COVID-19 will 'speed up automation' in financial services

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of UK businesses expect COVID-19 to bring about a new wave of workplace and industry automation, with financial services firms leading the way.

A study of 500 UK business leaders, commissioned by Internet of Things (IoT) provider Pod Group, found that many respondents expect automation technology to replace a considerable proportion of their labour force over the next 10 years, with the financial services sector the most advanced in levels of automation.

A total of 71 per cent of respondents from the financial services industry said they expected their companies to speed up plans to replace processes carried out by employees with automation technology, compared to 62 per cent of business leaders across all industries surveyed.

The COVID-19 crisis has also led companies to bring forward transformation plans, with 62 per cent of businesses leaders expecting their companies will speed up plans to automate more processes as a result of the pandemic.

In certain sectors, the percentage that anticipated processes carried out by human employees would be replaced by automation technology was even higher - for example, in retail, catering and leisure the figure stood at 64 per cent - while in finance it remained at 71 per cent and in IT and telecoms 73 per cent.

Despite having a clear focus on automation, 39 per cent of business leaders also did not have, or unsure whether they have, a clear strategy for how automation technology can help their business thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

More than one-third (37 per cent) of business leaders said that at least 3 in 10 roles could be automated and just over a quarter (26 per cent) believe that automation will replace more than 40 per cent of employees over time.

Among key drivers behind the automation, 34 per cent said cost savings would be a major motivating factor.

For others, the key driver would be less dependence on human labour (13 per cent) and improved quality of work (13 per cent). In retail specifically, the focus on cost savings is even more pronounced, with 51 per cent of business leaders citing it as the main driver.

Charles Towers-Clark, global chairman of Pod Group, said: “COVID-19 has unquestionably accelerated the speed at which businesses are looking to introduce automation technology.

“With 73 per cent of CEOs of the opinion that automation will help employees to fulfil their potential, the COVID-19 crisis has presented an opportunity to build on the change that many employees have already experienced."

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