Financial Services Blog

In my last post, I took a look at how robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and Blockchain technologies are changing the financial business landscape, and what Canadian financial services firms can do to adopt and embrace digital disruption. In this post, I review how financial services companies can help their leaders and employees get ready for the machine-human era.

Unprecedented opportunities abound for financial services firms that move with the digital times. New technologies are delivering huge volumes of data, which is rapidly changing how companies do business. But people alone cannot master and leverage these almost limitless opportunities without machines. Together, people and machines have the potential to dramatically alter what companies can achieve.

To be blunt, in the digital era, corporate cultures must change or die. People should be empowered, not dissuaded by technology. Companies and leaders that take this very forward-looking approach will succeed. 

If you ask Danielle Francis, Managing Director Financial Services on my team, she’ll tell you: “It’s clear the high-value talent footprint in Financial Services is shifting rapidly with RPA and AI. As routine administrative and management tasks fade, work requiring insight, expertise and judgement becomes increasingly important. A culture of continuous collaboration, rapid learning and real-time innovation will form the backdrop in the workplace.”

Early adopters are excited by the interaction of people and machines that work in partnership and evolve together to drive change. In short, companies that innovate will not be left behind.

The machine-human equation and the nuance game

Adapting to digital across the front, middle and back office is crucial. By implementing RPA software, many workers can be relieved of labor-intensive and time-consuming tasks because intelligent machines will be able to help in decision making. For example, in the customer service realm, software that follows rules-based logic can quickly work through multiple applications and systems to generate responses to inquiries. RPA software can also be configured to track customer interactions and send timely follow up communications—imagine a proactive service from your bank on ways to avoid bank fees!

Clearly, some jobs may be lost during the transition, but others will be created as the point of implementing RPA and AI technology is that it will free up the firm’s workforce for more highly skilled tasks. Areas that deploy AI and RPA will see the work flows, roles of people and skill sets within the function change. Technology will allow people to move into roles such as sales, high-priority claims and assessment, and management that require more nuanced skills and judgment. In addition, the machine-people partnership will benefit other areas of business such as customer retention and fraud detection. Behind the scenes, a new generation of “bot” managers, modelers, technicians and developers will be enabled as the technology flourishes.

What’s needed to prepare people for AI implementation?

I recommend firms take three steps:

  1. Foster a culture of innovation. Encourage everyone across the organization to offer their input. Take a skills assessment of where the company is now and what workforce training will be required. Undertake a new system for the recruitment and onboarding of new employees. And employ a governance structure that uses a fast and experimental approach to developing innovations. Recognize that the organizational mindset needs to shift from performance to possibility.
  2. Hire the right talent to implement technology. Discover the technology that best fits your firm’s requirements—technologies should first be implemented in the place where they can have the fastest and greatest potential impact. Then hire the talent who can implement, adapt and leverage those technologies. The best way is to start with small-scale proofs of concept. But don’t lose sight of what’s needed to scale those early steps into daily production.
  3. Set the stage for creating value today. Implementation of AI and other technologies will affect every segment of the company’s workforce. That’s why it’s imperative that firms build a culture of learning so that everyone understands the changes that will take place. Encouraging leaders and employees to be part of the discussions will bode well for financial services firms willing to undertake digital change.

Looking to the future of AI in Canada’s financial services sector

Accelerated adoption of advanced technology adoption is a must for the Canadian financial services industry. Its implementation can improve efficiencies, reduce costs and keep companies competitive in the digital landscape. However, people will still be the most important factor to a company’s success. Financial services firms can start today to future-proof their businesses by employing the best people and empowering them with technologies that will revolutionize their work environment.

For more on how the workforce must adapt to digital change, read:

Three technologies that are changing the financial services game and how the workforce must adapt to take advantage of these innovations.


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