Companies in the financial services sector of the national economy continue to close branches and reduce their workforce following the digital disruption of their operations.
This development is leading to massive cutbacks, especially in banks, LEADERSHIP has learned.
Key players and stakeholders in the financial services space have embraced robotic and artificial intelligence to improve service delivery, and as a result, some workers have been disengaged as technology takes over their daily routine.
Banks, insurance companies, manufacturing firms, stockbroking firms and other financial institutions, among others, inside sources revealed, have laid off staff in the past two months amid plans to to lay off more workers in an effort to balance operating costs.
To this end, most financial institutions, especially banks, since 2020 have closed some branches, while many branches are also scheduled to be closed this year.
The plan to close other branches was to use technology to drive banking operations. In this process, some bank workers have been laid off while few have been asked to work from home.
Similarly, in the insurance industry, the age-old agency system and brokerage systems are facing technological disruption as companies gradually improve their agency system to be driven by technology.
Similarly, some insurers have decided to expand through branches, relying more on technology to increase sales volume.
So over the past year, some financial services operators, by the millions, have lost jobs due to the digital disruption that is taking businesses by storm.
The advent of automated teller machines (ATMs), point-of-sale (PoS), electronic banking, mobile apps, artificial intelligence customer service assistants, among others, have limited human interaction in operations banks, which means that some staff will no longer be needed. .
As these salutary changes continue in the financial services sector, those who could not resist going behind closed doors, thus pushing more workers into the already depressed job market.
However, those who were able to acquire new technological skills were reintegrated into the system, even though the situation created new businesses in the ICT sector.
Precise Financial system (PFS) Managing Director Yele Okeremi told LEADERSHIP that technology has come to stay and as such people will continue to lose their jobs.
The projection, he pointed out, is that in a few years machines will replace humans in the workplace as few humans will be seen in various businesses.
“A few decades from now, we’ll start to see companies combining robotic systems with artificial intelligence to produce a new generation of workers. We therefore cannot avoid job losses. During the advent of the COVID-19 virus, we saw how many people lost their jobs as companies started to deploy technology and innovation.
“We realized that people can work remotely and still get the same result. We’ve seen financial institutions deploy software and technology that improves their operations. Zenith Bank, for example, has introduced the Zenith Intelligent Virtual Assistant (ZiVA) serving as a customer representative, where you can ask any questions via WhatsApp and get an instant response, rather than going to the bank,” Okeremi added. .
He revealed that technology will continue to create more problems for people who are not innovative, adding that it will continue to be a problem for people who are comfortable with their routine work, people who cannot see no reason to add more value to their organizations. .
Okeremi, however, reiterated that with new technologies come new skills.
“I will advise Nigerians to acquire these new skills, to enable them to be relevant in their workplace and in society at large. Rather than sitting in your store and waiting for customers to come, a marketer, for example, can use social media to sell their products.
“Develop new skills and move to areas where those skills will be needed. Not everyone can be an IT staff, but I urge you to strive to be the best at what you do,” he added.
Earlier in the week, the Chairman and CEO of Boff & Company Insurance Brokers Limited, Chief Babajide Olatunde-Agbeja, pointed out that digital disruption was already disrupting the insurance industry as some insurers are now using technology in their customer service to meet customer needs. .
He added that it is gradually creeping into the insurance agency and brokerage system, forcing brokers and insurance agents to upgrade technology and drive operations through ICT.
Meanwhile, unions have called on the federal government to verify the use of robots in an effort to create jobs and secure existing jobs.
He noted that the advent of digitalization in Nigeria has been a mixed blessing, especially in banking and other financial institutions, as machines are now replacing human beings and performing tasks that should normally be done by human beings. .
Noting that digitalization has created job losses, he said that the Republic of Germany, among others, which are known as machine-producing countries, controls the use of machines in order to make room for human beings. .
Speaking about the risk of over-reliance on machines performing tasks that humans can normally perform, union leaders have urged the government to restrict the use of machines in order to create jobs for humans.
Although they pointed out that the increasing automation of the workforce and the adoption of robotic technology could improve productivity and profitability in the manufacturing and service sectors, they said its effect potential on job losses remains a concern for stakeholders.
Using digital skills to create a new dawn
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the President of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, lamented that a single machine can do the job that several hands could do, the federal government should frown on the dependence of multinational corporations on machines.
NLC Chairman Comrade Ayuba Wabba condemned the overreliance of business on machines.
Citing idleness as one of the reasons for the vices in the country, he said he believed that creating jobs and wealth is the best way to fight crime and insecurity in the country.
For his part, the President of the Association of Senior Executives of Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, described the use of robots as an enemy of wealth creation and business creation. jobs.
She said the rise of robots in the financial industry is one reason workers should be involved in training and retraining to stay relevant given the threat created by machines.
She said: “Clients run new risks from machines programmed to direct their actions. Fairness issues in competition are also a major concern as the digital world is a winner-takes-all business.
“The increase in financial inclusion resulting from the digitalization of financial services, as more people have a mobile phone than a bank account, if not properly regulated, will lead to predatory behavior and costs of excessive transaction charges imposed on these new, inexperienced customers. In addition, new regulations have increased the cost of doing business and policy compliance costs.”