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Monday 22 April 2019
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Business Day Editorial: Business and a digital-only environment

Davos is a town in the Swiss Alps, within the canton of Graubünden. It’s a popular ski resort with a conference centre that hosts the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) which took place last week. As is the case annually, the WEF had an agenda that spanned climate change to gender equality and quite importantly, even to the manner technology is changing the nature of work.

The world is witnessing the rise of immeasurably disruptive and yet easy-to-adopt next-generation technologies. This disruption, together with consumer expectations for experience-led interaction with “brands,” is encouraging businesses to rethink and re-engineer their models. Digital transformation has become a reality and is influencing many economies including our own here in TT — affecting retailers (readers would remember protection given to brick and mortar stores through online tax), financial institutions (through Fintech innovations and the advent of cryptocurrency), and consumer brands business transformation that we see taking place globally is no longer only deliberated in the boardroom, but also in ideation rooms with experience designers and technology architects and including business leaders. It is important for us to note that the transformation is not only about technology adoption, but also involves cultural and organisational change. The days of a job-until-you-die is long gone. Last year would have taught us that in this country.

How has business in this country been experiencing this? Simple examples include gas-station service to consumer shopping. The changes that technology brings require organisations in the country to develop a new culture for the next decade of human-centric digital transformation. That is going to require an effort on the part of all stakeholders.

We should be aware that things such as predictive spend analysis, fraud detection, credit scoring, risk analysis, regulatory conformance and transactions of every nature will vanish as “jobs”. Technologies such as analytics and cognitive computing will become guardians of these processes. Working at a bank, an insurance provider, card company, consumer finance organisation, investment bank and even technology providers to the ecosystem will feel different, not like work at all.

As financial institutions progressively embrace digital banking, they have the chance to become tech solutions companies — providing much more than conventional banking services.

The questions we need to ask about the future include what offerings are financial institutions uniquely placed to provide? How do they become trusted and essential parts of the rapidly changing consumer and enterprise ecosystem, and what role do product engineering and new technologies play in fuelling change? And how can a digital-only environment democratise banking for unbanked consumers while encountering anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regulatory requirements?

We have pointed out that banking and financial services are set to evolve over the next dozen years as a result of changing consumer habits, technological advancements, and the rapidly growing demand from emerging markets. We have to be mindful that these changes will affect employment, the type of jobs that are available and the training that is required for people to remain relevant.

We also have to treat with the fears that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation in industrial processes is fuelling concerns of a jobless future. The Cognizant Center for the Future of Work (CFoW) thinks such melancholy prognostications are excessively ominous.

The CFoW forecasts that our growing dependence on AI and automation will generate millions of meaningful and sustainable jobs over the next decade globally, enhancing workplace productivity and uplifting humanity. The key is to train our people as we prepare for such changes based on sound planning. Understanding the changes that are coming is half the task needed to begin to prepare for these changes.

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