Artificial Intelligence - coming, ready or not

By Gihan Perera - Business Futurist & Speaker

Gihan Perera is a business futurist and speaker

There are many misconceptions surrounding artificial intelligence. Gihan Perera is a business futurist, speaker and author who works with business leaders to help them lead and succeed in an uncertain but exciting future. He provides some key insights on how AI can improve your business.

About 10 years ago, a new concept was just starting to gain prominence in this industry: robo-advice. The idea (and fear) of a ‘robo-adviser’ was smart software that could analyse vast amounts of data with super-fast computing speed to create financial advice that matched – or exceeded – what a human planner could offer.

At the time, the biggest criticism of robo-advice (rightly) was it didn’t understand the human relationship side of financial planning (for example, filling in an online form is never as effective as a personal consultation with a planner), so it could never replace humans. And, of course, we haven’t seen the industry decimated by robo-advisers making humans obsolete. So, it’s easy to discard robo-advice as just another fad that didn’t lead to anything.

But robo-advice is one small part of a broader technology that is making an impact: artificial intelligence or AI.

"The concept of AI is not new (it was part of my university research thesis way back in the 1980s), and it already has a proven track record in many areas. But, even among people who know what it is, there are many misconceptions about it, which lead to greater risk and missed opportunities."

So, think of AI as ‘humans and machines – better together’. Find ways for AI to simplify and automate boring and repetitive tasks, assist you and your team to do your jobs better, and provide intelligent information to improve your decision-making

Gihan Perera

Humans and machines – better together

You probably already know that AI is not just about fully autonomous Terminator-style robots with human intelligence. That’s the Hollywood version of AI. The human race is not in any danger of being replaced by robots.

And yet, that’s exactly the way most planners have thought about robo-advice: being replaced by software.

That’s one scenario, but it’s neither likely nor short-term. The real benefit comes when we have AI working with people, not replacing them.

According to Dell, most leaders already expect their employees and machines to work as ‘integrated teams’. And Adobe research says most employees are looking forward to AI assisting them in their work.

So, think of AI as ‘humans and machines – better together’. Find ways for AI to simplify and automate boring and repetitive tasks, assist you and your team to do your jobs better, and provide intelligent information to improve your decision-making.

For example, here are five areas in which AI can improve your business.

In the financial planning industry, you probably won’t be replaced by AI. But, if you don’t invest in AI, there’s a good chance you’ll be replaced by a human using AI to provide a better service.

Gihan Perera

1. Administrative tasks

AI can perform simple administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, sending reminders, and recording and transcribing conversations in meetings. Outsourcing this work to smart software frees up valuable time for your people.

2. Document processing

At a more sophisticated level, AI can handle complex tasks, such as reading and interpreting complex documents. This is already being used in law, banking, insurance, mortgage broking – and, of course, financial planning – to simplify these time-consuming and repetitive tasks.

Again, remember that AI doesn’t do everything; it just does the initial heavy lifting. Think ‘robo-paraplanner' rather than ‘robo-adviser’.

3. Managing your talent pool

AI can help you attract, choose and keep the best people. Deloitte says one-third of HR teams globally are already using AI in their HR functions – in job advertising, filtering candidates, assisting with reporting, and even monitoring performance for early warning signs of potential problems.

4. Answering client questions

You’re probably already familiar with online chatbots offering help when you visit a website.

These marketing and customer service chatbots are increasingly being powered by AI software, which engages customers in simple conversations, and hands over control to a human for more complex interactions.

5. Learning and development

AI can assist with your team’s ongoing learning and development activities. For example, it can listen to sales calls in real time, and either offer immediate advice to the salesperson or suggest areas of improvement to their manager.

It can also integrate with online learning tools to monitor progress and guide employees to improve their learning.

What’s your artificial intelligence strategy?

Make no mistake: The robots are coming for some jobs. The Australian Government’s report ‘Australia’s Future Workforce’ predicts about 40 per cent of jobs could be lost in the next decade to robotics, automation and AI. So, it is a real issue we’ll have to face, and it’s useful to recognise this because it will affect some of your clients.

But there’s a positive side as well. According to technology analyst, Gartner, AI might destroy 1.8 million jobs worldwide, but it will also create 2.3 million new jobs, and many more in the long-term.

In the financial planning industry, you probably won’t be replaced by AI. But, if you don’t invest in AI, there’s a good chance you’ll be replaced by a human using AI to provide a better service.

If you haven’t already started including AI in your planning and integrating it into your operations, it’s not too late – but don’t wait too long!

Gihan Perera is a business futurist, speaker, and author who works with business leaders to help them lead and succeed in an uncertain but exciting future.

He is the author of The Future of Leadership and Disruption By Design. For more, go to GihanPerera.com.

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