Following the news that BT, the telecoms giant, is looking to replace 55,000 roles with AI by the end of the decade, we reached out to the fintech industry to find out if there is a concern about unemployment due to AI.
In an attempt to cut costs, BT announced that it will to reduce jobs over the next seven years.
In May 2023, BT made a drastic announcement which instilled fear into many of its workers, especially in the customer services department. The company announced that it is planning to cut costs by letting 40,000 – 55,000 people go by 2030, to be replaced with AI.
According to the BBC, the cuts will be broken down roughly as:
- More than 15,000 cuts as BT completes building fibre networks in the UK
- More than 10,000 as new UK networks require less maintenance
- More than 10,000 from using new tech including AI
- About 5,000 from restructuring
Philip Jasen, BT’s chief executive explained that the company wanted to become a front-runner in AI technology. He also added that new technologies will drive new jobs, even though BT expects to have a smaller workforce by the end of the decade.
Due to ChatGPT’s explosion in popularity, AI has taken centre stage over the last year in every industry. Having previously been viewed as something reserved for tech organisations or something that customers used but weren’t aware of, AI’s true power is now being revealed. And it’s threatening jobs.
Some regulators have already seen enough and are starting to clamp down on the technology. For example, Italy has already banned ChatGPT.
However, not all countries are against the technology. The UK Government has said it will adopt a light-touch approach to regulating the sector. This is due to a fear that any current regulations will become outdated quickly.
To understand the views of the fintech industry, we asked if AI should be viewed as a friend or foe.
Two sides of the same coin
Shahid Munir, co-founder of Mintedconnect.com, the precious metals trading platform, looks at both sides of the argument: “The ever-expanding presence of AI in the fintech industry has sparked a captivating debate on whether it is a trusted ally or a formidable adversary. This relationship calls for a nuanced understanding of the subject, encompassing not only the concerns of fintech employees but also the imperative of containing AI’s impact on unemployment.
“The integration of AI within the fintech industry has sparked a fascinating discourse, with arguments both in favour of AI as a friend and as a potential foe.
“AI-powered algorithms and machine learning techniques enable fintech companies to automate repetitive and mundane tasks. By streamlining operations, AI frees up valuable time and resources, allowing employees to focus on higher-value activities. For instance, AI can facilitate seamless and efficient customer onboarding processes, significantly reducing manual efforts and time-consuming paperwork.
“AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants enhance customer interactions by providing instant support and personalised recommendations. These AI-driven solutions ensure round-the-clock availability, prompt responses, and tailored experiences. By leveraging AI, fintech companies can strengthen customer relationships, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
However, on the ‘foe’ side of things, Munir said: “As AI technologies continue to evolve, there are legitimate concerns about job displacement within the fintech industry. Tasks that were once performed by humans may become automated, raising questions about the future employability of fintech professionals. Roles such as data entry, basic customer support, and certain aspects of risk assessment are susceptible to automation. This could potentially lead to unemployment or the need for extensive reskilling.
“The use of AI in fintech necessitates careful attention to ethical considerations. Biases inherent in historical data can be inadvertently encoded into AI algorithms, perpetuating discrimination and exacerbating societal inequalities. Additionally, AI systems lack human judgement and moral reasoning, posing challenges in ensuring fair and responsible decision-making. Fintech companies must actively address these concerns to prevent unintended consequences.”
Work together with AI, not against it
Though the fear of unemployment is very real, the benefits of AI cannot be understated. The technology is revolutionising the fintech industry. Elena Mouza, people director at Clear Junction, the paytech, explains how AI shouldn’t be viewed as a human’s replacement, but rather an enhancer: “With FCA’s Consumer Duty due to be implemented in the next few months, AI could be invaluable to meeting new regulatory requirements in fintech.
“By automating compliance monitoring, enhancing customer due diligence, improving fraud detection, streamlining regulatory reporting, and providing compliance training for staff, the potentialities of AI will forever change fintech.
“The transformative potential of this solution is poised to enhance the work life of employees, freeing them from burdensome, repetitive tasks. As a result, we will see more time can be dedicated to more complex and value-added activities that need human judgment, creativity, and interpersonal skills.
“However, we are not talking about starting to cut staff and solely relying on technology. Much like humans, AI is fallible and needs people to oversee, interact with and work alongside it. Employees won’t be replaced by AI but will be expected to be better versed in it. We may begin to see formal training in how to interact with AI successfully in the next few years. As companies incorporate AI into their operations, they often require skilled people to develop, implement, and maintain AI systems.
“Fintech employees have the opportunity to enhance their skill sets in areas such as data science, machine learning, AI ethics, and customer relationship management to take advantage of these emerging roles.”
It’s not all doom and gloom
Alister Sneddon, head of product at CMC Invest, the investment platform, shares similar optimism and does not see AI in its current form as a threat: “In the next few years, we will likely see some interesting innovations when it comes to AI in fintech. For example, enabling organisations to offer tailored and bespoke insights to enhance the user experience. An investment platform might use AI to deliver users real-time news alerts about their ISA investments.
“However, for all its benefits, I do not see it being a one size fits all solution. Tone and understanding are invaluable skills. Financial planners, advisors, and even customer service representatives rely on these skills to build a connection based on trust and confidence. This relationship holds tremendous value for people when discussing something as personal as money. Those personal interactions are not something I can see AI replacing – at least AI as we know it now.”