One of the developments currently causing most concern in the financial services industry is the increasing digitalisation of business processes. The results of the FinTech Barometer, an annual survey conducted by order-to-cash specialist Onguard, shows a 6-fold increase in job-loss fears among finance professionals in the space of a year. These fears are fuelled by the steady advance of digitalisation. But are they justified? Are finance professional jobs really at risk? really Not according to Marieke Saeij, CEO of Onguard. She believes that, while these fears are understandable, they are essentially unwarranted.
Higher productivity, lower costs
We are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution, driven by the development and use of new technologies. Like the previous three industrial revolutions, the latest is transforming the way we work. Software, robots and clever algorithms are completing tasks faster and flawlessly, improving productivity and reducing costs. Companies no longer have to pay people to perform routine tasks, such as inputting invoices, when software can do it automatically. So, sooner or later, we’ll outsource straightforward business processes and jobs will evolve accordingly. But this is nothing new. The first industrial revolution made drastic changes in people’s lives as mass production replaced cottage industries. Traditional crafts disappeared and growing numbers of people went to work in factories. The same thing happened during the Technological Revolution and the Digital Revolution. Jobs disappeared and were replaced by other very different livelihoods.
Will jobs disappear during this fourth industrial revolution? Yes, jobs will inevitably disappear. But this has been happening for centuries, so there is really nothing to worry about. It actually offers tremendous opportunities for humanity. Our ability to invent computers to carry out tasks for us is a testament to human ingenuity. When the first electronic computer was invented in the mid-20th century, this was unimaginable.
But, as a finance professional, how do you ensure that you remain valuable to your employer and the industry? To begin, as businesses automate and digitalise wherever possible, you need to update your professional skills and demonstrate your added value. The vast majority (65%) of the finance professionals who responded to the survey anticipate having to develop analytical skills. In a world inundated with data, employees who can interpret and analyse data are a valuable asset. Today’s companies base their decisions on insights derived from data.
The second most important factor is customer relationship management skills. Computers and algorithms have no feelings. They work with hard data. But behind the data there is a human being. To provide excellent customer service, it is necessary to master relationship management. This is what makes you stand out from competitors. To build customer loyalty you need to offer an exceptional customer experience. And this requires a human touch.
So rather than fearing the loss of your job, seize the opportunity to develop your skills as a finance professional. That way you will remain valuable not only to your employer but also to the customer, which is ultimately what it’s all about.