We sat down with Louise Smith, HMT FinTech Envoy (and now Chief Digital Officer at the Lloyd’s insurance market) at FinTECHTalents 2019 to talk about how the industry can work to support new and current workers as the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning changes the financial services landscape.
Watch the video now.
What is your view on the impact of AI in the financial services sector?
It’s a big question to start off. Firstly, I think the big thing that most people talk about when they talk about new and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, machine learning, cognitive capabilities…most people are talking about these things in different ways.
I think from a financial services perspective, the thing that’s on everybody’s mind at the moment is two things.
Ethics. So, data. It’s my data. Is it safe? How’s it going to be used? Is it going to be useful where I intended it to be? How are you going to keep me safe, what happens if that doesn’t work? I think from a financial services perspective we need to give customers reassurance around trust. Also to make sure that from a: ‘you are secure point of view’. I think that’s one of the challenges. I think the second one is: what does it mean for jobs? I do a lot of work and I also talk a lot around the future of work. People talk about the robots are coming. Well, they’re here, they’ve been here a long time, but also what does it look like? I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that we still really need to understand.
So, jobs will go. New jobs will be created. I think the challenges are around: How do we up skill? How do we reskill? How do we help people have second, third and fourth careers? What does that investment really look like? I think as organisations we need to do that. Not just recruiting, but how are we pivoting the existing workforce?
Secondly, I think we need to think about: how do we… Do you know when you come out of university? One of the things that I’m really conscious about, when you come out of university, those first few jobs are just learning stuff. They are learning how to be in a workplace. Learning how to interact, stakeholder manage, get on with people. A lot of those jobs that are repetitive will go. So how do we make sure that when people come into work, at different levels, they’ve got those skills to be able to operate in a workplace. I don’t think people talk about that. That is another one that I think financial services needs to start to think about. How do we help people get into work from university or from other areas?
And then the last one is, we have to start talking about this with people today about what it means from an individual level, not wait. One of the things I worry about more than anything is, everybody knows it’s coming but who’s really talking about it? What does it mean for you now and what can we do to help you move to that second and third career?
How does upscaling and rescaling careers look in practice?
I know there’s all sorts of models being talked about. What I love, at a very basic level is (the organisation I work for at the moment I’m doing some work for Fujitsu on innovation in financial services) and one of the things they’re talking about is, they’re involved in a ton of this anyway because they are technical engineers, they provide the core backbone, technically to many financial services organisations. At one level they’re accountable for that displacement, but on another level what they’re thinking about is: Do you create academies? Do you start to look at those people who are displaced or who are impacted by things like automation or the periphery of that? Don’t forget many services sit around those people who work as well. But how do we create that cycle effect of people coming through reskilling and then going back in as something completely different?
Whether that’s through technology, whether that’s through problem-solving, whether that’s through the creative elements of design in digital. I like that idea of how we can all contribute to that. I think internally, within an organisation, again we need to start showing what those new skills look like. If it is a pivot from your technical specialisms, how do you network, what’s your network like? How are you connected into that network? What does, I don’t know, how are you contributing to bringing in outside thinking into the organisation? How are you looking at those design elements, to bring the digital in for customers you’re never going to see?
I think there’s all these things that I think the service providers need to help. I also think the organisation’s need to signpost and start pushing people through.
The very last thing is how do you communicate those upsides? How do you create a movement internally, rather than when it’s reacting to a piece of change or transformation when it’s landed? How do you get people behind that now and pull the change through? I think that’s going to be critical for many financial service organisations.
What skills are going to be in demand in the future?
My partner’s in medical and she’s a massive advocate that there’s a lot of things you can’t do in health care and yet well they’re the most forward-thinking. But, how do you talk to somebody who’s just received difficult news? I think those emotional elements still and actually become more and more important.
I know and I get a bit frustrated because people talk, ‘don’t worry we’re just going to automate repetitive tasks’. It will do more than that as machines learn. They will do more. They will be able to act and think more, but the things you can never automate are other things in terms of those emotionally connected conversations – like buying a home. It’s an emotional thing. If you gave somebody a 30 second ‘thumbing’ experience on the phone and said: ‘here you go, here’s £500k, go buy a home’, you’d probably scare everybody. You’ve got to have a conversation with somebody about something that means something. I still think those things need to be human.
It’s how do you create that coexistence between people and algorithms in a meaningful way? That, for me, is creativity, problem-solving (I know people talk about EQ) but really lead people. Leadership will become about that.
So, this for me is this triangle of everybody talking about, and if you’ve ever worked in change people always talk about process people in tech, and we’ve always got away with it because it’s been a technical system. I think new and emerging technologies forced that in terms of: How do you create adaptive change? How do you create a movement? How do you bring people with you? How do you engage? And importantly, they will see daylight between what you say and what you do.
So, this authenticity piece, I think the space between saying something and not doing it will go. I think people who are authentic, who are vulnerable, who can engage you, can speak to people, will win as they’ll adapt.