Robots to cut 200,000 US bank jobs in next decade, study says

Back office, bank branch, call center and corporate employees in the US are being cut by about a fifth to a third, according to a study by Wells Fargo & Co.
Back office, bank branch, call center and corporate employees in the US are being cut by about a fifth to a third, according to a study by Wells Fargo & Co.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Technological efficiencies will result in the biggest reduction in headcount across the US banking industry in its history, with an estimated 200,000 job cuts over the next decade, Wells Fargo & Co said in a report.

The US$150 billion annually that the country's finance firms are spending on tech - more than any other industry - will lead to lower costs, with employee compensation accounting for half of all bank expenses, said Mike Mayo, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. Back office, bank branch, call center and corporate employees are being cut by about a fifth to a third, with jobs related to tech, sales, advising and consulting less affected, according to the study.

"It will be a dramatic change in contact centers, and these are both internal and external," Michael Tang, a Deloitte partner who leads the consulting firm's global financial-services innovation practice, said in an interview in the Wells Fargo report. "We're already seeing signs of it with chatbots, and some people don't even know that they're chatting with an AI engine because they're just answering questions."

Wells Fargo's Mayo joins bank executives, consulting firms and others in predicting huge cuts to the banking workforce amid the push toward automation. McKinsey & Co said in May that it expects the headcount for front-office workers - the bankers and traders historically seen as among finance firms' most valuable assets - to drop by almost a third with the rise of robots.

Front-office headcount for investment banking and trading fell for a fifth year in 2018, according to Coalition Development Ltd data. R Martin Chavez, an architect of Goldman Sachs Group's effort to transform itself with tech, said last month that all traders will soon need coding skills to succeed on Wall Street.