The Banking Robot Apocalypse

robobankCNBC claims that the Deutsche Bank CEO suggests robots could replace half the company’s 97,000 employees. Are robot bankers on the horizon?

Some very smart people say that robots are going to steal your job.

Lead with the appeal to authority. Slick.

Researchers at Oxford University estimate that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be replaced by robots, automated technology and automated intelligence (AI) within the next 20 years.

For more on the Oxford study being referenced, see my post More Automation Scaremongering.

Elon Musk told the National Governors Association, “There certainly will be job disruption. Because what’s going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us.” Musk even went so far as to say that “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

Without a timeframe, the threat of robots being better than us at everything is meaningless. My contention is that robotics will improve gradually, and people will be able to do thing robots can (like packing fruit; see Robots Replace 2/3 of Workers at On-line Grocer) for a long while yet. The second quote is referring to the technological singularity.

John Cryan, the millionaire CEO of Deutsche Bank, is the latest industry leader to suggest that technology will lead to significant layoffs — and possibly sooner than we think.

And now, after a bunch of hype and scaremongering, we come to the actual story.

“We employ 97,000 people,” Cryan told the Financial Times. “Most big peers have more like half that number. We’re too manual, which can make you error-prone and it makes you inefficient,” he said. “There’s a lot of machine learning and mechanization that we can do.”

Sounds like this company is lagging behind in automation.

He isn’t just speculating. In late 2015, Deutsche Bank announced that it planned to eliminate 9,000 employees as a part of a five-year restructuring plan. So far, 4,000 jobs have been cut. Technology, says Cryan, will allow for Deutsche to complete these cuts and more.

OK. Where are the robots?

In September, Cryan told the Financial Times that many Deutsche accountants, for instance, could be replaced by simple technology. They “spend a lot of the time basically being an abacus,” he said.

So, like, spreadsheets?

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have urged people not to panic over increased reliance on AI technology, saying that fears about robots putting people out of work are overstated.

Sound thinking. So why is CNBC fanning the flames of panic? My guess: clicks.

But Cryan believes entire industries will be able to replace workers with robots, not just Deutsche Bank. “We have to find new ways of employing people and maybe people need to find new ways of spending their time,” he said. “The truthful answer is we won’t need as many people.”

He doesn’t seem to be talking about robots specifically.

He says one reason for Deutsche’s shift away from human labor is that consumer banking has moved online, removing the need for many brick-and-mortar branches. “The truth is if I went to a load of branches, I’d wait quite a lot of the day before I encountered [any] customers,” he says. “They just don’t come in as often as they used to.”

Still no robots. It seems the media is so desperate to generate a story about how da robots iz stealin’ our jobs that they will take a run of the mill story about banking automation and turn it into the robot apocalypse.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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