“Great, now we can fire our analysts”
This phrase, and ones similar to it, is something I’ve heard hundreds of times across the globe from Partners and Managing Directors of corporate finance advisory practices, investment banks and law firms. It’s always in response to a demo of a new AI based product – like AiDA or the Material Information Platform – that automates processes, reduces risks or makes valuable decision-making information easily accessible.
Why seniors in professional services say such a thing, is an interesting mix of a desire for greater speed, efficiency and profitability baked in a fixed mindset regarding the value of junior staff and a desire to do things the way they’ve always been done (just “more automated and efficient, please”). Either way it’s a statement that affirms the plethora of low value mundane repetitive work performed by Analysts (and other junior roles) in corporate advisory and deal making.
A @GSElevator tweet relaying a statement from an analyst in a Debt Capital Markets team sums up the situation: “I get paid more than anyone at NASA for using the “Find and Replace” function in PowerPoint.”
The website Wall Street Oasis is focused on helping people break in and master their financial career. It has +400,000 members and a very active forum. There are 17 rankings for contributors on the forum and all are based on a hierarchy of primates. You start at Chimp, and can work your way up to Baboon, Gorilla, Senior Neanderthal, Almost Human and eventually Human.
Take a dive into the life of an Analyst with this recent post titled, ‘Robot Culture’ from someone with the ranking ‘Chimp’:
“Just graduated this past December and began my first job in finance about 5 weeks ago. I feel like a robot with my daily routine/office culture and I’m not sure how normal this is. At my office, everyone sits at their cubicle 10 hours a day, including eating lunch there. There are no meetings or anything to cause anyone to have to move. Furthermore, all communication is done via email. I seriously have gone full work days without speaking to another human. Everyone keeps headphones in making it impossible to have a conversation. Is this normal or am I in a bad situation? I feel like I am going to get sick, or lonely I guess, of the routine here.”
Other high ranking posts describe the long hours, repetitive work, high stress and the damage done as a result. One quote from a Neanderthal says: “Many of us tend to act like heroic titans of finance who love the grind, but this tends to be a coping mechanism driven by insecurity.”
If this is how the state of junior work in professional services firms is, then perhaps it would be better if people were actually fired and no one was subject to it? Or maybe there’s another way forward, a way where technology drives creation of new business models, more value delivered to businesses more frequently and new revenue streams for advisors. Such a way forward would create demand for young, smart, driven people to be rapidly developed with the planning, communication and leadership skills necessary to grow and own these new opportunities.
Thomas Goodwin wrote an excellent article describing how historically we make the same mistakes; we swap out old technology with a new one, rather than building around what’s newly possible. Or we swap out a role with technology, rather than looking at what’s possible. When I hear the “Great, we can fire our analysts” statement, I feel that’s the mistake senior execs in professional services are making. Rarely have I seen advisors re-thinking their business AROUND new digital processes. As humans we are very good at knowing what we could or will lose with technology innovations, but we are very poor at predicting and planning what could be gained or created.
Pick an answer you feel is most likely to occur. You can vote and check out the poll results on Twitter.
In 2018 the increased availability of technology and other innovations will…
A) lead to the further decline or death of Analysts and other junior based roles
B) Lead to an emergence of new advisory business models, services, roles and a re-allocation of resources that bring new value to the marketplace
C) Neither, because seniors in banking, legal and accounting won’t adapt to or adopt new ways of thinking and working to make either a reality
I encourage the owners, directors and partners in advisory firms to pursue innovation properly. Go deep, be bold and brave and re-imagine culture, process, organizational structures and businesses models around what’s possible. For all you frustrated juniors out there, be equally brave and bold. Take the initiative and push for new and better ways of thinking, tools and processes. When it’s the right thing to do, just do it. Don’t let tradition trump transformation.
To learn more about how Ansarada’s Material Information Platform is creating new capacity for seniors and analysts alike, get in touch with our Sales team for a demo.