AI and robotics will change the skills demand of finance professionals

11 July 2018 3 min. read

As the debate continues over whether AI will replace more jobs than it creates, in the financial realm the story is more complex. The role of finance professionals looks set to evolve in tandem with AI and robotics, forcing them to adapt their skills to work with new tech, rather than resisting it. 

When robotics and the concept of automation first caught the public’s attention, the common consensus was that the manufacturing industry would be the testing ground for the new technology. This proved true, but for more advanced systems – AI, machine learning, blockchain and advanced analytics – the financial services sector is the new Ground Zero.

The capacity of artificially intelligent systems to scan, analyse and quantify huge volumes of data that are incomprehensible to the human mind is already here. It is of enormous value to the numbers and data crunching business of financial services and (theoretically) free of some of the biases and errors that can taint human analysis.

While AI will eventually take over the handling of big data analysis, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is set to monopolise the more mundane tasks of a 21st century finance professional. These will include processing customer requests, standard fraud checks and other repetitive tasks that are essential but take time. RPA systems are known as ‘bots’ or digital workers, and McKinsey & Company estimates suggest that their incorporation can lead to a ROI of 30% to 200% for an organisation. 

AI and robotics will change the skills demand of finance professionals

The consequence for employees, across all industries, is that the proportion of their work related to either manual or basic cognitive skills will drop by around 15% by 2030. On the other hand, the McKinsey analysis predicts that work demanding advanced IT and programming skills will increase by over 50%. Demand for social and emotional skills will shoot up by 24%. 

Changing finance skills?

This will lead to a fundamental change in the nature of the finance professional, says Michel Kuipers, a consultant at RGP, formerly Resources Global Professionals. “Financial specialists will need to get more involved in advanced analytics and become the link between business and software providers...soft and creative skills will be vital to this new position”. 

Kuipers urges organisations in the financial sector to get ahead of the curve and invest smartly in training for employees who will need to learn how to manage different AI tools. “Businesses need to set up their own internal training programmes,” he argues, and “high schools and universities should start training the financial professionals of tomorrow”.

He is adamant that initiating change management will prove critical to the success or failure of financial firms adopting AI. With its Big Four heritage and practical experience serving around half of the Fortune Global 500, the consulting firm he works for, RGP, is an industry leader in providing both change management and software solutions.

Such expertise is vital as research shows that organisations that invest heavily in AI, RPA and machine learning are likely to fail at implementation without a coherent and practical strategy in place. Although AI may soon leapfrog human comprehension, in the immediate future, for organisations which lack a workforce capable of managing the technology it is a problem, not a solution.