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AI aces human creativity; advice professionals next in line?

10 February 2024 Gareth Stokes

The ever-declining number of holdouts who swear they will never let an artificial intelligence (AI) replace them are slowly losing the battle. The uncomfortable truth, dear reader, is that AI is taking over our day-to-day tasks by stealth: yesterday you asked Grammarly.com to check your language use and punctuation; today you ask Chat GPT to write the entire article or Canva.com to generate an image; and tomorrow, well who knows?

AI, digital innovation and technology dominate

The latest trends reports are stacked with explainers about how AI, digital innovation and technology will forever change the way things are done in . Asset managers are turning to AI and machine learning to assist in market analysis, risk assessment and risk management while financial advisers are using AI to enhance client communications, improve efficiencies across their practices, and secure new business. Journalists and other creative types, meanwhile, find answers in Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2024, a survey by Nic Newman supported by the Reuters Institute and University of Oxford. 

Newman sets the scene early on, commenting that “the disruptive power of AI will sweep through the information space in 2024, at a time of intense political and economic volatility”. His observation coincided with the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report’s promotion of disinformation and misinformation to the top of the table for global risks ranked by severity over two-years. The WEF report warns that “foreign and domestic actors will leverage misinformation and disinformation [including AI-generated content] to further widen societal and political divides”. This in the context of around three billion global citizens going to the polls in 2024. 

The potential for AI-generated disinformation is staggering. One prediction offered up by Europol Innovation Lab suggests that “the vast majority of all internet content will be synthetically produced 2026”. According to Newman, this will require journalists and news organisations to rethink their roles, urgently. And although his advice is specific to journalists and news organisations, it is as relevant for other professions. What happens, for example, if criminal types start using AI to create and distribute false reports that have the potential to move financial markets? 

From science fiction to reality

Before you dismiss this as science fiction, think back to what happened when hundreds of social media influencers, Reddit users and Robinhood traders generated and shared content that sent shares in US-listed GameStop ‘to the moon’. Imagine if those human actors, many of whom unwittingly contributed to a pump-and-dump-type scenario, were replaced by a single AI with the intention to maximise trading profits by any means. The technology is already advanced enough to spawn thousands of social media ‘bots’ that could produce posts virtually indistinguishable from the aforementioned human actors. 

The aforementioned trends and predictions survey also hinted at significant changes in how content will be accessed online. Google dominates search for now; but the future will bring “supercharged, distribution” via so-called Search Generative Experiences (SGE). Your future searches will be more like a conversation with an all-knowing AI as opposed to the present-day frustration of typing in a search phrase and hoping for the best. “Following sharp declines in referral traffic from Facebook and X, these changes are likely, over time, to further reduce audience flows to established news sites and put even more pressure on the bottom line,” Newman wrote. 

His survey, which polled more than 300 digital leaders from more than 50 countries and territories revealed that one-in-two respondents were confident about the prospects for journalism in the year ahead, with around one-in-10 expressing low confidence. Respondents were worried about declining advertising revenue, lacklustre subscription growth, rising costs and increasing legal harassment. Another salient point in the survey’s executive summary reflected on what might happen to online news sites’ revenue models if SGE takes hold: two-thirds of respondents said they expected “a sharp decline in referral traffic from social media sites”. 

Journalism-based lessons for advisers

The lesson that financial and risk advisers can take from this journalism- and online publishing-centric survey is that you need to adapt your business processes in concert with the evolving technology landscape. So, while online publishers will focus more on direct channels and cutting costs advice practices will have to identify and implement AI-backed tools to improve their efficiencies and scale. And while publishers experiment with different platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram financial planners may wish to consider digital distribution to broaden their market appeal. 

The trends and practices survey noted that 80% of publishers viewed membership and subscription models as an important revenue stream ahead of both display and native advertising. Financial advisers are already familiar with the requirement to reinvent revenue models; the multi-year-long Retail Distribution Review (RDR) implementation inspired many to move away from conflict-ridden up-front commissions to charging fixed advice fees or a percentage of clients’ assets under management (AUM). 

Financial advisers that rely on social media for lead generation will relish the survey’s insights in this space. Based on the survey stats, publishers are backing WhatsApp and Instagram for results, with efforts on TikTok and YouTube still considered worthwhile; but old favourites like Facebook and X have lost their shine. These are fascinating developments that many advice practices will have first-hand experience of. Facebook, quite popular in the advice community, remains the go to social media ‘tool’ for baby boomers, but your clients increasingly belong to the millennial, Gen X and subsequent generations. 

The age of video content and newsletters

Whatever channel you prefer, it seems video content; newsletters and podcasts are all the rage while the appetite for traditional news articles remains subdued. Around half of respondents admitted that their companies are mostly focused on maximising attention which requires them to produce the type of content that their audiences are most likely to interact with. The good news for content specialists who ply their trade in either the marketing or reporting disciplines is that the demand for well-written articles that explain complex stories; offer solutions-oriented or constructive approaches to storytelling; and feature more inspirational human stories remains high. 

An AI-related development that will infiltrate all businesses over the coming years is the greater use of AI bots and personal assistants. In the journalism and news organisation space the main focus will be on the curation of up-to-date news and sports; for financial advice businesses one expects the technology to streamline online interactions with potential clients. Remember, AI-powered chatbots have evolved generations since they first emerged on the scenes. Tomorrow’s chatbots will be “personality or journalist driven as cloning technologies improve, raising legal and ethical questions”. You could technically create an AI clone of your country’s financial planner of the year, each year! 

Your AI-backed financial planner of the year?

In his executive summary to the survey, Newman wrote something that aligned with the sentiment shared in the opening paragraph of this newsletter. He pointed out that “the battles between the AI ‘Doomers’ and the AI Accelerationists will smoulder on through 2024, leading to more high-profile statements about the risks to mankind and boardroom upheavals”. At this early stage of the AI-adoption race, the Accelerationists appear to have the upper hand, pushing hard to win ground while governments wrestle with understanding and regulating the emerging technology. 

One of the difficulties in tweaking business models for the age of AI is that the steps you take to retain your existing clients risk alienating potential clients from emerging generations. As online news providers shift towards pay-walls and subscription-only content, they therefore risk “leaving their brands outside in the cold by making it even more challenging to reach younger and less-educated audiences”. Financial advisers can learn from this shortcoming by ensuring that their future advice models accommodate consumers that are more comfortable transacting digitally. 

Change brings opportunity

As Newman concludes: “with change comes opportunity; [there are many] inspiring ways in which news organisations are adapting to this new world … embracing the best of AI while managing its risks will be the underlying narrative of the year ahead”. And by now, dear reader, you should realise that you can substitute the phrase ‘news organisation’ with your preferred profession. 

Follow the writer on

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gareth-stokes-media/

Twitter: @stokesmedia

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