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Back office AI needs a good WIFE

Without a doubt, artificial intelligence (AI) offers an extensive list of benefits for banking companies. AI allows financial institutions to make budget savings by enabling new operation models for financial services. And not only will your bank thrive financially, but your workforce will also become more productive and accurate.

So, it’s no surprise that more and more bank managers are taking the plunge into AI to transform their businesses. In fact, a 2019 survey from Gartner shows that “the number of enterprises implementing artificial intelligence (AI) grew 270 percent in the past four years and tripled in the past year.”

However, despite the many benefits that a bank can get from AI, the lack of employee incentives combined with their fears about the new technology – some legitimate, some unjustified – can be a roadblock to a successful adoption within an organization.

When you decide to implement AI, you first need to make sure you have a strong WIFE (What’s in It For your Employees).

Organizations don’t implement AI projects, people do. And the best way for people to succeed is by investing themselves in challenging projects while their company keeps them incentivized. As with any improvement project, all stakeholders and implementers should be fully onboard on the plan and in personal alignment with the project goals and deliverables.

How to achieve a good WIFE?

Reward, don’t shoot the messenger. Give kudos and show gratitude to your employees who identify problematic processes within the organization. Awareness is the first step towards any solution. If no one is encouraged to speak up when processes are onerous and inefficient, then how will things ever improve?

Earmarks some ROI based bonus: The banking industry is no stranger to compensating front office workers in proportion to their revenue generation, but, ironically, most banks do not apply similar reasoning for those generating cost savings in the back office. After all, money is money, whether it’s being generated or saved. In fact, savings are more powerful than temporarily increasing revenue, cost savings are the gift that keeps on giving!

Try to find ways to earmark financial rewards to the back office team for successful implementations. For innovation projects, banks should ideally allocate some discretionary compensation budgets based on measurable project outcomes and ROI.

Ease their workload: Allow employees whose tasks are being automated with AI to capture some of the benefits of the reduced workload by resisting the temptation to immediately fill up all their freed time with new workload. Maybe they used to work late into the evening on those tedious tasks, give some of the time savings back to them and let them go home on time.

Deliver fun, creative work: A person who used to only work on mechanical and cognitively repetitive tasks, like eyeballing transactions, can now be rewarded with other more creative and strategic projects which puts their hard-earned education and skills to better use.

Support new skills and give kudos: For the implementation team working on the AI project, provide training support to develop their valuable AI project management and technical skills which they can use in going forward in their professional life. Give AI-kudos to those teams who are evolving their organizations through successful implementations.

When thinking about implementing AI in the systems and teams that you manage, it’s paramount to place your employees in the center of the project. Put yourself in their shoes, map out their daily tasks, and evaluate how AI can contribute directly to their job satisfaction and personal development. Keeping them front of mind is the first step to success.

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