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Sunday, July 17, 2011

How vunerable are banking jobs to being replaced by technology?

A famous quote reads 'Lead, sell or get out of the way'. In today's world, that would probably be 'Lead, sell, risk manage or get out of the way'-considering the immense workloads on compliance, audit, risk, tax etc. Industries like type writers, travel agents, brick and mortar book sellers have virtually been wiped out by the internet/technology alternatives-which have essentially replaced recurring operating expenses(opex) by covert capital expenditure(capex). I say 'covert capex' because few capital budgeting calculations can accurately capture all relevant costs like training, business disruption, maintenance, redundancy etc.

Like how media enhanced the reach of sporting/entertainment superstars(thereby ballooning their incomes), technology amplified the reach of the banking super stars(traders, sell side investment bankers), who could now access more markets, trade more asset classes, do cross border huge mandates etc. All that did lead to the increase in compensation, compared to retail banking, where the technology led to more customers going the online/contact less banking route thus lowering the need for staff.

In my view, the only functions which cannot be replaced by technology are sales, general management, technology support and creativity. Analytical/Administrative functions are at risk of being replaced by technological alternatives. In my view, some at risk functions are
  • Daily report preparers
  • Arbitrageurs
  • Stenos/secretaries-unless they upskill to becoming executive assistants. 
  • Flow traders.
So how to prevent your role from being truncated/cut? Well, my two bits on this would include
  • Coming up with creative ideas and implementing them-with net profit/cost savings to the company
  • Embracing efficient technology solutions for personal work-Google Docs, apps etc. 
  • Building strong relationships-internal and external
  • If in an analytical role, being in the 'tacit knowledge' domain as long as possible-which would imply coming up with new and better ways of number crunching. 

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