As many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute.
However, the technology will also create new jobs, existing ones will be reshaped, and workers will be provided with unprecedented opportunities.
Every sector will be impacted by this seismic shift – and financial services will be no exception.
For instance, data capturing, bean counting and basic financial advice will soon be jobs of the past as machines and automated processes are introduced.
In the modern working environment, the kind of skills that will see a new kind of professional class rise will be highly technological, social and creative, as people increasingly learn how to work alongside the technology. In effect, it will take care of the jobs that previously used basic cognitive skills such as data generation, basic literacy and numeracy.
“Nowadays, and certainly in the future, authenticity and interpersonal skills will be what will be most sought after,” says Gavin Smith, Head of Africa at deVere Acuma. “People should be interested and curious.” He says that, while technical abilities may look good on one’s CV, their soft skills will be what sets them apart.
While it may be their authenticity and interpersonal skillset that gets them in the door, the employee of the future will still have to develop some sort of technological aptitude. The report by McKinsey, titled ‘AI, Automation and the Future of Work’ cites ‘creativity, critical thinking and complex information processing’ as some of the skills that will be in demand in the coming years. The kind of occupations that are likely to grow will be those that require a hands-on human intervention.
For younger generations entering the workforce, adapting to this new world is easier, including within the financial services sector, as they are generally more tech-savvy.
The traditional roles that financial planners, advisers and even analysts play today look nothing like they did a decade ago, and they will continue to evolve. In the past, people relied on financial advisers for advice on which insurance or investment products to choose. Today, people can ask Google, or hop over to YouTube channels to learn about specific products.
Accenture’s 2017 Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Survey, focused on financial services providers, found that 74% of the 33,000 people surveyed were willing to follow a computer’s recommendation on insurance products. Furthermore, 78% of the respondents would be happy to receive the same kind of advice for their investment decisions when it came to asset allocation.
These results do not mean financial advisers will become obsolete, cautions Smith. “Rather, they will need to create value where machines can’t. For those looking to get into financial services, the ability to communicate authentically, empathise, and truly get a holistic understanding of a client’s individual circumstances, needs and wants to help them achieve, and hopefully exceed, their financial goals will set them apart in the world of robo-advisers and YouTube finance bloggers.”
He explains that this will mean that employees of the future will need to be effective when communicating ideas, be great listeners and think collaboratively. “I believe those soft skills ensure a productive, collaborative and healthy working environment. They are highly valued and vital attributes that organisations are looking for in an increasingly competitive world”.
While this might seem like a barrier to employment, Smith believes that it’s easier than ever to learn and adapt because of the scope of the internet. “One can use the internet to research companies, their products. They can get access to mentors they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to encounter.” Smith also points out that plenty of sites offer great self-development courses that people can pair with recognized qualifications in the financial services industry.
“Once in the workforce, it will become important for people to stay atop of trends and current affairs and think critically about how these things will affect their clients – as this is how they’ll be able to add value,” says Smith. He believes individuals should possess a desire to learn and be taught – especially if they’re lacking in some of the technical skills required for the job.
In preparing new entrants to the industry, deVere Acuma aims to support them through an opportunity to apply for its flagship in-house graduate programme. Each month individuals are carefully selected to participate in the programme as a trainee. These next-generation professionals are introduced to financial products, innovative new fintech solutions, as well as in-depth one–to-one guidance by leading industry mentors, and formal qualifications.
“This programme identifies individuals that are able to set themselves apart and who exemplify these valuable attributes in order to grow in the financial services industry,” adds Smith.