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Client: Maitland Group Region: MEAIndustry: Financial Services

Maitland Group Improves Process Accuracy by Leveraging RPA

Maitland Group found that their accounting team spent a large proportion of their time and effort on error-prone manual calculations.

With the implementation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Maitland was able to shift the focus to work that hinged on accountants’ core competencies, improving the accuracy of NAVs for 500 funds.
Many financial workflows require manual data entry and migration chores before staff can achieve a specific goal. Automating these clerical tasks gives personnel a more reasonable amount of time to focus on executing the essential, judgment-based aspects of their jobs. Maitland Group, a global advisory, administration, and family office firm whose journey began in Luxembourg in 1976, can attest to this.

The firm’s fund accounting team worked long and often unusual hours on daily calculation and publishing of unit trust values. Much of the labor was dedicated to error-prone manual work that preceded the accountants’ core competency, which is to review and validate the accuracy of fund Net Asset Values (NAV).

With the help of the UiPath RPA Enterprise Platform, Maitland Group successfully automated many of the preliminary processes so fund accountants could allocate their time and energy to verifying 100% accuracy of NAVs. The resulting benefits include reduced risk, more efficiency, and higher employee morale.

Precise manual processes prone to simple but risky mistakes

Fund management is primarily handled in Maitland Group’s Cape Town office. Every day, the fund accountants are responsible for calculating and publishing NAVs for 700 unit trusts ahead of rigid market deadlines. The first team of accountants sometimes starts as early as 4:30 a.m. so they can have NAV data completed before the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) opens at 9 a.m.

Unfortunately, the main systems that Maitland Group uses for this function are tailored to American and European markets.

"What's happened over the course of time is that we've built up a number of tools that sit around the core system, and these tools are really there to supplement the functionality of the core system to bring in the South Africanisms or the idiosyncrasies of a particular fund type," Jon Hugill, Group Information Systems Head at Maitland Group explained. "This resulted in lots of workarounds and frequently, lots of manual work, either to move data between systems or to run specific processes outside of the core system."

These exact and precise manual processes made them prone to simple mistakes. Maitland Group's clients rely heavily on NAV data to make critical financial decisions, so they have a very low tolerance for error. An incorrect NAV could cause financial or reputational risk. This was a source of stress for employees working against the clock very early in the morning.

What's happened over the course of time is that we've built up a number of tools that sit around the core system, and these tools are really there to supplement the functionality of the core system to bring in the South Africanisms or the idiosyncrasies of a particular fund type

Jon HugillGroup Information Systems Head at Maitland Group

Furthermore, Maitland Group's fund accountants are highly skilled professionals. Their capabilities are better suited to ensuring every NAV calculation is entirely accurate. Instead, they spent much of their time on tasks that made the calculations possible in the first place.

“All these manual processes just gradually sort of take over your world, so to speak, and you spend more and more time on the processes and less and less time on making sure your NAV is complete and accurate,” Hugill said.

This was also true for the afternoon team of fund accounts, who worked from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and needed to hit market-close deadlines. Consequently, fund accountants had less time for their most important function: making sure that every NAV is 100% accurate.

All these manual processes just gradually sort of take over your world, so to speak, and you spend more and more time on the processes and less and less time on making sure your NAV is complete and accurate

Jon HugillGroup Information Systems Head at Maitland Group

Choosing an RPA partner to start small then scale big

Maitland Group wanted an innovative way to let accountants focus less on tasks such as moving data and more on NAV verification.

Hugill had already become very open to using automation as a way to make work more manageable for employees while still being able to accommodate client demands. This made RPA a natural fit for what Maitland was trying to achieve.

The pricing models of some of the initial vendors made it difficult to justify the investment to internal stakeholders, but this changed when Hugill encountered UiPath.

“UiPath appeared to be as good, if not better than a lot of the other technologies out there,” Hugill said. “And the cost model was a lot more favorable in terms of being able to start small and bold, but build up quite big, quite quickly.”

Maitland established a Centre of Excellence (COE), leveraging UiPath.This was done in partnership with LarcAI, a boutique South African company, specialising in automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

Capability, ease of use, a solution based on the .Net framework, an open architecture, and license costs were all critical considerations. After assessing three of the four major RPA vendors, LarcAI decided on UiPath, the award-winning RPA technology as our RPA platform of choice.

Jannie Strydom CEO at LarcAI Robotics

The goal for Maitland was to be as self-sufficient as possible for future automation use cases so they wouldn’t be too reliant on third parties. To that end, UiPath’s RPA Academy training materials proved to be an invaluable support tool for the CoE and staff.

Maitland Group Image #1

Since gaining RPA buy-in and assembling the CoEs, Maitland has automated 59 processes. This is the equivalent of 12 full-time employees (FTEs) worth of labor. In total, they automated preliminary NAV functions for 500 of the 700 funds.

UiPath appeared to be as good, if not better than a lot of the other technologies out there, and the cost model was a lot more favorable in terms of being able to start small and bold, but build up quite big, quite quickly.

Jon Hugill Group Information Systems Head at Maitland Group

Improving the employee experience

Automation improved NAV accuracy across the board. Two core factors contributed to this accuracy:

  • 1. The digital workforce created with UiPath automation adheres rigidly to programming and doesn't make mistakes when handling routine processes preceding NAV validation.
  • 2. Maitland accountants could now dedicate most of their time to NAV validation, which allowed them to ensure fund valuations were 100% accurate and delivered well ahead of market deadlines.

Originally, accountants were tired and stressed by the time they began NAV validation, which is the most critical work. Now 80% of the process is complete when they arrive each morning. Staff can dedicate their full time and attention to the essential 20%, much to the benefit of product quality.

"I recently met with one of our largest clients, and in the meeting, they said to me they've noticed an improvement in the quality of the NAVs that we produce," Hugill told UiPath.

Just as importantly, fund accountants are now focusing on the engaging work that they were hired to do instead of the preliminary chores. As he put it, "We've now got smart people doing the smart things." Despite initial concern about RPA's threat to human jobs, the employees at Maitland have grown to understand that their roles are still as valid as ever.

Compellingly, Maitland also built an RPA internship program dedicated to teaching young professionals how to leverage the technology. Its goal is to give the youth a skills base that will improve unemployment for young people and recent graduates in South Africa. Contrary to the idea of a digital workforce being a threat, Maitland has proven that RPA improves the quality of work and that it can be used to create new career opportunities.

For us traditionally…You either did it fast and badly, or you did it slowly, and that was the paradigm that we had. And now suddenly that's been turned on its head: It can be fast and high quality, which is a great outcome.

Jon Hugill Group Information Systems Head at Maitland Group

Another significant benefit for Maitland is that RPA can be used without substantial reliance on IT. UiPath’s RPA Enterprise Platform facilitates self-service automation that makes employees more capable and their jobs more rewarding.

Finally, RPA struck the perfect balance between speed and quality for Maitland.

"For us traditionally there are always things that seem to be opposing to one another," Hugill said. "You either did it fast and badly, or you did it slowly, and that was the paradigm that we had. And now suddenly that's been turned on its head: It can be fast and high quality, which is a great outcome."

BY THE NUMBERS


  • 500Funds automated since RPA implementation
  • 59Process automated equivalent of 12 full-time employees (FTEs) worth of labor
  • 15Number of processes Maitland is automating per month
  • 100+Applicants to Maitland’s RPA internship program which leverages UiPath’s RPA Academy

Taking RPA further

Maitland Group plans to automate processes for the remaining 200 NAV funds. They're automating at a pace of about 12 to 15 operations per month.

The firm is also extending RPA’s value to other finance functions, human resources, and information and communication technologies, as well as various roles in their Isle of Man and Mauritius operations.

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