McKinsey: Robots Can Do About 30% of the Work at Banks, But They Won’t Necessarily Take Jobs


Tasks will be automated, not jobs.

About a third of work done at banks today can be automated by technology, according to a new report from McKinsey.

That might sound like bad news for the millions of people who work as bank tellers, loan officers, financial analysts, brokers and other jobs within the banking industry, but the report doesn’t predict massive cuts to headcount. Rather, its authors predict, “the application of cognitive technologies to capital markets functions can reduce budgets and free up capacity for teams to focus on higher-value activities such as research, idea generation and client relationship management.”

In eight banks that McKinsey examined, headcount did not necessarily correlate with efficiencies gained by technology. That’s because tasks, rather than jobs, were automated. Technologies were more likely to reduce an individual’s workload than eliminate his or her entire to-do list.

It isn’t a single technology poised to take over much of the work inside banks. McKinsey’s report focused on four of them:

  • Smart workflows: Routing and integration of tasks such as client on-boarding and month-end reporting.
  • Machine learning: Application of advanced algorithms to large data sets to identify patterns, helping make decisions in areas such as idea presentment, product control and trade surveillance.
  • Natural language processing: Turning speech and text including legal documentation and client service queries into structured, searchable data.
  • Cognitive agents: Computerized interaction with humans, used for example in employee service centers, on help desks and in other internal contact centers.

Some banks have already moved to automate aspects of research and analysiscontract interpretation, data, and customer service processes.

But, according to McKinsey, “most banks are in the early stages of engaging with and understanding the potential offered by cognitive technologies.”

McKinsey’s relatively sunny outlook for banking jobs becoming more automated is shared by industry executives. “We have less sales and traders, for example, but more engineers, more coders,” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said in a recent interview posted on LinkedIn. “These things give us an opportunity to take our resources and apply them somewhere else.” He said he expects his bank’s headcount to go up within the next 20 years.

“We’re using bots today and it’s not going to stop us from opening retail branches,” Dimon said. “It’s not going to stop us from having private bankers. Or adding investment bankers to countries in Africa that we’re not in. We have all these growth opportunities and we’re always finding ways to be more efficient. But creating more efficiency creates capital, creates other opportunities.”

Not all workers share this optimism. In a LinkedIn survey of more than 1,000 financial professionals, 25 percent said they thought automation was a threat to their job security. ‘‘In 10 years Goldman Sachs will be significantly smaller by head count than it is today,’’ Daniel Nadler, CEO of a machine learning and analytics company Kensho, which counts the bank as both a customer and investor, told the New York Times.