The future of digital labour in banking - KPMG Australia
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The future of digital labour in banking

The future of digital labour in banking

Financial services executives must develop workforce strategies to adapt to digital labour’s automation and technology disruption.


National Sector Leader, Banking and Global Co-leader, KPMG Fintech practice

KPMG Australia


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Some finance services executives are already preparing for a future in which technology surpasses humanity, and humans answer to machines. With a mix of optimism and pessimism about the impact of digital labour on the banking industry, bank executives are navigating change that will greatly impact how they do business today and in the future.

Digital labour infographic

Banking automation shifts financial services workforce

The days of customers relying on personal bankers to help with their day-to-day transactions are fading fast. As technology improves and machines become smarter, faster and cheaper, it’s possible to imagine a future in which other easily automatable parts of a financial institution follow a similar path, with current human employees training their robotic replacements to take their jobs.

However, the adoption of new technology in the workplace can, according to some experts, actually be beneficial to overall job growth and productivity. In this new era, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, financial institutions are now developing chatbots and other smart assets which gather client, economic, social and other internal data to formulate customised marketing and service recommendations. Banks are even exploring opportunities to leverage artificial intelligence assets enabled with natural language processing to provide banking services.

Experts see a series of potentially positive outcomes, as financial institutions and employees reconfigure and redesign their workforces. We see two key drivers that will manifest change:

Cognitive automation drivers

  • Leveraged professionals – lower qualified professionals who, through technology, can provide the same output as a fully qualified professional in the same field.
  • Connected workers – providing all workers in a specific group or business function with access to all of the same materials so that everyone has access to the best information available.

Cognitive processing and robotic automation drivers

  • Working at the speed of thought – augmented professionals working faster and with much greater productivity.
  • Digital workers – complete replacement of human workers with robotics and other technologies that can perform tasks more efficiently.

Banks prepare workforce for impact of digital labour

While the influx of new, automated technology will most likely displace workers in the lower and middle tiers of an organisation, the responsibility for implementing these changes should fall to change leaders and decision makers at a financial institution’s highest level. For example, banks may create a new C-suite position, the Chief Automation Executive, who would be tasked with sourcing the technology to modernise the organisation, own the change process and work out organisational dilemmas created by the implementation.

To that end, financial institutions will need to answer key questions, such as:

  • What will our future workforce look like?
  • How can we successfully integrate digital and human labour?
  • How does this change redefine what 'career' means within our organisation?
  • How will we have to change our operating model to remain relevant and competitive?
  • How do we grow and retain employees in an environment where job security is increasingly threatened?

Financial institutions that answer these questions successfully can steer their organisations toward a 'preferable future state' in which they can proactively determine how existing human resources will be retrained and repurposed to manage and oversee the machines.

What’s more, companies must look at the training required by their next-generation employees. While it is difficult to define what specific skills will be the most valued in a future workforce, there are key human traits that robots and technology can never replicate, no matter how advanced they become. Because of this, companies – and the education system – may begin to place more importance on creative thinking, innovation, and problem solving in uncertain and unclear situations where set rules and protocols may not always provide an answer or address a specific problem.

Since this type of seismic shift in thinking and training doesn’t happen quickly or easily, business and finance leaders who want their organisations to thrive in the newly automated future should craft plans to assess and prepare for the impact digital labour on their workforces.

Opportunities in integrating digital and human labour strategies

Companies that take proactive steps to prepare for the coming technological changes to their industries, may realise that the disruption caused by advanced robotics and artificial intelligence can help to drive the growth of new, better paying jobs.

As robots and other advanced technologies become a more significant part of the workforce, they become cheaper. And, as we use more of them, worker productivity will rise, as will wages.

It is quite possible that the adoption of these technologies will drive a new wave of innovation across organisations, leading to the creation of new products and services that will need talented and trained human resources (people) to build, lead, market, and maintain them. By embracing these changes early, financial services companies can better determine what their future workplace will look like and ensure they have a trained and dedicated workforce ready to help them compete and succeed.

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