One of the key themes that emerged out of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is automation and its impact on the global workforce.

Yet, automation isn’t necessarily new to the financial services industry. From cheque-processing machines to computers, from calculators to automatic teller machines, the financial services industry has long witnessed the replacement of mundane tasks by machines and improved customer service.

Now with the advent of robotics process automation, such as Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and others, we are beginning to see machines augmenting the human worker (acting like a human on applications within a process). Many in the industry are experimenting with robo-advisors, machine learning, and artificial intelligence solutions as well.

And banking customers are increasingly more open to receiving entirely computer-generated support, provided it can deliver the tailored and personalized services they need. According to Accenture’s 2017 consumer study, which included more than 32,000 customers in 18 markets, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of the respondents said they were willing to receive automated support regarding which type of bank account they should open.

The key difference between previous waves of automation and this current wave is the pace of change. This latest transformation of the FS workforce is more rapid and more radical.

For banks and insurers, using robotics automation started in an experimental and tactical way. It made the most sense to try them out in high-volume operations, such as offshore banking operations and claims in insurance.

FS organisations are now looking at it in a more strategic way and put more momentum into how these technologies can be leveraged for maximum benefit.

The choice leaders need to make about how we use robotics and intelligent automation is between using it just as a short-term, cost-reduction play or expanding its use to enhance customer service, at a lower cost, while leaving behind better jobs for the retained workforce.

To learn more, read Accenture’s 2017 Financial Services Global Distribution and Marketing Consumer Study