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It is a certainty that new roles will be created as a result of AI – we just don’t know what they are yet

iStock 1488283230 - Global Banking | Finance

It is a certainty that new roles will be created as a result of AI – we just don’t know what they are yet

Photo1 - Global Banking | FinanceBy Alice Hansen, Senior Principal at Slalom

We are now firmly in the era of AI transformation. Slalom’s research shows that 84% of UK&I businesses are already using AI – going from single ‘point solutions’ 12-months ago to mass experimentation across organisations, championed at the most senior levels.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of current use cases focus on productivity gains as we start by looking inwards at existing, ‘painful’ processes. History has shown that true market disruption and differentiation comes only after we have gained a level of confidence and knowledge in new technologies.

However, this trumpeting of AI and Generative AI’s human-like ‘superpowers’ is creating fears of jobs being replaced en masse by ‘robots’. To compound this, there are now many websites offering to test the likelihood of each role being ‘taken’ by AI – effectively pitting human against machine.

Writing this, I am reminded of hearing about similar disquiet from the introduction of ATMs to the UK in the 1960s and the impact on the jobs of bank clerks. But rather than being lost, these roles evolved into customer advisors and support, resulting in improved job satisfaction and fulfilment. In parallel, there was an enormous uplift in customer experience through greater convenience and service.

A recent study by Forbes showed that 65% of senior financial management expects positive changes from AI usage. But this rapid advancement is threatened by the fear of job losses, causing colleagues to turn off from the AI innovations and disengage from adoption efforts.

The key to realising the maximum benefits from this technology is creating a clear vision extolling the benefits of AI to the customer, company and, equally importantly, colleague. This is particularly critical to the 36% of business leaders in the UK surveyed by Slalom who feel they lack a clear AI strategy.

Historically, we have seen the most effective strategies are those that embrace, embed and enable new technologies, equipping and exciting colleagues for the journey ahead.

Reducing the repetitive, increasing customer focus

‘Lack of challenge’ commonly ranks as one of the top reasons (behind compensation) people leave a company as they feel frustrated and bogged down by repetitive, ‘boring’ tasks. This results in innovation and value-add work becoming a wish rather practice.

We have already seen AI in action addressing many of these tasks, such as the widespread use of chatbots to support simple customer queries, wholesale compliance monitoring, and documentation of investment advice. In parallel, we are seeing these colleagues spend more time on ‘higher value’ activities – compliance teams becoming more forward-looking advisors, and wealth managers spending more time with clients.

This move up the value chain is supported by a recent report by Goldman Sachs forecasting only 7% of jobs across all sectors will be lost through AI, with the majority being complemented and uplifted by it.

The AI-led job creation possibilities are immense

Demand for AI skills in the market is already strong with a current focus on data scientists to create solutions, train the models and improve ‘prompting’ to provide better results. However, we expect limited further growth in this demand over the coming years as models improve and no longer require the same level of specialist input.

Instead, there is an upcoming need for talent to provide controls and oversight over the use of AI. These are even more important in financial services to mitigate unintentional biases, avoid ‘hallucinations’ (models making up pseudo facts), and support the ‘explainability’ of models. This will require new skills, expertise, and passion for AI – stretching existing business roles.

It is a certainty that new roles will be created as a result of AI – we just don’t know what they are yet. We are seeing firms start to look to use AI to differentiate and disrupt markets through new products, services, and transformation of purpose, such as robo-advice and highly personalised insurance products.

Supporting employee acceleration into AI

Enabling employees to embrace and embed new AI skills must be a key part of a firm’s successful AI strategy. Opening up, rather than locking down, the AI ecosystem with appropriate safeguards, will promote confidence in the vision. It is critical to involve colleagues in developing AI use cases and testing proof of concepts to showcase the benefits and dampen down fears.

In parallel, firms should invest in upskilling teams in AI – from technical expertise to responsible usage and controls. This will enable them to accelerate ahead of the competition in the speed of creation and deployment of innovative AI solutions, and create a wider AI-led cultural transformation.

AI as an enabler for growth and development

Fear is only going to hold us back from realising the enormous benefits of AI to the financial services sector, but importantly should not be dismissed. Organisations should develop holistic strategies that embrace, embed and enable not just AI technologies, but also AI / innovative mindsets and skills.

Recent research from economist David Author showed that 60% of the current workforce are in occupations that did not exist in 1940. I’m really excited to see the AI-led job transformation over the next 10 years.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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