AI and future of work in financial services industry


I was in a hotel room in Jakarta preparing for a presentation to an Islamic bank in Bandung the next day. I switched on the television to break the silence and the conversation on a news channel caught my attention.

They were talking about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over human jobs and what will happen to those people. This is indeed a relevant topic in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we should equip ourselves to face the challenges.

A Swiss think tank has warned that AI robots could displace more than half of the human workforce by 2025. Robots could take over 52% of the current workload in less than a decade. According to the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), the number of robots taking over jobs from people will double from the current 29%.

Financial services is one of the industries that will be significantly impacted. Citigroup Inc has estimated that one in three banking jobs will disappear. The Deutsche Bank CEO estimates that half of the banking jobs will be lost over the next decade.

Let us take a look at some examples of AI applications in banking. You have AI on the front-end to secure customer identities, imitate bank employees, deepen digital interactions and engage customers across channels. You have AI on the back-end to assist employees, automate processes and pre-empt problems. You also have AI on payment services to detect and prevent fraud and anti-money laundering, and enable conversational payments transactions.

One of the most prominent applications of AI robots in banking is the chatbot solution. Chatbots have been developed to facilitate two-way communications that could replace channels such as phone, email and text. Chatbots are already handling simple tasks such as balance inquiry, bank account and loan account details.

Others have more advanced uses. US-based Ally Bank has launched Ally Assist in 2015. Ally Assist is a virtual assistant that can be accessed via voice or text to perform functions such as making payments, fund transfers, peer-to-peer transactions and deposits.

These statistics about humans losing jobs to robots and the emergence of more and more intelligent robots deserve attention. What will happen to those people who are losing the jobs and what will our future generations do?

The good news is that despite forcing millions of people out of jobs, the WEF thinks that near twice as many more job opportunities will be created. AI and the improvement of technologies could create up to 133 million brand new jobs.

According to Chris Skinner in his book “Digital Human: The Fourth Revolution of Humanity Includes Everyone”, we will move to a world of servicing technology.

Unskilled workers will service robots and machines, and skilled workers will create amazing services with robots and machines. Skinner is also author of “Digital Bank” and “ValueWeb”.

As far as dealing with AI is concerned, the future of jobs will fall into one of the following categories:

1) Trainers: To explain to AI robots how they should perform. AI robots need to be trained using human intelligence.

2) Explainers: To explain to others how AI robots should be deployed and maintained.

3) Sustainers: To make sure AI robots function as they are intended to and that their performances are monitored.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that AI and other cutting-edge technologies are going to change the face of employments as we know it. However, new forms of employment will emerge.

In order to remain relevant, we have to keep up with the technology and be part of the revolutions. Human intelligence is still required to train the robots, explain to others what the robots can do and sustain the robots’ performance.  

  • Othman Abdullah is the CEO for Islamic banking and innovative services delivery at Silverlake Sprints Sdn Bhd, a unit of the Malaysian-based Silverlake Group. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.