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Artificial Intelligence: a disruptive force in the UK financial services sector

3 June 2019

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  • AI is seen as a tech disruptor frontrunner but firms are hindered by a skills shortage
  • Roles in operations, accounting and compliance most likely to be replaced or changed
  • Cybersecurity seen as biggest tech related risk

An overwhelming majority (94%) of UK-based financial services industry decision-makers believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the most potential to revolutionise the sector over the next five years, considerably ahead of blockchain (53%) and the Internet of Things (24%).

Intertrust, a global leader in providing expert administrative services to clients operating and investing in the international business environment, surveyed UK-based executives covering the asset management, capital markets and private wealth sectors to identify the value-add delivered by new technologies now and in the future.

83% of respondents believe that operations roles are the most likely to be replaced or dramatically changed by AI, robotics and blockchain, ahead of accounting (82%), and compliance (65%).

While AI is seen as the clear frontrunner among disruptive technologies, its rollout is being hindered by a skills shortage.  41% of respondents said they are struggling to recruit AI specialists, ahead of those working in data-analytics (29%), cybersecurity (18%) and compliance (18%).

Over half (56%) said that cybersecurity and the potential for data breaches were by far the biggest technology risk to their business, considerably ahead of a shortage of skilled tech staff and the cost of upgrading legacy systems (both 12%).

Despite the importance of embracing new technology, the study revealed that many financial services firms have yet to upskill their workforce: 24% of respondents said their organisation has yet to recognise the need to recruit or invest in internal training programmes.

Andrea Williams, UK Managing Director at Intertrust, said: “Digital leaders have been investing heavily in their technology platforms and are seeing clear benefits, most notably in back office functions such as operations and accounting, where AI-related functions such as machine learning are already widely applied.

“It’s no surprise that many UK firms are finding it hard to attract tech specialists to help them execute transformation programmes as they face severe competition from other sectors outside financial services.  This skills shortage coupled with reluctance among many organisations to embrace new technology means that only a minority have put it to use and that is likely to be the case for some time yet.  We are working closely with clients to ensure they can make the most of the opportunities disruptive technologies can offer and embrace them intelligently.”