Will Financial Digitization Take Away A Banker's Job? 'When ATMs came into existence, people thought tellers or clerks would lose their jobs, but that didn't happen'

By Sanchita Dash

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Digital revolution has taken over the world and has given an outright threat to many jobs. But the one sector, which has often been at the receiving end of this question, has been the banking and financial industry.

From payment wallets getting a boost, thanks to demonetization, to the increased interest in blockchain — technology is set to make processes simpler and easier. But, traditionalists have often wondered whether it will do away with a lot of jobs. In fact, a recent study by Citigroup revealed across the world, "another 30% of bank jobs could be lost between 2015 and 2025, mainly due to retail banking automation."

Vikram Sud, former APAC operations and technology head of Citibank and also ex-group COO of Kotak Mahindra Group explained to the Entrepreneur India the various kinds of jobs involved in a bank and mentioned the services that could take a hit.

"When you enter a branch, there are different services offered to you. There are sales people, tellers, operations and then product managers. The product managers are the ones whose jobs are safe and secure, though it will evolve the most. They will need to learn all the tools and techniques. The people and the banks that embrace the change will do the best. But, the number of branches will decline, thereby reducing along with it the sales staff. Consumers will start evaluating everything online and even process things online soon," he said.

While the process of taking deposits will get more automated than it is now, it is the lending part where people will start using alternative platforms a lot more. "What will happen is that banks will continue to ask these alternative lending platforms to book their loans on their banks," Sud added.

He emphasized that traditional banking industry was undergoing the process of digital transformation.

"There are some aspects that will certainly go completely digital — like opening a bank account. The Singapore government has already approved the digital opening of accounts as long as the digital ID works. RBI, too, has given DBS the go ahead and open accounts digitally. Access to Aadhar could give a boost to the digitization process in India," he said.

Amit Goel, Co-founder and MD of Let's Talk Payments said there are two perspectives on the issue. "There's one perspective that automation will kill jobs and the same question had risen when ATMs had come into existence. People thought tellers or clerks would lose their jobs but that didn't happen. Instead, these people started focusing on other things, people just got redistributed," he said.

But according to Amit what will change the game is Artificial Intelligence. "There's going to be some lay-offs because of AI, as it does what a human being can or will do. It even replaces the thinking part of the job," he said.

AI will play a big role and the most exciting sector for it would be investment, according to Sud. "From what-to-buy to when-to-sell, AI will be able to give recommendations and will play a much more contextual role. Then, banks will be able to read a consumer's needs and accordingly offer services," he said.

However, in the short term, there's nothing to worry about. "I don't think that digitization will affect jobs in the short term. It will take some time for the customers to get used to the processes. Re-skilling can also happen. Also, there are different scenarios where automation cannot take over completely. The mainly repetitive processes will be taken over by automation but for some, human supervision will be required. AI has not yet reached the level where it can finish tasks from end to end, especially in the banking industry," said Chandrashekhar Bhide, a mentor/advisor for start-ups and an independent business consultant who used to earlier lead digital banking at DBS.

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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