Automation: See an opportunity in every difficulty

Monday 24 September 2018

The evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning has enabled machines to perform human roles with greater speed, precision and efficiency. It is therefore not surprising that the coming to age of such technologies has been regarded as a threat by humans. Priyanka Chandran, CFA, Vice President, Deutsche Bank, tells us more about building a successful career in the age of automation.

Technological development has had strong impact on several industries and financial services is no exception. Ray Dalio predicted that 40% of all jobs in financial services are going to be replaced by algorithms over the next 20 years. Another prediction given by US firm Opimas in March 2017 is that the global asset management industry will shrink by 90,000 people (out of total industry figure of 520,000) by 2025. Statistics such as the one above paint a very bleak picture of what lies ahead. Yet, as Sir Winston Churchill said, an optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.

The first positive thing I would say is that automation will mean portfolio managers (PM’s) would have more time to perform much more valuable tasks and come up with new ideas. This would mean more opportunities to work on complex strategies to meet client needs.

Moreover, I am of the fundamental belief that the finance or asset management business wouldn’t be automated away in its entirety. A machine can examine the full financial history of a company – as well as that of all other companies in the industry, sector, country and world – within a matter of minutes. It is also capable of consuming other sources of information, such as stock-exchange news announcements on public forums and official economic results. Yet, a PM is better equipped to understand the prospects of a company by speaking to a CEO and sales with higher emotional intelligence than a machine is to manage clients.

Finally, AI would remove some work but would definitely create more. This is already visible in the sharp rise of the number of data scientists, engineers and analysts hired by some of the largest firms. These roles still support a part of the decision making process and in order to fully benefit, the best firms combine technology with human ingenuity.

So what does this mean for us? These developments show that in a world where machine and AI might rule, reskilling is the only way out. We would need not only to reskill but, just as the machines we use, regularly keep updating ourselves. The opportunities are abundant and we need to pick and choose areas depending on our interest and where our strengths lie. This would ensure that in the age of automation, we work together with machines, build stable careers and seize rewarding job transition opportunities.

PS: I am a trained IT engineer and transitioned into banking many years ago. I have recently gotten back to coding and just prior to writing this post, I was debugging my code in Python.