Mike Mihaylov is financial services sales leader at Venquis, the leading change and business transformation consultancy
The finance industry is vastly different to what it was even a decade ago, you don’t need me to tell you that. Obviously, the global recession played a major part in this shift, but so has the rise of technology. However, you can barely glance at the media without hearing a reference to how the robots are coming to take your job.While it might be true that a combination of AI and machine learning means that many roles can and will be automated, the growth of technology will also create numerous roles for skilled and agile professionals within finance, and here’s how.
The idea that robots, technology or machinery is out to get us is itself hundreds of years old. In the industrial revolution, Luddites went around destroying weaving machinery to secure their roles while the word sabotage stems from the French word, ‘Sabot’, for clogs, the same clogs that were used to smash the industrial technology.
As little as 100 years ago workers who tended to horses were worried about technology taking their jobs, but thousands if not millions of roles were created in the automotive industry that more than compensated for that loss. There are numerous examples and while we’re not suggesting that finance professionals should start to rethink their careers to realign with the growth of AI or virtual reality tech, the idea that robots will take our jobs is old and has been proven to be wrong time and time again.
Back in the present day, the financial market faces new threats from various contenders including the likes of Google and Facebook which are edging in on firms’ territory and threatening to steal traditional business. In addition, there are also new contenders in fields like AI, cloud computing, P2P lending, fintech, bitcoin and many, many more which could all upset the existing status quo in the industry. To counteract this threat, companies are increasingly investing in vast technology-led change programmes in order to help streamline processes, improve the quality of service and ultimately win back customers.
However, the companies that think that they can simply drop in a new piece of tech and expect employees to change their way of working or day-to-day processes are acting naïvely at best and recklessly at worst. If you’re investing heavily in new tech, you will want to make sure it’s implemented properly and that requires skilled and agile leaders, who are able to win the hearts and minds of different people and personality types each with diverse goals and motivators. And as firms increasingly adopt technology led transformation programmes, there’ll be a growing need for more of these change specialists within the field.
The best tech change professionals are skilled, agile and effective leaders who are able to guide and lead employees to ensure technology is adopted effectively. The best transformation specialists are able to recognise that it’s the smaller factors that can make a huge different to change processes. Even something as seemingly tiny and inconsequential as body language can have a staggering impact. A study between Berkeley at the University of California and London School of Economics’ Department of Management found that those who can exhibit assertive and dominant body language traditionally associated with leadership can dominate decision making and win hearts and minds, despite the strength – or lack of it in many cases – of the case that they’re pushing. The best change specialists understand the impact that seemingly tiny elements like this can have and are able to use them to their advantage to help facilitate the adoption of tech transformation projects.
There’s not only going to be a greater need for financial services firms to take on change and transformation expertise, but also technical skills across the board. Individuals in positions like developers, designers, coders and many more are all going to be in growing demand in the future as employers will need to substantially expand their tech focused teams, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Some naysayers have highlighted statistics that show the ‘Big Three’ in 1990 – GM, Ford and Chrysler, employed 1m people, while the modern day ‘Big Three’ – Facebook, Google and Apple – employ only around 137,000 professionals, to back up their case and prove that technology is chopping away at the employment market. However, these statistics don’t show the whole picture and don’t take into account the interconnected ecosystems that these firms along with Amazon, Ebay and many others have created. There are thousands of organisations created every year solely dedicated to delivering the ability to advertise on Facebook or Google, for example, and the market for creating social media synced mobile apps is already larger than the entire global movie industry, which should indicate the sheer scope of the tech sector and the jobs it has created. This is similar to one of the effects that the wider growth of technology will have on the finance industry and while we may see roles at major finance firms fall, it’s highly likely that they’ll be replaced and then some into the associated ecosystems that will spin off the sector.
Technology is here to stay, whether you like it or not. However, rather than smashing jobs into oblivion and leading us all desperately bowing down to our all-powerful robot employers, the truth is considerably more serene, a lot less suited to Hollywood but much more encouraging and positive than we’re regularly told in the media. Ultimately, it’s likely that for the foreseeable future, technology will continue to create jobs in finance, rather than destroying them.