– Training: 77% of leaders expect GenAI to significantly affect productivity and 68% predict up to a quarter of all roles will require upskilling over the next year, yet more than a third (35%) lack action plans
– Spending: 60% of leaders have allocated capital to GenAI technologies in the last year and 75% plan to increase spending over the coming year
– Roles: 60% of leaders anticipate AI adoption will significantly affect entry-level roles, with 35% planning to incorporate AI training within graduate programs
– Concerns: Leaders are most worried about the lack of understanding of GenAI in their workforce, future regulation, and ethical considerations

Leaders across Europe’s financial services sector expect Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) technologies to deliver a windfall to productivity, according to the new EY European Financial Services AI Survey, which finds that 77% of respondents are bracing for a significant impact to their workforce and operations.

The survey, which took place in October 2023, canvassed the views of executives from 60 European financial institutions – including listed firms representing an aggregate market cap of £507.7bn, including the views of administrators, lawyers and wealth managers from the Channel Islands. The survey found that two-thirds (68%) of respondents anticipate that up to a quarter of all roles will require AI training or upskilling over the next six to 12 months, with 17% believing it could be as much as half.

However, action to realise productivity gains and workforce development through training and upskilling remains limited. More than a third of respondents (35%) said they currently have no plans in place to train their workforce in new and rapidly evolving GenAI technologies, while a further 42% described their plans as being “in their infancy”. Taking a more focused approach, 12% of leaders stated that they have training in place for targeted groups and just 10% reported having developed plans in use. Only 2% of respondents believe that their workforce is fully equipped to contribute end-to-end to building AI capabilities across their organisation.

European finance leaders plan to increase capital allocation to Gen AI

The survey confirms that expenditure on GenAI is already widespread within Europe’s financial sector: over the past six to 12 months, nearly two-thirds of respondents (60%) said their firm has actively invested in the technology. Looking ahead, sector spending on integrating these technologies is set to rise over the near-term, with 75% of executives planning to increase spending over the next six to 12 months.

Leo Boessenkool, Partner and leader of EY’s CI Technology Risk team, said: “It was evident from our discussions with local businesses when conducting the survey that firms are at different stages of their thinking and implementation of Generative AI. However, all understood that AI cannot be a ‘bolt-on strategy’, but rather a fully integrated component of their firms’ strategies. Much of the work that has been done in the Channel Islands has been driven by leaders who are passionate about embracing the value that it can bring their clients and their people. The survey’s results highlighted that they must also hone their passion for innovation into actively planning for training and upskilling their workforce in AI technologies and establishing robust governance frameworks to mitigate potential risks.”

Gen AI expected to change the face of graduate and entry-level roles

The impact of AI on entry-level and graduate talent is in focus for banks, insurers, and asset managers; 60% of executives surveyed expect new technologies to have a significant impact on the roles and tasks undertaken by those joining the workforce. To manage the impact, 35% of executives said they plan to integrate AI training within their graduate program, while a quarter (25%) are planning a more widespread restructuring of roles and responsibilities across entry-level positions. Another 28%, however, said they have not taken any action to offset potential knock-on impacts.

When asked to consider the top attributes that firms will seek as they recruit entry level talent for a GenAI-enabled workforce, the traits most cited by European financial services leaders were an innovative and interdisciplinary mindset, followed by being tech savvy and experimental.

The area of expertise most in demand from skilled talent, specifically in reference to AI integration over the next two years, is data science and innovation (the top choice for 45% of executive respondents), followed by information and technology (24%) and operations (14%).

AI knowledge, future regulation, and ethics are leaders’ top concerns

When asked to consider the top concerns presented by GenAI integration, European financial services leaders were most likely to cite limited understanding and experience of GenAI applications and their impact across the workforce (36%), followed by uncertainty about existing and pending potential regulatory impacts (29%), and ethical issues around GenAI (7%).

Concerns around the ethics of GenAI are centred on privacy (cited by 32% of all respondents), followed by transparency and explainability (23%), and the potential for discrimination, bias, and lack of fairness (23%). To manage potential ethical implications arising from GenAI integration, nearly a fifth (18%) of respondents claimed they have already put an AI ethics framework in place, with a further 30% in the early stages of development. However, approaching half (45%) of respondents stated their firm is yet to develop an AI ethics framework.

In terms of accountability, half (50%) of respondents reported that their firm’s technology team will be responsible for the integration of AI across the business, reporting to the Chief Information Officer (or equivalent position). Nearly four in 10 (38%) respondents said their firm remains in the process of defining lines of accountability.