Complementing Core Skills with Artificial Intelligence

2016-2017 Issue 1

Financial analysts are valued for their traditional skills in analysis, decision-making and communication. The profession will remain in-demand, however, analysts need to prepare for artificial intelligence innovations.

Joseph Lutfi, an Investment Counsellor who holds the CFA, CAIA and CIM designations, instructs in the McGill’s CFA® Exam Preparation Program at the School and is well versed in ethical and professional standards. He highlights the importance of understanding the impact of AI. “It’s key to have a conversation about how AI is affecting the world in general and how [analysts] will manage investments differently with their clients,” explains Lutfi.

Many advantageous opportunities will arise as AI innovation accelerates, making it one of the top career paths in finance. Financial Analyst was ranked the number one Most Promising Finance Job of 2017 due to projected growth. Tasks that are more time-consuming are becoming increasingly automated, allowing financial analysts to focus on big decisions.

Decision Making

As tasks requiring low creativity are increasingly automated, analysts can better focus on the client experience. “During client exploration, the data collection process to determine investment profiles is being automated,” says Lutfi. “When changes occur, [AI] makes it easy to adjust the portfolio allocation.”

While machines excel at speed and accuracy, analysts can use their creativity to control how AI is applied. Investment management benefits from automation that keeps portfolios on target and rebalances them based on certain rules.

To take advantage of innovations, an understanding of AI processes is all that is required. “Knowledge is freely available online,” suggests Lutfi. “It’s sometimes a matter of watching a YouTube video or reading business technology news.”

Although automation will continue to increase, rising to the occasion for big asset management decisions is what really counts. The 2016 PwC Global Data and Analytics Survey: Big Decisions found 74% of financial services respondents will use human judgement to inform big decisions on asset and wealth management over machine algorithms.

Interpersonal Skills

Artificial intelligence doesn’t yet wield a mastery of human mental and emotional processes. Financial analysts provide client service that an AI can’t compete with. “The key [advantage that financial analysts have] is emotional intelligence and active listening techniques,” adds Lutfi.

Along with practice presentations and coursework, Lutfi suggests networking as a great way to develop ones interpersonal skills. “The more you can get out there to other organizations and societies to broaden your audience, the better,” adds Lutfi. “The simplest conversation can sometimes lead to the biggest ideas.”

Ethical Standards

An ability to consistently implement ethical standards is another CFA core competency that will continue to be sought after.The internationally recognized Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) designation provides extensive training in standards for the presentation of fair and objective investment results. Confidence in navigating complex ethical issues is primarily developed through the CFA program.

The use of AI needs to be balanced with ethics, requiring skills in navigating subtleties. “You want to have mutually beneficial systems,” states Lutfi. “It will be very important to include human judgement when using AI.”

When it comes to sharpening core skills, an attitude of lifelong learning is key. Lutfi recommends professional development in interpersonal skills and up-to-date technical knowledge to collaborate with, rather than resist, AI technologies. Combining human expertise with artificial intelligence, almost in a cyborg manner, is the future.

Learn about the School of Continuing Studies’ new program, Professional Development Certificate in Data Science and Machine Learning.


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