The race to integrate technology (tech) into a business can result in casualties if not handled in the right way. Business owners may wonder as to the correct ratio of human versus tech function but unfortunately there is no one size fits all.  It will very much depend on the nature of what your business offers but ignoring tech altogether or falling behind, is just as risky as integrating too much tech. How do you find the balance?

We can perhaps look to the principles of ESG for guidance, particularly the ‘Social’ element of this increasingly critical acronym. Arguably to replace too many or all your people with machines or tech  isn’t the most socially responsible or ethical course of action, especially when local unemployment is at record highs.

There are some areas of the financial services sector that are ripe for tech disruption, but the target demographic level of financial knowledge also needs to be taken into consideration to ensure a fair product is brought to market. An example might include cost-effective funeral cover.

Any position in any industry is vulnerable to tech but some jobs are less vulnerable than others. A research analyst in an asset management firm is likely to struggle as artificial intelligence (AI) can scan data much faster than a human can. An insurance assessor could scan a car needing an accident assessment in a more accurate and time efficient way than a machine could, due to the assessor’s experience. Insurance premium calculation, however, is perfect for machine labour. AI could get to the level of performing actuarial duties, replacing some high-level thinking positions. Where a job involves a lot of engagement with people, humans will likely be preferred over machines, hopefully for many years to come.

The financial services industry relies heavily on relationships. Technology may be able to produce the product but will rely on the human salesperson to sell and thus it will be difficult to replace humans in the sales process, particularly in the more sophisticated product mix.

Doing business, the “same old way” because it feels better, could mean coming up short. If you can repurpose an employee within a more tech-savvy workplace, that is fantastic but it’s not always that simple, and some jobs will inevitably fall away. If you don’t keep up with technology capabilities in your industry or as your competitors do, you may be out of the game. It is important to make the right upgrades, at the right time, and for the right reasons.

The ESG principles should be considered as best as possible, since we all have a responsibility to do the right thing within our stakeholder communities and for the wider public. It is also likely that  regulators will pay closer attention to ESG practices in times to come.

Talking to a voice bot as a first level of support is now standard practice in many firms and a good example of tech integration, we have now become familiar with. But this works because you can also speak to a human if you have further queries – and it combines tech and human capacities.  If we talk about an overall customer experience, at any such financial institution or otherwise, there should be a human element in the process somewhere, for the best success.

Article by Richard Rattue, Managing Director of Compli-Serve SA