Should you hire robots?

With an increasing focus on automation through robotics, digitisation and even artificial intelligence, humanity is in the midst of a new industrial revolution.

In the next decade more than 40 per cent of the jobs we know today will no longer exist according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, replaced by jobs we can’t even imagine yet. A quick look at LinkedIn tells us the majority of roles being advertised have the word ‘digital’ in the role title.

"Most errors, risk and time delays come from the manual inputting of data, handoffs within a process from one party to another and variables to the standard process."
Sarah Dunn, Chief Operating Officer, ANZ Taiwan

So how should business leaders respond to the questions and concerns of team members?

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At ANZ, the most frequently asked question I receive from leaders is how do we prepare people for the future in the face of all the change created by automation? It’s a crucial question.

Organisations will continue to develop solutions demanded by customers, delivered via channels customers choose and which deliver returns for shareholders. Automation and digitisation therefore will only increase - along with workforce disruption. 

We are already seeing service sector robots replace jobs from baristas to care of the elderly. Meanwhile, one of the economic challenges of the age is the shift to higher skilled workforces in advanced economies, a challenge for those losing jobs in more traditional industries – at the same time as the news is full of stories about the challenges for immigrants who want purpose in their lives through employment of any kind.


Within organisations, purpose is considered increasingly vital to provide the glue joining employee values to those of the business, framed by a company’s history and its vision of the future. As personal contact is replaced by virtual relationships the need for purpose becomes even more important.

Financial services is increasingly rife with disruption. Retail is moving from issuing credit cards to the digital wallets; telecommunications companies offer merchant payment services; internet companies such as Google, Amazon and PayPal use big data to own their consumers end to end; and fintech startups are unbundling banking with roboadvisors, loan start-ups and apps that offer new banking models.

In response, banks are both accumulating and reallocating capital into innovative new solutions - ones embedded in ecosystems combining the digital platforms challenging their bread and butter services as well as downstream non-banking needs.

To market these new solutions, social media is more cost effective, rapid and far reaching than the traditional face-to-face presentations of relationship managers. As a result, there is a tension between being competitive in order to remain a strong employer into the future and making tough calls between people and robots.

Those companies that don’t respond to the changing social landscape and evolving customer needs will slowly see their value eroded - and will lose employees as well.


As a chief operating officer who has been on the frontline for the majority of my career, I focus heavily on the customer outcome.

In the early days of internet banking a customer told me he or she felt like there was a banker behind the screen, pedalling away to make it all work. He wasn’t far wrong at the time; but not today. Customers demand speed, accuracy, information protection and cost efficiency.

Most errors, risk and time delays come from the manual inputting of data, handoffs within a process from one party to another and variables to the standard process. The customer experience is being dramatically improved by the use of robotics replacing repetitive manual inputting within operational processes.

Moreover, customers are increasingly in control of their own banking through the use of digital channels such as ATMs and internet banking. What they input is also the output, enabling straight-through processing where increasingly there is no human interaction within the process at all.


As processes are advanced through simplification, automation and digitisation, the inevitable outcome is a smaller and very different demand for people. The important question, not just over the coming years but right now, is what are the alternative outputs requiring greater focus and how can we encourage people to make the transition to these new focus areas?

Firstly, we have to dedicate time to educating people, communicating with them and helping them understand the enormity of change we are in the midst of; what it means to them, to their organisation, industry and society as a whole. This will give them an opportunity to make informed decisions.

We need to define and articulate skillsets to set people up for the future and provide support for acquiring them. It has been said Gen Y, who are already in the workforce, and Gen Z who are now being educated in preparation for their working lives, will have several careers during their lifetime. Banking is no longer the same job for life it was in previous generations, increasingly it will be about building relationships rather than performing tasks, for example.

As an employee, this new era will clearly require resilience, agility, flexibility and adaptability; a willingness to learn and re-learn and to take personal risk in careers.

Employers need to support staff aspirations to develop new skills and broaden experiences, while leaders must take risks and give staff the opportunity to make lateral moves. This will develop responsive and agile workforces, in tune with the communities they serve and resilient to continual change.


Like any major employer, banks have a responsibility to raise awareness, inform and educate people; to support new business types as they emerge by adapting policies and risk appetite; to evolve customer interaction by combining virtual with personal interface and to embrace emerging competitors by partnering with them in the development of these ecosystems.

These new businesses will be the source of new opportunities for employment as some of the more traditional roles and business types are replaced by automation and digitisation.

The key question is what should not be automated or what will take longer to automate within a people focused industry such as banking?

As long as banks have customers seeking financial solutions, there will be a need for strong customer delivery skills. This includes working to understand evolving customer needs in a digital society beyond mere banking borders, translating these needs into the development of innovative and creative customer-led solutions and the IT know-how to build them, as well as the creative and ethical sales delivery of these solutions.

The one thing which will never change is customers will always make purchase decisions based on emotional touch points, the nature of which only fellow humans (at this point at least) can understand.


Banks will continue to work within an increasingly regulated environment requiring governance and control based on automated data collection.

The interpretation and analysis of this data and the ability to balance risk control with commercial activity will become even more complex as businesses and customers work through an increasingly digital interface.

This will require both risk and legal expertise to evolve the way governance is managed to protect both customers and the business going forward.


In the midst of such transformational change and disruption, companies must continue to provide the sense of purpose employees need - one of the true differentiators between robots and humans.

What do you think are the core skillsets which will always be required? What new ones will emerge? More importantly, how can you assist staff to flex into these new skills, right now?

How digital ready are you yourself? And how ready are you to take a risk and give someone a chance to step into a new era within their career?

Sarah Dunn is Chief Operating Officer, ANZ Taiwan

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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