Tag: startups

Job-killers: bank workers at the forefront of massive disruption – SMH

Ruth Williams
SMH Analysis
3 November 2017

Automation and fin tech loom as the biggest job killers in the finance sector. Photo: Michael Ciaglo

In the eighties it was automatic teller machines. In the nineties it was mass branch closures. In the naughties, it was offshoring. Now, automation and fintech loom as the great finance sector job-killers, with fears that more jobs could follow the 6000 in cuts announced by National Australia Bank on Thursday.

For bank employees, it is a time of “massive upheaval and change” in the words of the Finance Sector Union, which says it has real concerns that more large-scale job losses are coming. NAB’s 6000 job cuts, to come over the next three years, amount to about 18 per cent of its full-time equivalent workforce – the most dramatic change to employee numbers publicly announced by a major bank in recent years

National Australia Bank announces it will cut 6000 jobs over the next three years, while hiring 2000 new people with digital skills.

“The finance industry is really at a crossroads,” says FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano, who wants more details of the bank’s career transition program, to be called “The Bridge”, and the 2000 new jobs NAB says it will create as it “reshapes” its workforce with a focus on more automated processes.

NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn says that, where possible, the bank will retrain staff with the “aptitude and commitment” to do so, and expects that some of the job losses will come from natural attrition.

For the rest of the economy, it’s a reminder that few sectors, income brackets or skill levels will be immune from the changes brought on by automation and digital disruption. Economist Saul Eslake points to a widely-quoted Oxford University study suggesting that 47 per cent of US employees are working in jobs that could be done by computers or algorithms within between 10 and 20 years, with the impact to be felt in both high and low income jobs. In Australia, a 2015 study from the Office of the Chief Economist found that 44 per cent of Australian jobs were highly susceptible to automation.

But it is bank workers who are at the frontline of this change; the 2015 study gave bank workers the second-highest automation score of any occupation, lagging only behind telemarketers.

To help workers cope with this period of “intense digital disruption”, the FSU has called for a sector-wide industry plan with contributions from the banks, the union and the government, and a skills fund for workers.

“We are at the point where we could leave the employees behind,” Angrisano says. “The way we treat staff during this period will reflect on the industry… we need to have the industry step up and manage this in a way they haven’t managed it previously.”

There is cause for hope for affected workers. Eslake says that the job losses resulting from previous technological upheavals have quickly been “more than offset” by new jobs and productivity gains created by that same technology.

His optimism is echoed by David Tuffley, senior lecturer in applied ethics and sociotechnical studies at Griffith University. He says while the 6000 figure announced by NAB seems “alarmingly” high, “the trend that we have seen with other technology is that the technology itself generates more and more employment in its own right… we don’t know what these new jobs are going to be, but we do know that they will come”.

Eslake suggests there may be a role for the government to subsidise the retraining of workers who lose their jobs to automation, and he also calls for a boost to income support for people who lose their jobs.

But he says we also need to rethink why some jobs – such as those in manufacturing – are viewed as inherently more “noble” and worthy of intervention than those in the services sector. “Nine hundred people lost their jobs at Holden and there’s an enormous amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth compared to 6000 jobs at the bank,” he says.

We are at the point where we could leave the employees behind. – Julia Angrisano, Finance Sector Union

“We seem to think that manufacturing jobs are far more worthy of being saved than jobs in services.”


Diversity is a massive problem in Silicon Valley – meet the fund backing minority entrepreneurs – BusinessInsider

Diversity is one of the most contentious words in the tech industry right now.

Consider that 2017 alone has involved:

All of this happened in the first six months of 2017. And yet engineers and venture capitalists in the tech industry continue to argue against the value of diversity, either overtly or quietly.

After a summer of scandal around harassment in tech, former Googler James Damore argued against Google’s current diversity practices, and was blasted for his “scientific” explanations for why there are fewer women in tech. Amid massive industry outcry, he was supported by several high-profile VCs and entrepreneurs, such as Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham, and Thiel Capital managing director Eric Weinstein.

Clearly, there’s still work to do.

The good news is some companies see diversity as good business

Comcast Ventures, the venture arm of US telco Comcast, in 2012 set up a fund specifically targeted at minority entrepreneurs. The Catalyst Fund has $US20 million (£15 million) under management to invest, and new leadership as of December in Kai Bond, formerly general manager of Samsung Accelerator.

It’s been running for five years, mostly focusing on building dealflow in that time. Now Bond wants to rebuild Catalyst’s brand as the go-to place for minority entrepreneurs — mostly in the US, but Europe too.

Catalyst has started writing bigger checks of up to $US1 million, he said, and will forge partnerships with third parties to support portfolio companies. Portfolio startups include fashion brand Cuyana, and customer messaging service LiveNinja, which was acquired by VoIP firm Net2Phone in January.

“We’re trying to rebuild the brand and figure out exactly where we can add value,” Bond told Business Insider.

Catalyst has just struck a partnership with Sylvain Labs, a brand consultancy whose services are pricier than what startups could normally afford.

Bond added there was a “clear problem” with lack of venture capital dollar flow to female and minority founders. “There’s no network support either,” he added.

In June 2015, CB Insights found that just 1% of funded entrepreneurs in the US were black, despite black people representing 11% of the US population. The figure is better for Asian entrepreneurs, who represent 12% of funded founders in the US but made up 4% of the population.


Bond thinks Catalyst might be able to help with the network problem through its partnerships. There are several disadvantages to not having a network. It can mean there’s no supportive network of peers to bounce ideas with, but also no network of older business mentors to advise you when the going gets tough.

“The plan is to help startups in two ways: to think about their brand and where it fits in the world, and the strategic role of brand in that early stage when you’re trying to educate people,” said Sylvain Labs founder Alain Sylvain.

The consultancy provides its services for free, but takes the opportunity to find startups to potentially invest in down the line.

“This is not about charity,” Sylvain added. “So many entrepreneurs are groomed for the ideal opportunities to start a business — parents who have supported them, elite educations, fraternities.”

There’ll be other Catalyst partners in due course, Bond said.

Catalyst isn’t the only fund trying to promote minority entrepreneurs. Bond pointed to 500 Startups and Y Combinator as “overindexing” in minority and women founders — even as their programme founders were accused of harassment.

But for Sylvain, there’s nothing so tightly focused on providing services. “There’s never been anything like this focused on this audience or entrepreneur. It really feels like something fresh and new.”