Transforming your business for future success by balancing technology – including AI – and people: insight from Simplify Consulting’s Giang Hughes

by | Apr 17, 2024

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In this exclusive analysis, Simplify Consulting’s Business Support Manager, Giang Hughes, assesses the rise of AI, how humans are needed to utilise data, why soft skills are more necessary in future workforce in wealth management and why businesses need to be agile to balance the use of tech and their workforce if they are to thrive.

Financial Services is big business.  Alongside professional services, it accounts for 7.5% of total UK employment – or 2.5 million people.1

But customers’ needs are evolving. And the sector must adapt – especially in the wealth industry. Widespread changes appear inevitable, not least to the wealth management workforce. 

From disruption to enabling

 
 

The industry has undergone massive digital disruption as it keeps apace with increased consumer demand for digital services. Digital platforms, apps, e-commerce and digital trade has become the norm.

But technology will increasingly enable.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has automated back-end operations such as administrative tasks and data processing. This alleviates pressure on employees to complete simple, day-to-day tasks. AI speeds journeys up and frees workers from basic tasks, enabling them to deal with complex queries and oversee critical situations.

 
 

For example, data can highlight disproportionate spending on gambling sites. Speech analytics can flag irate customers that may lead to a possible complaint, or alert to language that signifies domestic abuse.

But humans will still be needed to intervene and interact with the customer using the soft skills of compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence.

The question is not when AI technology is available but how firms decide to use that technology. The wealth operations workforce must transform to create, innovate and meet evolving customer needs.

 
 

Firms need to identify and recruit the talent required to fully exploit digital transformation.

Right Culture. Right Talent

With low unemployment and changes to the way people work, competition for skills and talent is high. The financial services sector has the second highest density of skills gaps.2

 
 

At the same time, employment patterns are changing. The common practice of redundancy and re-hire approach is costly compared to the re-skilling and training. The latter approach can also lessen the skills gap. But companies must invest in staff training – which is a relatively low priority for UK financial services companies compared with other markets, according to the City of London & HM Treasury.

Training and re-skilling is only part of it. As Generation Z (those born between 2001-2020) begins to enter the workforce, employers are rethinking compensation, flexibility and company culture. External rewards, such as pay and reward, are not the chief motivators for this cohort.

They – along with Gen X and millennials (representing 75% of today’s workforce according to Purdue Global) and Gen Z– want to retire with ‘gradually decreasing hours’. They want work to fit into their lives, not the other way around.

 
 

Wealth firms will need to attract the right talent not only to meet changing technological advances and the relationship needs of customers – but also changing work ambitions of employees by creating an environment and culture they want to be a part of.

From customer journeys to holistic financial well-being

Consumers now expect integrated services. Dissatisfied with basic applications or on-call support, customers ‘

 
 

expect ever greater tailoring.

While many wealth management operational processes are unseen, they can be felt if the customer experience isn’t seamless. So there is a need to balance often AI-driven operational processes with additional human – and emotional – input to round out the customer experience and support financial well-being. There is still a need for human interaction.

Wealth operations can use technology and AI to understand customer circumstances and motivations. Humans can leverage that knowledge, connect with customers to deliver relevant advice, solve specific and complicated problems, and offer holistic services.

 
 

Building a resilient business

Business agility is key in wealth operations. Engine room operations are crucial to all businesses, and arguably more so with financial products – thanks to their complexity, risk, regulated nature, and the fact that they carry the economic fortunes of all those it touches.

Hard-working people oil the operations machine. They keep the vast quantities of data, money and products flowing through the millions of transactions processed every day to serve the demands of millions of customers.

 
 

But the wealth industry must balance: investing and implementing technology to streamline and enhance efficiency to deliver superior customer experiences; cultivating a workforce culture to attract and retain top talent by providing opportunities for skills development and career growth; and responding to market dynamics and regulatory requirements.

Summary

As technology and consumer behaviour evolves, firms must also evolve to meet those demands. They will need to consider ongoing digital transformation and converting customer insight into innovative solutions. These success factors are as much about people, culture and organisational design as they are about systems and technology.

 
 

References:

  1. Office for National Statistics. Labour market overview, UK: March 2024 https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/latest
  2. GOV.UK Employer skills survey: 2022  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/employer-skills-survey-2022

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