Goldman Sachs CIO Elisha Wiesel on Automation and the Future of Work

23 MAY 2017

Briefly...on Automation and the Future of Work

The following article appeared in the 22 May 2017 edition of BRIEFINGS, a weekly email from Goldman Sachs about trends shaping markets, industries and the global economy.

As automation sweeps through the global economy, it is changing the nature of jobs in some unexpected ways. Goldman Sachs' Chief Information Officer Elisha Wiesel shares his thoughts on how artificial intelligence and advances in automation are affecting the workplace, and creating opportunities for the next generation of workers.

From your perspective as CIO, how is this affecting jobs on Wall Street?
Elisha Wiesel: With any evolutionary change, you will have early adopters and those who will be resistant to any changes. With the technological advances we're seeing, we want to be on the early side. And we're seeing that play out with the people who have been able to adapt and change the nature of their jobs. Today, one in four people on our trading floor are engineers. They are focused on the software behind our trading business, or improving the user experience of our platforms for clients. In a way, we now have a new class of professionals on the trading floor. This new generation of salespeople is not just operating on instinct or relying on their rolodexes. They're also embracing data and analytics to help them better serve their clients. Fundamentally, certain industries will need significant retooling and that might be difficult. But I also believe that will create a significant opportunity for the next generation of workers.

So what kinds of skills do you think will be useful in a world that's more automated?
EW: I think we'll see continued industrialization of white collar jobs, so technical skills will be valued and put to good use in finance. We are already seeing much of this today. We are very focused on recruiting tech talent. For example, 37 percent of our campus hires last year came from STEM majors, and one in four people at Goldman Sachs are engineers. I was a STEM major myself -- and I can tell you that when I joined the firm 23 years ago, I was in the minority. But right now, the market is hot for engineering talent.

What are the advantages of automation? When can people do a better job than computers?
EW: Software is good at doing what it is told to do. Assuming that the environment doesn't change, software is consistent, scalable and reproducible. But there are things that software can't do as well as people. Software can't, for example, develop and manage relationships. People are better at creativity and problem solving. The demand for creativity and innovation is not going away. And that doesn't mean that machines and people can't get smarter together. By leveraging computers that can recognize client purchasing patterns, our salespeople can get better and smarter at offering solutions to clients, which in turn, strengthens client relationships. From our perspective, we're aiming to make measurable progress on automation -- but for growth and scale, not expense management. We want to automate the manual, repetitive tasks to free up our people's time so that we can do more and serve our clients better.