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The impact of digitalization on human resources

Banks should consider rethinking their workforce strategy given how work is evolving – with increasing automation* and greater diversity in the labor pool.

Le 13/09/2018
Julien Maldonato

There is little doubt that automation is rapidly transforming work, and advances in technologies such as quantum computing will likely only accelerate this change. A seemingly natural reaction to the inevitability of an increasingly automated world could be to speculate about the impact on jobs, [1] yet alleviating “automation anxiety” in banking is far from new. [2] For example, ATMs allowed banks to reorient tellers to sales and advisory roles from purely transactional activities. [3]

Redesign work for technology and learning

To take effective advantage of technology, banks will likely need to redesign work itself, moving beyond process optimization to find ways to enhance machine-human collaboration, drawing out the best of both and expanding access to distributed talent. Banks will be well advised to not just focus on automation but to identify the most promising areas in which digital technology can augment workers’ performance as they shift into more creative and value-added work. For example, how can the technology be harnessed to “make the invisible visible” by giving workers richer, real-time views of their work? How can banks use robotics to provide workers with access to workloads that would be far too heavy for humans? What are some ways in which AI-based technology can complement human judgment and contextual knowledge to achieve better advice than either human or machine alone? This is perhaps the greatest challenge for banks in the next decade: how to plan for the redesign and reinvention of work to combine the capabilities of machines and people, create meaningful jobs and careers, and help employees with the learning and support to navigate these rapidly evolving circumstances.

Organizations will not only need to redesign work – they will likely need to redesign work environments to support this new kind of work. There’s been a lot of effort to reshape environments to make them more enjoyable and flexible to accommodate changing worker preferences and needs, but what if we took the need to accelerate learning and performance improvement as our primary design goal? What would work environments look like then? [4]

Source and integrate talent across networks

As organizations develop a better understanding of the expanding array of talent options available, they will need to design and evolve networks that can access the best talent for specific work. Beyond focusing on acquiring talent to be employed in their own organizations, they will need to develop the capability to access good people wherever they reside. Since this talent will likely evolve rapidly, these networks will have to be flexible and adapt quickly to changing talent markets.

To accelerate learning and performance improvement, organizations will need to decide where they can truly be world-class and where they can access other talent from top global sources. They will need to cultivate a continuum of talent sources – on and off the balance sheet, freelancers, and crowds and competitions – that harness the full potential of the open talent economy and tap into talent wherever it resides geographically.

Implement new models of organizational structure, leadership, culture, and rewards

Organizational structures are evolving from traditional hierarchies to networks of teams that extend well beyond the boundaries of any individual organization. Hierarchical structures are well suited for routine tasks, but as the emphasis shifts to more creative work done by small, diverse workgroups connecting with each other in unexpected ways, more flexible network structures will become more important. As the continuum of talent resources expands and becomes more diversified, organizations will need to develop richer relationships in larger business ecosystems and find ways to participate more effectively on scalable platforms to access expertise and enhance the ability to work together to accelerate performance improvement.

Organizations will need to cultivate new leadership and management approaches that can help build powerful learning cultures and motivate workers to go beyond their comfort zone. Indeed, leadership styles must shift from more authoritarian – appropriate for stable work environments shaped by routine, well-defined tasks and goals – to collaborative. In the future of work, we expect that the strongest leaders will be those who can frame the most inspiring and high-impact questions and motivate and manage teams.

To foster these new forms of creative work, organizations will need to reassess the rewards they offer to participants. In a world where routine tasks define work, people look to extrinsic rewards such as cash compensation to stay motivated. As the nature of work shifts to more creative work that rapidly evolves, participants are likely to focus more on intrinsic rewards, including the purpose and impact of their work and the opportunity to grow and develop. Organizations may find it increasingly hard to hold on to employees if they focus narrowly on extrinsic rewards.

Upskill employees to work more effectively in a digital environment

Bankers would need upskilling to work more effectively in a digital environment, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital Global Study (see figure 1). [5] Although banking has undoubtedly improved in many ways in the last couple of decades, most organizations have not gone through the workforce transformation that other industries have undergone. Only few major banks have changed their talent management strategies. One global example is Singapore’s DBS Bank, investing SG$20 million to train its existing workforce in digital banking and emerging technologies, via an AI-powered e-learning platform, curated curriculum, and module delivery. [6]

As the digital revolution progresses, banks will be looking for people with an evolved set of skills, specializing in up-and-coming applications such as virtual reality, predictive algorithmic and conversational commerce.

To illustrate the changing nature of the workforce, 6 new roles in banking could be defined. [7]

1. Mixed Reality Experience Designer

Mixed or augmented reality (MR/AR) will become the primary interface to the digital bank in the future, requiring skills in aesthetic design, branding, user experience and 3D mechanics.

2. Algorithm Mechanic

Tuning algorithms to optimize banking customer experience will be a major role. As we shift to a low-code/no-code environment for technology operation, this role will require skills in risk management, service design, and financial literacy, rather than technological proficiency.

3. Conversational Interface Designer

Building natural, low-friction interfaces that go beyond solving immediate challenges to surprise and delight customers will require a mixture of creative, linguistic, and anthropological skills.

4. Universal Service Advisor

As mixed reality becomes the main interface between people and machines, highly skilled service agents will be able to switch seamlessly between virtual and physical environments from anywhere anytime to meet customer needs. This role of customer advisor will require combination of product and domain knowledge with excellent customer communication and empathy. This will require a level of comfort with the key communications technologies, including performing in a virtual environment.

5. Digital Process Engineer

The rate of change of customer interactions processes is likely to increase, as is their complexity, as they combine service and information components from multiple sources. The digital process engineer will need great discovery skills, to understand large and interconnected workflows and diagnose problems and bottlenecks, and creative skills to help them to prototype and test solutions.

6. Partnership Gateway Enabler

The relationships with banking partners, like fintechs and global technology companies, will need negotiation, monitoring and maintenance. The Gateway Controllers will balance technical knowledge of the digital interfaces with an understanding of security and risk management. This role will also require skills in communication for partner engagement.

Amplify learning

In the new landscape of work, personal success will largely depend on accelerating learning throughout one’s lifetime. As a lifelong learning imperative takes hold, we see individuals increasingly focusing on participation in small but diverse workgroups that can amplify learning. Workers will need to take action on their own to enhance their potential for success, but the impact of their efforts will be significantly influenced by the willingness and ability of the organization to evolve in ways aligned with the shifting nature of work.

Engage in lifelong learning

As rapid technological and marketplace change shrinks the useful lifespan of any given skill set, workers will need to shift from acquiring specific skills and credentials to pursuing enduring and essential skills for lifelong learning. Individuals will need to find others who can help them get better faster – small workgroups, organizations, and broader and more diverse social networks. We are likely to see much richer and more diverse forms of collaboration emerge over time.

Workers must shape their own career path

Historically, a career was defined as a relatively stable, predictable set of capabilities that aligned with the needs of an organization and the banking industry. This included a progressive mastery of a set of predetermined skills required to advance in the corporate hierarchy, with accompanying salary boosts. But the half-life of skills and expertise is becoming shorter and shorter, with new, unexpected skills emerging as valuable. This has two implications. With needs constantly shifting, employers are less and less able to provide employees with well-defined career paths spanning years or decades. And workers, to keep their skills current, must increasingly do whatever is necessary to accelerate their learning, including pursuing a diversity of work experiences or working for multiple “employers” at the same time.

Rather than relying on paternalistic employers to shape their careers’ nature and progression, workers will need to take the initiative to shape their own personalized careers. And as work evolves, individuals should cultivate a “surfing” mind-set, always alert to emerging, high-value skills and catching the wave at an early stage to capture the most value from these skills. To avoid getting stretched too thin and stay motivated, they must filter a growing array of skill opportunities through their personal passions.


[1] Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, “Ex-Citi CEO Says 30% of Bank Jobs at Risk from Technology,” Bloomberg, September 23rd, 2017.

[2] Irving Wladawsky-Berger, “As Automation Anxiety Grows, Remember We’ve Been Here Before,” CIO Journal, Wall Street Journal, September 1st, 2017.

[3] Val Srinivas, “The Future of Automation in the Banking Industry: What Can We Learn From ATMs,” Deloitte Quick Look Blog, July 19th, 2017.

[4] John Hagel, Jeff Schwartz, and Josh Bersin, “Navigating the future of work: Can We Point Business, Workers, and Social Institutions in the Same Direction?,” Deloitte Review, Issue 21, July 31st, 2017.

[5] Gerald C. Kane, Doug Palmer, Anh Nguyen Phillips, David Kiron, and Natasha Buckley, “Achieving Digital Maturity: Adapting Your Company to a Changing World,” Deloitte Insights, July 13rd, 2017.

[6] DBS, “DBS to Invest SGD20 Million Over Five Years to Transform Employees Into Digital Workforce, in Support of Singapore’s Aim to Be Smart Financial Centre,” press release, August 21st, 2017.

[7] HSBC, “Human Advantage: The Power of People,” HSBC report, July 5th, 2018.


By “automation”, we mean machines and tools powered by computing and artificial intelligence that can now do tasks hitherto done by people.


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