Young people in the financial industry should not forget the basics even as they rush into AI adoption

AI Basics


As companies try to automate much of the work done by their lowest-ranking staff, top technologists are warning junior workers hoping to climb the City ladder cannot afford to ignore the mundane tasks.

Artificial intelligence is making inroads in financial services ever since applications like ChatGPT popularized the power of large-scale language models.

While some jobs may be eliminated as a result, commentators also predict a revolution in workload for younger workers.

Big law firms have been exploring how to stave off the danger of burnout at the lowest levels as the pandemic has forced budding dealmakers and lawyers to rethink 100-hour workweeks filled with tedious tasks like writing pitch decks, evaluation models and document reviews.

“AI will of course reduce or eliminate some activities, but it will also unlock or enable others,” Sushil Sarja, former chief information officer at the Bank of England, said in a recent report. Financial News Leadership Roundtable.

Tara Waters, chief digital officer at Assured, said there are already use cases, such as using AI to detect fraud, shifting employees from collecting large amounts of data to deeper investigations.

“We've all heard the stories of organizations that are willing to lose hundreds of people because a chatbot can address an issue faster,” Waters said.

But Waters added that companies are not so much focused on implementing AI to reduce jobs and costs, but instead on giving existing staff the tools to help them in their roles.

Hard work

However, there is growing evidence that financial services staff may be putting themselves at risk by relying too heavily on AI.

Two New York-based lawyers were fined last June after six fake cases were cited in briefs prepared using a chatbot, and recruiters have also reported seeing an increase in ChatGPT signatures in cover letters and writing assignments.

“When I speak to young team members who want to take on more complex, involved roles, I often tell them: 'If you want to be a three-star Michelin chef, start your career by cutting vegetables for a few months,'” EY financial services partner Frank de Jonghe said at the roundtable.

“It's important to make sure young people have the fundamentals of everyday work because otherwise they won't be able to handle complex cases if they don't have a feel for what the basic building blocks are.”

De Jonghe said he was involved in auditing automated systems designed to detect financial crimes.

“I want to have a human redo the sample every month and backtest the system,” he said. “So I can train younger people there and at the same time build a control sample.”

De Jonghe said feedback from EY when it introduced the Microsoft Co-Pilot language model to its staff showed it helped neurodiverse staff communicate better, but he added: “I would strongly caution all our junior collaborators not to forget the basics.”

Ashurst's Waters said AI will “force organisations to rethink how they deliver training and learning”.

“Unfortunately, these new tools are deceptively simple, and people want to treat it like a Google search or something, but we need to force them to think outside of that box,” she said.

Ian Phoenix, director of information and digital at the Financial Conduct Authority, added: “There is potential for a reduction in the intensive, manual search and reconciliation of information that currently takes place.”

“But what's left for humans is going to be more complex and more intellectually challenging. How can we support our colleagues through the transition to a more sustained high level of engagement and a more difficult set of decisions?”

Write Justin Cash (justin.cash@dowjones.com)



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