With politics in turmoil (again) some things are sure. Take technology: flavour of the moment in the financial sector and beyond. And, with the clear exception of cyber threats and security worries, mostly billed as a positive inevitability: a challenge and opportunity for employers and a way for us all to live better connected, more carefree lives at home.
So it was with some relief that Roxhill Media’s recent breakfast session on the ‘Impact of Technology on the Workplace’ livened up the debate by being both evocative and divisive. My interest sparked when Izabella Kaminska from the FT, James Quinn from the Telegraph and Josie Cox from the Independent crossed swords over whether automation should be feared or welcomed.
As full member of Generation Y, borderline Z, I’ve worked at the sharp end of technology for the past five years. And what strikes me most are these simple six home truths:
- Disruption will disrupt your career. A question mark hangs like the guillotine over how the so-called ‘white collar’ workforce and firms respond to disruption. Many traditional roles are ripe for automation. And, as technology continuously improves its ability to perform sophisticated non-binary tasks, the threat to established ways of working will increase.
- Change isn’t new. Financial markets and firms are in a permanent state of change. Even aside from regulatory driven changes, cost cutting and efficiency gains have been the post crisis drivers; their natural evolution being to move operations to near shore and offshore locations.
- But we’re talking about a revolution, where the back-office is ripe for automation. On the positive side, productivity will improve if banks correctly harness technology’s ability to neither tire nor make errors. Tied with huge cost saving, emerging blockchain technology, increased control and compliance, the argument for banks to adopt greater automation seems as inevitable as it is persuasive.
- Its time to up skill – and possibly retrain. Banks are going to need ever greater technology based skill sets just to maintain the business as well as create their future.
- Our politicians and rule makers don’t have the right skills. Bit of an issue this, as governments have a responsibility to help us all get this right. Unfortunately, most senior officials and decision makers – across all parties and departments – are lagging way behind in their comprehension of technology. The large scale omission of coherent technology and automation related policies by all major parties in their 2017 election manifestos makes this all too painfully clear.
- We need to decide what kind of society we want. It’s time for a (big?) conversation about the nature of work and whether work is a basic right as competition from technology grows. This raises the evocative topic of a Universal Basic Income – probably too provocative for some ears. But surely to fear losing something, we should fundamentally know why we have it.
What’s to do? However you voted in #UKElection2017, I hope you cast a thought for technology. Whoever wins this ‘post-election’, it’s your future.