AI is a job creator – but only for organisations that double down on it

Alexandra Mousavizadeh is CEO and co-founder of Evident, an independent intelligence platform that aims to bring transparency to the adoption of AI in business.

 

Will artificial intelligence (AI) be a net creator or mass destroyer of jobs? If we look to the global banking industry, suggests Alexandra Mousavizadeh is CEO and co-founder of AI intelligence platform Evident, then AI could be the change agent for the most successful transformations.

Of all the current AI talking points, the question of whether AI will create or destroy jobs is perhaps the most contentious topic under discussion. For while the number of people who believe all-powerful AI systems will wipe out humanity is relatively small (although it is growing), there’s widespread consensus that AI will have a profound impact on how human labour is deployed.

And yet, I’d argue that viewing AI in such binary terms misunderstands its true significance as a change agent.

The organisations that win the AI race will surge ahead of their rivals on growth, productivity, and financial performance. They will likely create millions of jobs. Whereas organisations that fail to meet the challenge of AI-driven digital transformation may cease to exist altogether.

 

Commercial AI deployment isn’t easy

Recent news headlines on the question of AI’s disruptive impact on employment range from ‘Will AI replace your job?’ to ‘Is this the start of the AI bloodbath?’

One report by Goldman Sachs suggests that generative AI alone could replace up to 300 million jobs worldwide, although it also highlights the technology’s potential to bolster labour productivity for those who remain in post. A recent note from researchers at Deutsche Bank strikes a more optimistic note as far as the labour force is concerned, highlighting the lack of historical precedent for mass unemployment triggered by the introduction of productivity-enhancing technologies.

It may be true, but testing Deutsche Bank’s prediction will first require organisations to introduce AI and successfully harness its benefits. This is not easy. The hype surrounding ChatGPT has created the misconception that because generative AI interfaces are now more accessible and intuitive, commercial AI deployment is itself easier, cheaper and less risky – none of which is accurate.

Major business transformation around technology, talent, culture, and more, is required to get AI right, with significant reputational and ethical costs for those who get it wrong. In heavily regulated sectors such as financial services, AI deployment is proceeding with great caution. And judging from the current mood music in the UK, across Europe and the US, it is entirely possible that policymakers may intervene at a macro level to slow the pace of commercial adoption.

Whatever AI’s eventual impact on jobs, it seems reasonable to assume that significant change will not happen overnight, nor indeed, that a bloodbath will be forthcoming.

 

The battle for AI talent is intensifying

The organisations that embrace AI and successfully place it at the centre of their transformation efforts will be the breakout winners in their respective industries. Those that don’t double down on AI will be left behind.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the global banking industry, where troublesome economic conditions have forced many big banks into announcing layoffs over the past 18 months. In the UK, ONS data shows that the number of people working in financial services has fallen back to 1987 levels. And yet, despite the layoffs elsewhere, the biggest banks are massively stepping up their AI hiring efforts – indeed, in some institutions, this is the only area of the business in which headcount is increasing.

Evident’s recent Talent Trends Report found that a number of European banks, including ING Group, Barclays and NatWest Group, are doubling down on AI recruitment. In each case, AI-related hires represent almost 40% of their open job descriptions, demonstrating the strategic significance of AI to these banks. Likewise, JPMorgan Chase & Co is looking to consolidate its lead in the battle for banking AI dominance by hiring for twice as many AI-related jobs as any of its rivals.

The data suggests that what it means to be a banker is changing fast. It might make those in the City uncomfortable, but the future of banking is AI-powered data analytics. Pinstripes are on the way out; hoodies are in.

Individual institutions are welcome to try and resist this direction of travel – to persist with current practices and ignore the AI revolution happening around them. But it’s a dangerous strategy. As Deutsche Bank’s analysis points out, ‘History suggests the far bigger risk would come from not embracing technologies.’

It is through this lens that we should view the debate around AI’s impact on employment. The reason why the world’s biggest banks are battling it out for the brightest AI talent is that they’re viewing AI as the essential prerequisite to any and all future job creation. Or to put it another way, they wish to continue existing.

 

 

 

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