Surviving the Era of Automation

December 13, 2017


The massive wave of automation and robotization we are currently witnessing in the way things work is about to destabilize whole sectors of the world’s labour market — and this is nothing new. Just think of the industrial revolution back in the 18th century when countless artisan weavers were put out of work with the invention of the mechanized loom. What is different about this current wave of technological unemployment however is how it poses an additional threat to prestigious jobs that demand sophisticated intellectual effort. In this post, we will take a closer look at the upcoming unemployment risks and offer some tips on how to survive the storm.

While artificial intelligence still lags behind human capacities in many respects, there are plenty of tasks it can handle, with which we just cannot compete. Like performing mathematical operations and processing huge amounts of data. Considering the huge role these capacities play in capital markets, it’s no wonder that roughly half of the jobs to be lost worldwide in the next 20 years are expected to be in finance. And the numbers are alarming— for example, Optimas expects that AI technologies will reduce the number of employees in capital markets by 230,000 worldwide by 2025, with the biggest hit in the asset management industry.

So how does one secure one’s position in the job market and survive the coming storm of technological unemployment? The good news is that in the coming years automation and robotization will affect particular functions more than entire jobs. So, as McKinsey claims, while elements of most jobs will be affected to varying degrees, very few occupations will be entirely eliminated in the next decade. Keeping this in mind, job survival in the era of automation has everything to do with enhancing the skills that are less likely to be taken over by intelligent machines in the coming years.

In a recent Forbes Coaches Councils post, Grace Totoro offers a simple test to identify these crucial skills. What skills are left after you exclude those that an intelligent machine could handle in your place? Are these skills enough for a fully-salaried position? If your job is changing because of advances in automation, what can you do to keep performing in your role? A recent study by Robert Half names problem solving, strategic vision, commercial acumen and communication as the most in-demand skills of a finance employee in the near future. And this is really the way to go — exercise critical thinking, develop emotional intelligence and practice the art of communication so you can learn to see beyond mere numbers, which is the very element of AI.

Creative and analytical tasks, as well as those involving interpersonal communication, are the ones least likely to be usurped by machines in the near future, so make sure your skills go beyond mere computational routine and involve these genuinely (and, for the moment, exclusively) human capabilities.


Software Architect

Zurich, Switzerland

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M&A and Strategy Manager

Zurich, Switzerland

Senior Capital Market Quantitative Analyst

Cologne, Germany

M&A Associate

Frankfurt, Germany