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85% of broker workload ‘immune’ to automation

by Lucy Dean5 minute read

Just 15 per cent of broker tasks are susceptible to automation, placing brokers on the lower end of the risk spectrum, AlphaBeta has said.

Andrew Charlton, director at the management consulting firm, told The Adviser that 15 per cent of the work brokers currently do is susceptible to automation and that, while automation implies change, “it doesn’t necessarily imply job loss”.

The AlphaBeta report titled The Automation Advantage, released in August, found that machines will "unburden" the average Australian worker of two hours of the “most tedious and manual” tasks a week over the next 15 years.

The report, led by Mr Charlton, also found that as automation becomes more prevalent, jobs will become more valuable, pointing to the fact that wages for non-automatable work are 20 per cent higher on average than for work that a machine could do.


He explained: “In principle, when machines take over some of the lower skill tasks from brokers, that enhances their ability to do their job and their productivity should go up and their wages should go up as well.

“Fifteen per cent is on the lower end of the spectrum, which means that when you take that job and divide it into all of the constituent tasks . . . most of the tasks are relatively immune to automation in the short term, and the typical reason for that is that those tasks are hard for machines to do — the interpersonal interactions or creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.”

Automation is “already” in brokers’ lives, he added, pointing to automatic emails, the use of internet and researching tools. The economist predicted that over time more programs will “creep” into other aspects of brokers’ jobs.

That percentage is “very likely” to shift in the future as automation grows more sophisticated, he noted.

“Tasks in jobs change and it [the percentage] is also based on the quality of the technology that we're aware of today. The quality of that technology can change, so that could accelerate a lot or it could decelerate if the tasks change and the job becomes one that requires more involvement from humans rather than a machine.”

He pointed to the introduction of automatic tellers on the banking sector in the 1980s; despite fears that it would “destroy” the jobs of many bank tellers, the automatic tellers instead reduced the cost of running a branch and encouraged the “proliferation” of branches.

Mr Charlton commented: “We still need people who are working in retail banking, but they're just doing different jobs; they're not dispensing cash and receiving cash and processing transactions; they're giving people advice; they're helping them think through their home loan; they're giving them financial advice and loan advice.

“The impact on the industry in terms of jobs and employment isn't necessarily a negative. It [automation] does imply change. It doesn't necessarily imply job loss.”


Epictenet CEO Ritesh Srivastava in August predicted that artificial intelligence-based chatbots will “soon play a key role” in reducing business costs and improving customer service.

Mr Srivastava said that chatbots can be used to answer customer queries in product sale or support.

“Chatbots are taking self-servicing in the financial services industry to the very next level after we have seen the success of ATM machines, internet banking, mobile banking and online applications.

“We have seen how old static websites have been taken over by new responsive websites, mobile banking gaining popularity over internet banking, etc. These are examples of how the new wave of digital disruption has started disrupting the early generation of digital technologies and it will not be long before live chats will lose the relevance.”

[Related: One in five brokers still don't have a website]



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