An ever increasing reliance on technology brings considerable risks for the financial services industry, with bungled automated decisions costing many firms both money and customers, according to research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Technology has revolutionised all areas of the financial world in recent years, from the emergence of online and mobile banking to the advent of computerised high-frequency trading.
However, the EIU notes, computers have also bought associated risks, such as the recent high-profile IT meltdown at RBS, which has cost the bank around £175 million in compensation, and the Knight Capital algo debacle, which nearly forced the company into bankruptcy.
Of 63 senior financial services executives from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific surveyed by the EIU for a wider study sponsored by Ricoh, 37% say that an automated decision made by a computer programme has cost them money at least once in the past six months. Nearly as many - 31% - say that they've lost customers in the same period as a result.
Carsten Bruhn, EVP, Ricoh Europe, says: "Automated processes can bring significant benefits to the financial services sector, and while technology may provide high intelligence, it is essential that the processes are reviewed and updated regularly by humans (ie business experts), to ensure compliance with regulations, and that security standards and efficiencies are maintained."
Bankers think that there are some areas of their business were machines can take the lead - when asked where human imagination or intuition was most critical, just eight per cent say managing regulations and six per cent information security. Human intervention remains essential though for nearly half of respondents when it comes to interacting with customers and for nearly a third for managing risk.
Despite the challenges, respondents remain optimistic about the benefits of technology: 41% say their team's best innovations of the past three years could not have been delivered without supporting tech, and one in three say they could not even have been conceived without it. A further 78% said that technology helps them to be more productive.
The caveat to this optimism is that the vast majority believe that human-technology interaction will only add value if people are more creative with the processes developed to connect the two. Ultimately such innovation should lead to machines and humans working in symphony, but at the moment a large minority (40%) are not conﬁdent that the difficulties will all be ironed out.
"It's clear that technology plays an essential role in supporting new ideas for the financial services industry. The opportunity is to create a future where technology enriches human skills rather than competing with them, therefore empowering human creativity and innovation," adds Bruhn.