The Future of Commerce: Will A Computer Take Your Job?

When it comes to their life savings, it appears clients prefer the support, knowledge and expertise of a qualified professional over the simplicity of a prepackaged set of “mobile first” options.

It's hard to miss the buzz, just check out Twitter for topics like #digitaltransformation #digitaldisruption or the ever expanding definition of #fintech. 

Combining automated business processes with responsive business intelligence systems can be a roller coaster ride of reward and frustration. Frustrating while the problem in front of you seems overwhelming and rewarding when you finally put it all together.

Whether it is FinTech, LegalTech or Edutech the promises of untold freedoms via digital automation are everywhere. As an innovation management consultant I see these freedoms as opportunities waiting to be unlocked by someone. However, there is another side to this coin...

What would you do if a computer took your job?

In the financial services industry advisors are inundated with news of how a computer can do a human's job faster, better and often at lower cost. And they are not alone...ETFs, ECFs and a million other acronyms have taken over the financial industry. Technology companies like Amazon are experimenting with fleets of delivery drones, how many couriers would that replace?

How safe is your job? The BBC and Deloitte developed this tool to scope out how likely your role will be computerized in the near future. Click here to try it out. http://bit.ly/robotsforhire 

As someone who plans and deploys these systems it seems that my job is secure...for now. In fact, the most secure jobs tend to be those that require high degrees of skill in human relationships, creativity and original thinking. I guess I'm safe until they get that AI thing figured out...

In the fintech sector a strong backlash against the machine is materializing...and, this time it's the free market in the driver's seat. As most of you know, I recently finished MITs online Future Commerce program where we spent countless hours pouring over the market, strategies, products and financials companies of disruptors like Venmo, Transferwise and Vancouver's Wealthsimple.

Currently, the Canadian market is run by big firms with little automation or business intelligence and almost no integration between systems . On the flip side startups are popping up with "robo-advisor" solutions, a sure sign of yet another role being lost to a computer...or is it? 

The market research seems to tell a different story, one where some fintech startups are facing hard times due of their business models. Business models that forgot about the value of human relationships, creativity or a high net worth DIY investor.

Roboadvisor firms average the smallest account sizes in the industry. In Wealthsimple's case, the client acquisition cost (CAC) will take 5 years to recover in the very best case scenarios. On the other hand, full service wealth managers are managing larger accounts with higher profitability then ever before...so what gives?

The truth is that robots, computerized business intelligence and automation are not here to put humans out of work. They are here to support us, to raise our quality of life and to revolutionize the service we can provide to our customers, regardless of your industry.

In the case of financial services, the wealthiest clients do not want an automated handful of ETFs nor do they want a call answering service. These clients want the support, knowledge and expertise of a qualified professional who has the time to pay attention to their unique situation, with cutting edge tools to manage it and the creativity to come up with top notch, innovative solutions. 

While the market is rapidly changing and computers are replacing everything from paper to package delivery drivers there is still no way to replicate the value of a human conversation. As this era of digital disruption continues to accelerate and drive us forward we will see the trend from one industry to another.

I don't believe the risk is that a computer will take your job. Rather, a competitor who understands the value of empowering their employees and clients through technology may make your business irrelevant. 

Check out my Facebook LIVE lunch sessions every Tuesday where we discuss the pillars of future commerce: purpose, people, process and technology. Follow my page to stay tuned.