Accenture Banking Blog

In my previous post, I highlighted the differences in perspective that financial services (FS) executives and their employees have about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the future workforce. Despite the leaders’ fears, the workers in FS are ready to engage with AI. They show interest in collaborating with intelligent technologies and are enthusiastic about learning new skills and improving their jobs.

FS executives should seize on this opportunity and pave the way for the future workforce by creating new skills, new roles and new ways of working. Here’s our three-step roadmap to enable your workforce to help you realise the full benefits of AI:

Reimagine work

Different work demands different capabilities. Some of these capabilities are best done by AI (e.g. handling large data volumes to make codifiable decisions, or learn how to make these decisions, as the algorithm is faster and less biased than a human if designed well), but some are better done by people (e.g. handling broad set problems and decisions, where a degree of empathy and human judgement is required), but more often than not a combination of the two is the most powerful way to get work done. As AI researchers discovered in Moravec’s paradox, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources.

Assessing the new tasks and allocating these tasks to people or machines will be key. For example, the assessment of investment options involves a variety of tasks from basic data collection and processing to interviews with executives and weighing subjective factors. Intelligent machines can easily take over the former and also assist researchers with more judgment-based tasks.

Jobs in FS will become more specialised as greater volumes of precise data allow more insights to be explored. For example, banks will become increasingly more dependent on AI chatbots to represent them in the mass market. NatWest, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Scotland, has been using a “digital human” since 2017 to answer customers’ questions via computer screen, tablet or phone. Cora is programmed to respond to approximately 200 questions and averages about 100,000 conversations a month.

Once you have identified the list of new tasks, roles and skills, you can begin addressing the skills gap through training and sourcing. In addressing the gaps, and in creating new roles, banks should focus more on how the work best can be done than on the roles and responsibilities that make up the work.

Pivot the workforce

As people and intelligent machines begin to collaborate in entirely new ways, FS leaders will have to pivot their workforce not once but twice. The reconfiguration of roles among the core workforce (fixed jobs), adaptive/extended workforce (more task/project focused and agile) and AI should be flexible process that looks beyond full-time equivalents and considers a range of possibilities including build, borrow and bot. This will enable the skills to be redeployed as and when needed.

FS leaders will need to scale up AI inside the existing business model, while using AI to challenge traditional models and find new value streams. Align the workforce to these new business models and organise your FS firm for agility, with increased autonomy and decision-making power. Be prepared to rapidly shift skills and mind sets amongst the workforce and leadership to develop a greater enterprise agility.

CenturyLink, A US-based telecommunications company, uses and AI agent called Angie to work with its sales managers. Angie performs the virtually impossible task of cherry picking the best of 30,000 sales leads generated monthly. Angie sends emails to these leads; converses with them; decides which to drop and when to hand prospects to salespeople.

The venture capital firm Deep Knowledge Ventures has appointed an AI tool, which it calls Vital, to its board to improve decisions. Vital participates in votes on whether to invest in new opportunities.

“We redesigned the organisational structure in a way we can increase the dynamics in every job role and can swiftly increase our focus to the areas that require it most at that point in time,” said one CEO of a US banking group, during our interview for the Future Workforce Survey.

Scale up ‘new skilling’

Leadership, communication, complex problem-solving and decision-making will all be critical to the future FS workforce. “We need people that are adaptable, because work is changing and it is changing rapidly,” said one bank executive during our Future Workforce Survey interview. “We’re much more likely to hire you on the basis of your mind set and your ability to adapt than we are on your specific and deep subject matter knowledge, because that might not actually be that relevant in a year’s time.”

As for reskilling existing employees in digital technologies, FS leaders will have to assess their enthusiasm level and tailor training accordingly. Utilising digital learning experiences with virtual reality and augmented reality technologies will help employees master the new digital and IT skills needed to work with intelligent machines. Digital technology also helps democratise learning. Here at Accenture, our 3,000 digital learning boards give 435,000 employees access to more than 300 content categories. Our employees have completed more than 42 million learning activities on topics raging from technical skills such as blockchain, to softer skills such as coaching.

To find out more about preparing the future workforce, or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here, or on Twitter @AndyYoungACN.