Last week, we looked at two challenges facing the investment banking industry: growing recruiting woes in the aftermath of the financial crisis and coming digital disruption of industry business models.

These challenges share a common solution. The same digital tools that will change the way banks work create an opportunity for them to work better and reverse brain drain.

The reasoning, laid out in new research from Accenture Consulting, goes like this. Technologies such as advanced analytics, cognitive computing, and robotics are going to automate some aspects of the banking industry. They will also take data recording and analysis to new heights. Combined, these two outcomes will present an opportunity—or a challenge, depending on your point of view—for banks to transform their operations in a way increases performance and offers more fulfilling, exciting work to employees.

Forward-thinking organizations should be asking themselves:

  • What is our talent strategy for attracting and retaining the skills we’ll need in the future?
  • To improve both business outcomes and employee satisfaction, what human tasks can we automate? What human capabilities can we augment?
  • How can we create a culture that encourages collaboration between machines and humans?
  • How will new technologies impact business roles? What about how we manage and lead our workforce?

As machines become smarter and more capable, successful banks will treat humans and machines as “coworkers,” playing to the strengths of each.

Here are five steps a bank can take to get it right with digital talent:

  1. Conduct strategic workforce planning with machines in mind: Consider how greater automation can free up employees for more valuable work.
  2. Create an “always-learning organization”: Rapid, continuous change favors those who can adapt quickly. To create multi-skilled generalists who never stop learning, revise training programs and performance criteria to include collaboration and continuous learning.
  3. Use performance management as a development tool: Feedback and coaching from managers, employees, and even smart machines can help people learn and constantly improve.
  4. Transform managers into machine collaborators who excel in judgement work: Shift leader focus from issuing commands to orchestrating networks that push decision-making to the edge of an organization.
  5. Build a culture of trust. Managers and employees will need to trust the data that machines provide to embrace them as co-workers. The figure below describes three things that will close the trust gap.


Managers surveyed as part of new Accenture research say that three things will close the trust gap: understanding how a system works (60 percent), ensuring the system has a field-tested track record (55 percent), and using a system that explains its logic (49 percent).

Accenture Operations provides a case study of these principles put into action. Intelligent automation and robotics have been used there to reskill and boost the productivity of more than 17,000 people.

So far we have focused on the operational benefits of merging humans and machines in banking: higher productivity, increased resilience, and so on. These outcomes are important. But in a sense they miss the true essence of what makes people love their jobs: the chance to create meaning.

Intelligent machines and digital disruption have much to offer here too. Come back next week when we’ll conclude this series with a look at the strategic talent opportunity that merging machines and humans creates for the banking industry.

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