AI, humans can live, work together

Every industrial revolution in history has sparked fears of massive displacement of human workers and redundancy at scale. So the doomsday predictions surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) should come as no surprise. And while past apprehensions have always been unfounded - every significant industrial and technology revolution has, in fact, ended up enlarging the job pool - the scale and speed of AI adoption are creating a lingering doubt that we really might be in for it this time.

That is not the case, assures the chief data scientist at BBVA, a bank proficient in technology and technology-driven innovation. He explains that BBVA is not trying to use AI to replace human beings, but rather, to help both staff and customers make better decisions. Based on extensive conversations with clients, and our own research, I can say that this represents the majority opinion of the industry, which is looking at leveraging artificial and human intelligence together to amplify potential and performance.

The question then, is about striking the right balance between the two. I read an article that breaks up the universe of jobs into four groups - jobs that AI can/ will do better than humans, jobs only robots can do, jobs that only humans can do (at least for some time), and as yet unknown jobs that will be done by robots in the future. The first category, which includes a plethora of repetitive jobs and rule-based banking processes, is ripe for AI automation, and we should expect it would largely be performed by robots in the years to come. That will give human beings more time to focus on roles in the third group, which require innately human skills, such as creative thinking, innovation, mentoring and empathy.

Between these compartments, there will still be a large space where man and machine roles overlap or are required to operate together. A global research firm claim that businesses' $60 billion investment in cognitive solutions by 2025 will fuel man-machine collaboration where human intelligence adds value to its artificial counterpart by improving the underlying cognitive technologies, supervising the performance of AI, and stepping in when required. An example of the last can already be found in the banking contact centre, where human agents seamlessly take over from the chatbots all those customers queries that the latter cannot resolve.

Some roles will combine robotic and human effort to maximise outcomes. Take wealth management, where Fintech firms, such as Wealthfront and Betterment, employ expert systems to work alongside relationship managers to deliver a hybrid investment management service that produces better results than the traditional model. In other cases, AI can support bank staff and help them perform better. For instance, machine/ deep learning can process far more data, and thousands of variables, to produce real-time insights and analyses that help risk managers assess risk better and security officers detect fraud earlier.

Exclusive preserve

As AI evolves in capability, it will take over more and more financial service jobs that were once considered the exclusive preserve of humans. The industry should view this as an opportunity to elevate the people who are affected by new challenging roles that will allow them to maximise their potential. Finding the optimal combination of human and machine intelligence and assigning the right roles to each, is key. It is very important to strike the right balance between automation and employee engagement and efficiency and ethics. There is a possibility that banks will falter here unless they have a well-thought-out framework to guide them in the right direction.

Our recent study on AI maturity and adoption among enterprises reveals that some organisations have already begun this journey. Rather than allowing their human resources to be sidelined by technology, the more AI-mature organisations are leveraging it to enhance AI implementation. One way they are doing this is by retraining and redeploying people into new roles, which encourage the exploration of further possibilities of AI.

I believe banks now realise that AI is inevitable. However, our research shows that 25% of financial services respondents - the highest among all verticals surveyed - believe that AI will make jobs redundant. Banks' senior leadership should act quickly to dispel these fears by sharing their vision of a future in which human and artificial intelligence work side-by-side to transform both the delivery and consumption of banking services. The robots are here, but there's nothing to fear.

(The writer is Chief Business Officer and Global Head, Finacle)

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