AI to reshape rather than replace finance workforce

By Michael McCaw | 21 October 2018

The job market within the financial service sector is set for a significant shift as the revolution in artificial intelligence (AI) reshapes processes and roles, a panel told its audience at this year’s Money20/20.

For Gregory Simpson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Synchrony, while the workforce will change there may not be a widescale loss of opportunities in the marketplace.

“We’ve taken a very conscious approach about how to reskill people, because there will be different types of jobs,” he said. “We talk about AI as augmented intelligence versus artificial intelligence – and how augmentation can change jobs, and how prepared people,are to fill those roles. There will be some jobs that need replaced, and in some cases there will be a displacement of other types of automation.”

“In some cases it’s creating new jobs with people needed to build that automation. Our audit team is talking about hiring data scientists rather than auditors, for instance,” he added.

Echoing the idea that financial services will embrace automation in a manner that is supplemented by a human workforce, Sriniketh Chakravarthi, senior vice present, banking and financial services, Cognizant, used changes in Europe’s banking sector as an indication of how the market will pivot.

“If you go to Europe there’s no such thing as cheque processing – still they have it in the US but it’s eliminated in other parts of the world. Have they lost jobs in Europe because cheque processing has gone away? Not quite, because they’ve added on new jobs. Our belief is that there’s going to be a lot more known experience driving customer behaviour and how we manage banking in the future, it’s not just going to be about routine processing. The human experience is going to combine with automation to provide new products and provide a much more customised experience.”

But as AI has become more widely embraced in recent years, there are lessons to be learned from the past, and it’s impact must be monitored going forward, said Martina King, CEO of Featurespace.

“I worked at Yahoo from 1999 to 2004 in the crazy days of just launching technology because it could be built and there wasn’t a great deal of consideration of the ethics that were involved in that. But I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons that can be applied now to what we’re seeing in this next technological revolution.”

“When we go into banks, I like to sit with the analysts and those who are using our systems on a day-in day-out basis to watch and see the impact the technology is having and to ask them about their fears, and to understand if they think they’re going to lose their job.”

For Greg Michaelson, general manager of banking at DataRobot, organisations that have not yet embraced AI – such as large, inflexible banks – must invest in it fast. That decision in itself could impact the job market.

“It’s not a question of whether or not jobs can be eliminated or destroyed”, he said. “It’s the case that if they can be automated they will be. It’s a question of which organisations are going to survive. There’s a lot of organisations out there that don’t have the motivation or impetus to invest in this technology – that’s why the fintechs have all the big banks running scared.”

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