In the financial services industry, there is a difference in perspective when it comes to the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Despite the executives’ fears, most employees are ready to engage with and embrace the new technologies in the workplace.

As I mentioned in my first post of this blog series, the financial services (FS) industry is rapidly moving into a new dawn where human collaboration with artificial intelligence (AI) will dramatically change the workforce.

But as positive as the findings of our Future Workforce Survey were on the potential benefits of this revolution, our analysis also identified a variety of obstacles as banks and insurers consider their AI strategies. Fear and anxiety in the workforce came out as the strongest inhibitor of change in our 2018 FS Change study. There are definitely some mixed emotions and uncertainties. One HR officer of a European-based banking group we interviewed put it this way: “You have people that are excited, people that are neutral, and people that are super worried for their future. And the average of this mix is giving us how much the workforce is embracing this pace of change.”

Accenture Research surveyed more than 1,200 CEOs and 14,000 workers across 12 industries and 11 countries. The banking sample comprised 100 CEOs and 1,300 bank employees. Here are the main differences in perception of AI in the workforce:

Myth: “Our workers are resistant to the introduction of AI.”

Fact: 61 per cent of workers believe AI will improve their jobs, making them more interesting. In banking, specifically, 72 per cent of workers expect AI to make their jobs simpler and 67 per cent believe that it will improve their work-life balance.

Myth: “Only a few of our workforce are ready to work with the new technologies.”

Fact: Many banking employees are ‘very confident’ in their ability to work with intelligent technologies (40 per cent).

Myth: “The growing skills gap is the leading factor influencing our workforce strategy.”

Fact: Workers believe it is important that they develop the necessary new skills (75 per cent) to be able to work with AI, but only 3 per cent of executives said their organisation plans to significantly increase its investment in training programs. This surprising low level of commitment will radically curtail their ability to fully leverage the promise of AI.

Leaders in FS will need to help the workforce navigate this and have a conversation with their people towards a positive future. Here at Accenture, we automated 17,000 jobs in back-office processing without laying off a single employee over an 18-month period from late 2016 to February of 2018. The way we accomplished this was through bringing the staff into the dialogue to reskill and reposition them within the company. Altogether, we ended up retraining 72,000 staff members with new IT training globally in order to make sure that they are equipped to continue working in a fast-changing technological environment.

While not every company is going to be able to bring in greater automation at scale, it’s important for bank executives and others in FS to realise the overall ‘readiness’ of their employees and seize this opportunity. Banking executives need to recognise that the workforce is a critical enabler of future growth and planning and investing in it is indeed a top priority. In order achieve this transformation, three steps will be crucial: (i) reimagining the work done within banks and insurers and reallocating tasks between employees, contingent workers and machines; (ii) moving the workforce and leadership towards new areas of value and agile business models; and (iii) scaling up ‘new skilling’ initiatives to help employees develop priority skills to get the most out working with intelligent machines.

In my next post, I will delve a bit deeper into each action point.

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.

To learn more, register to download “Realizing the Full Value of AI.”

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