AI might kill off your finance job, but...

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There are plenty of arguments why artificial intelligence is likely to take your job on Wall Street. It's already moving towards investment banks advisory roles, top performing hedge funds are relying on AI platforms and the mundane jobs that took thousands of man hours are now done in seconds by a machine.

But there are also opportunities. As Arif Ahmed, senior vice president of payments and emerging technology innovation at US Bank, which claims to be the fifth-largest bank in the U.S. said at the Finovate Fall conference in New York last week, most of the people working on the AI systems are trained internally because the expertise simply isn't available.

“There are multiple threats, and one is employment," he said. "We have people who have been there for 20 or 25 years working in AI who are actually leading innovation with highly technical state-of-the-art products with no [previous] technical experience – you have to train people.”

“There’s a big opportunity here, as financial services and other big industries evolve, to focus on what humans do well, such as understanding context and politics, and the things they can’t do so well, such as reading a million pages and quickly classifying things,” added Greg Ratner, co-founder and CTO of “Use AI for making us superhumans at what we do and help us do more faster and more accurately."

Similarly, Pini Yakuel, the founder and CEO of Optimove, which creates marketing intelligence for financial services firms, suggested that AI should complement human intelligence.

“AI doesn’t apply everywhere, so it’s best not to treat it like voodoo magic,” Yakuel said. “There are lots of places where humans do better, so it is nowhere close to replacing us. The ability to understand narratives, the way the human brain is designed, is a gazillion years away. There’s fear, but we can’t stop human curiosity, and people will continue to evolve and experiment over time.”

But the threat to jobs in the financial sector remains a big one. Research by consulting firm Opimas released earlier this year suggests that 230,000 jobs could disappear by 2025 - 90,000 of which would go from asset management as more funds embrace a quant approach.

J.P. Morgan Chase is using the AI-powered Contract Intelligence (COIN)  system to automatically review commercial-loan agreements, which previously took lawyers and loan officers 360,000 hours of work each year. Now the software reviews documents in seconds, is less error-prone and never asks for vacation or a sick day, making hundreds of jobs redundant – but that’s just the start for the biggest U.S. bank, according to Bloomberg. It has set up technology hubs for big data, robotics and cloud infrastructure teams to find new sources of revenue, cut costs and reduce risks.

Tim Urban, a writer, illustrator, co-founder of Wait But Why and author of the ebook “The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence” was the keynote speaker at Finovate. He believes AI will surpass human intelligence within our lifetime, and this will inevitably lead to jobs being surplus to requirements - the financial sector included.

“The stakes are high – it’s the last invention we’ll ever make and the last challenge we’ll ever face, because it will either solve all our problems or … extinct species don’t make inventions.”

Photo credit: Jirsak/GettyImages

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