinking about when to retire a robot” [Podcast]

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Katie Sadler

“The opportunity to learn about lean operational excellence as part of a graduate scheme completely changed my life,” reveals Close Brothers’ Camilla Kwong

RPA retiring robot

Image by Besjunior / Shutterstock

With a drive for lifelong learning and after 10 years as an analyst ‘churning through mundane processes’, Camilla Kwong, head of operational excellence at Close Brothers, took the next step in her career focusing on robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI).  “I just keep looking for ways I can improve the process and then it becomes my full time job,” she explained to AIIA Podcast host, Seth Adler.

“I just keep looking for ways I can improve the process and then it becomes my full time job”

“We are [Close Brothers] about 15 months in to the RPA and AI journey. Using the right tools like robotics and AI to help us become more efficient and serve our customers better, is really important to us,” said Kwong.

“We started out focusing on a couple of really quick robotic pilots and utilized a third party to do it very quickly—just to prove its value,” she explained. “Phase two is about doing it in-house—we spent a lot of effort building that capability in the bank because we want to make sure it's our people who have the knowledge building the robots.”

When creating an operational excellence team, a mix of talent is important, believes Kwong. “They are all very good problem solvers—they can be excellent process engineers who can handle lots of very, very complex processes and actually see through the big picture or IT graduates who are passionate, really fresh thinking, really keep us relevant to the market.

“We’ve built up a strong team who are very capable in robotics and the picking of locks—both are really good AI skills” 

“We’ve built up a strong team who are very capable in robotics and the picking of locks—both are really good AI skills.” 

This strong team has enabled Kwong to begin looking at future RPA and when to replace existing models. “A robot is like a human. You need to start thinking about when would you like to retire a robot, because ultimately the robotics solution is not a strategic solution.

“How do you make sure, over time, you address that route course? Maybe you can take that robot away and the problem will go away? That's something that we will start to debate in and thinking about,” she explains.

Join AIIA Network podcast host Seth Alder as Kwong explains why she believes those who say jobs will be replaced by robots is shortsighted.


Key takeaways from this week’s AIIA podcast

Tools to create star performers

“If you give people the right training and the right tools, you'll be surprised how many people, who may not be doing a good job, can actually be a star performer. I'm constantly improving the way I'm working. I feel I'm part of the family. I am contributing to the company.”

Learn form others but remember there’s no one solution

“Speak to as many third party vendors ads you can and really learn from them. I think one really interesting thing about robotics and AI is, if you look across the board, there really isn't a one set solution”

Think carefully about where to place technology


A chatbot is fantastic. However, because we do business to business lending, if the customer really values having someone like an account manager to talk to, it may not be the best place to put a chatbot which may deliver a detrimental experience. Sometimes you have to make these decisions very carefully.”

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