Automation Has Benefits, But Investment Management Firms Still Need Humans

Automation isn’t just about driving down costs. It’s also about putting employees in a position where their skills are best utilized, and the human touch is most appreciated. 

Pew Research Survey found that a majority of people in advanced and emerging economies say robots and computers will probably or definitely do much of the work currently done by humans. 

At a time when the US unemployment rate is close to a 53-year low (as of April 2019), fears about a future displacement of human labor persist. Even 2020 US presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, is running on a platform based on readying the country for the future effects of automation. 

The benefits of automation are real: cost savings, greater efficiency and accuracy. How automation will affect the human workforce is not fully known, but at a minimum, equipping people with skill sets where human input is most valued – and irreplaceable – is a good measure. 

What About Investment Management Firms?

Yes, robo-advisors can provide financial advice and allocate assets according to risk appetite. Manual data input and other tasks with repetitive and predictable steps are prime targets for automation, but removing human capital from this work does not diminish the importance of humans. 

Clients are placing a substantial portion of their wealth and assets into a firm’s hands; people want assurance from other people that the faceless electronic systems are doing the job properly. 

While humans are necessary, hedge funds, wealth and asset management companies will need to restructure. 

Workload distributions will change. Resources will be re-allocated. Firms may need to hire new talent. And if letting existing staff members go is too painful, consider training them to handle new tasks. 

The good news is that with the money saved by automating, the newly freed-up resources could be devoted to the human-focused work. 

Hedge Fund, Wealth and Asset Management Jobs Where Humans Are Needed 

Client Servicing 

Sure, the clients demand mobile-based services; they want instant access totheir investment portfolios anytime, anywhere. 

And if a robo-advisor can deliver that instant service, firms should make those services available. 

But with technology, robotics, and automation, at some point the human-ness is lost in the service, and clients still need the human touch. 

“An elegant, seamless digital client experience is the foundation that powers everything, while the human is the secret sauce on top.” – Neesha Hathi, Chief Digital Officer at Charles Schwab. 

Robo-advisors allow for greater scalability, as firms can handle more clients. What this means for human advisors is that they can make themselves available to a larger number of clients who seek personal consultation and assurance. 

And should the clients’ portfolios need a slight, but significant modification that the robots can’t provide, the humans can do it. 

For some, it is the bartender, the barber, or the therapist who helps them figure out things in life. Financial advisors, too, help their clients figure out things in life, money matters being just one of them. 

Rather than being consumed with “busy work”, being there for the clients when they need you goes a long way. 

Sales 

In order to fully realize scalability, investment firms must ramp up the sales efforts. 

Hire new salespeople, or transform existing team members into salespeople. The benefit with existing staff is they should already know the products and services well. The question, then, is if team members are willing and able to learn a new, and valuable, skill. 

There are plenty of ways for advisors to attract clients. 

From print to digital advertising, from cold calls to emails, and having boots on the ground to meet with individual or institutional investors, there are various strategies to take where humans are needed for the betterment of an investment firm. 

The key is not to be too ‘salesy’. Be a thought leader. Educate, listen, and think about solving problems. Even if clients will be passed on to the robo-advisor, they can be sold on the initial human interaction, and they know a human is at the end other end of the line any time they need one. 

Check out this Forbes piece: “10 Advisors Explain How They Build Sales Without Getting Salesy” 

Marketing

With salespeople taking on outbound lead generation, wealth and asset management firms will need digital marketing strategists to help with inbound lead generation, that is, attracting prospects through your website, social media presence, and content. 

Those who manage the firm’s web and social media presence, setting up SEO strategy and content creation, can be highly effective in bringing new business to the firm. 

And according to Hubspot, inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound ones. 

Like sales, either hire new marketing specialists, or turn existing team members into the marketing experts you’re looking for. 

Investment Research 

Passively managed index funds have outperformed their actively managed counterparts for nine years straight, according to a CNBC article. 

Such news may be disheartening to active fund managers, but rather than throwing in the towel, fund managers should ask themselves if they’ve truly given it their all. In other words, have they actually devoted the maximum time to focus on research? 

Or has operational and admin work eaten up more time than they’d like to admit? What would the clients think? 

The good news is many middle-office tasks can either be automated or outsourced to an investment operations outsourcing provider. 

The time and cost savings derived from automation and outsourcing might allow the in-house talent to spend more time on research, and if needed, resources are freed up to bring on more research talent. 

Technology 

When clients demand digital/mobile platforms, tech talent will be needed to implement these solutions. 

This, in turn, may include the need for software developers, app developers, robotics developers, coders, robotics and cybersecurity experts. 

Digital, cloud-based solutions are great, but there are security risks. Hackers are out there, doing anything they can to access clients’ sensitive data. 

That is why IT professionals are needed. Keep the investment firms’ networks and data secure, and keep out the cyber-world riffraff. 

Maybe existing staff do not have the qualifications, but if a firm really values its current human talent, and if said talent is capable, perhaps select employees can be sent to training. 

An Investment Firm, a Human Workforce for Built for the Age of Automation 

Change can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and scary. It’s also easy to be swayed by fear and emotions. 

Yes, it is true that automation can eliminate tasks that humans once have done manually, but there is not enough evidence to suggest humans won’t be needed anymore. 

For every doom and gloom article from a credible source, there are other articles, also from credible sources, that suggest more automation will create more human jobs. 

And as it relates to investment management, we have shown 5 major areas where people are needed. 

That doesn’t mean transitioning will come easy, however. Firms need to realign their strategies and resources, and the human talent may need to upgrade their skills. 

The good news is the opportunities can suit peoples’ varied interests and skill sets. 

For those who value social interaction and developing relationships, client servicing and sales are a good fit. How about the analytics-minded? Try marketing and investment research. Prefer not to engage with the clients one-on-one? Digital marketing and tech work behind the scenes are options. 

Automation isn’t just about driving down costs. It’s also about putting employees in a position where their skills are best utilized, and the human touch is most appreciated. 

And if companies don’t want to let their current staff go, and if companies want to show they really care about their employees’ future livelihood, they could invest in employee new skills training. Not only would this shows a commitment to the employees, but they may return the favor with loyalty for helping secure their future employment and employability.