Digitisation is disrupting the work environment in numerous ways, including:

  • Creating new workforce models, as the liquid workforce gains traction
  • Adding new technological capabilities, as intelligent machines become more sophisticated in performing tasks traditionally done by humans

Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a pivotal role in this transformation and yielding significant positive results for both financial services firms and the people they employ.

Accenture’s 2018 Future Workforce Banking Survey—which sampled 100 CEOs and top executives and more than 13,000 bank employees—found that 77 percent of banks were planning to implement AI to automate tasks within the next three years. It’s projected that between 2018 and 2022, banks that commit fully to investing in AI and human-machine collaboration stand to boost their revenue by an average of 34 percent and their employment levels by as much as 14 percent. Insurers are even more optimistic. Out of 100 CEOs and nearly 1,000 employees surveyed in our Future Workforce Insurance Survey, just over two thirds of insurers reported an expected net gain in jobs over the same time period.

While these are encouraging statistics, there’s more to the story. Although AI as a capability is very promising, for some it still elicits a sense of foreboding.

What does the AI transformation really mean?

There are a number of conventional views and common misperceptions about AI, including:

  • It is superior (and therefore, preferable) to human intelligence
  • Implementing AI is about replacing people
  • AI is a driver of job elimination

A good first step to dispelling these myths is to consider the objective that we call “applied intelligence”—the combining of artificial intelligence and human ingenuity across the enterprise with the aim of solving complex problems, developing new products and services, and breaking into or creating new markets. This is not only how the greatest benefits will be derived from AI; it’s also potentially how everyone can benefit.

While it’s true that some jobs will be eliminated as intelligent machines assume human tasks, it’s also true that other jobs will arise—as firms discover new and better ways to apply human and automated intelligence together.

Transitioning to applied intelligence

In the early stages of AI, machines performed human tasks in an isolated environment, working alongside but not with humans. As AI capabilities have progressed, the new applied intelligence model calls for machines to increasingly work with humans in a more integrated manner. The challenge for financial services firms, and other industries as well, is to develop a cross-enterprise strategy and engine that together give a structure to AI and guide the path to applied intelligence. A key part of this is creating a work environment that enables much more nuanced integration between humans and machines; in other words, a work environment that elevates human capabilities.

Time is of the essence

While the outlook for AI is very promising, the rapid pace of change inherent in digitisation means firms are under pressure to make the transition quickly. This new industrial revolution requires strong leadership. Firms may find themselves challenged to address common barriers to adoption, including:

  • Determining where and how to get started with an AI transformation strategy
  • Addressing employee readiness and concerns about skill gaps
  • Identifying who is accountable for the transformation
  • Promoting the applied intelligence concept to the entire organisation

In this five-part blog series, I’ll explore the salient factors in transitioning to an applied intelligence workforce model and share how HR professionals can help their organisations prepare to take advantage of the opportunities AI and the future workforce offer. In my next post, I’ll take a deeper dive into the three things every firm must do to make the most of this transformation:

  1. Reimagine work
  2. Pivot the workforce
  3. Scale up “new skilling”

For more information about applied intelligence and the impact of AI on financial services, please see Accenture’s banking and insurance reports:

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