How technology might transform the legal, accountancy and insurance sectors over the next ten years.
It’s a new year and a new decade so we asked three sector specialists – Kirstin Gillon from the ICAEW, Matthew Grant of Instech London and Jimmy Vestbirk, Founder of Legal Geek to gaze into the future and consider what the professional service space might look like when AI, 5G, IoT, blockchain are ubiquitous.
All three agreed that the next ten years will see steady evolution rather than revolution, that the cultural mindset around these professions will change and that the lawyers, accountants and brokers of the future will have far more interesting roles to play in business and consumer life.
By 2030 seamless services will prevail
Current technical development and strategy is focused on removing the pain from a wide number of activities. Within corporates, AI development tends to be driven by associates seeking efficiencies and improvements for clients. While this will continue, the next decade will see increased consumer demand for nimble, useful services which integrate elements of lawtech, insurtech and fintech and these services may thrive outside today’s established corporates.
For Jimmy Vestbirk “Taking the pain out of finding the right partner, lawyer is a big opportunity. Legal risks are so huge and technology will help manage – even mitigate – the provision of consumer-facing legal services. There’s a massive unmet market – for example in conveyancing – which is ripe for disruption.”
AI already helps accountants and insurers manage risk as large, historical datasets become accessible. Over the next ten years real-time data services and tools will become more widely available providing early warnings for anything ranging from terror attacks to disease or environmental threats.
Matthew Grant sees that developments like this will fundamentally change business attitudes towards insurance:
“The role of large organisations from outside insurance will be more prevalent. AI brings the opportunity for a fresh start in many areas of insurance. Corporates will have a more sophisticated understanding of risk and will get more involved in their own insurance. Indeed, the concept of insurance as we see it might well go away – it will be seamless, like plumbing, nothing to get excited about.”
The way consumers engage with insurance will also develop. “Some luxury products will have in-built insurance – phones, vitality watches and so on – and IoT and sensors in buildings will transform the way property insurance works”. Matthew also sees that the next decade might answer some of the big questions about how we motivate people to live healthier lives and address the tricky issues of exclusion: “these things are not just about AI but about better, more resilient systems There’s no room for doom and gloom – the world is already a better and a safer place.”
In the accountancy arena Kirstin hopes that the potential of new technology will spread across the whole sector: “There is a risk that the Big Four will leave everyone behind but technology promises to open new markets and new entrants. Networking opportunities will become more important and new partnership models will emerge.” Cyber risk will continue to be challenging for everyone and cyber security skills will be increasingly valuable.
By 2030 AI will have transformed the workplace
Mundane, routine and duplicative manual tasks are already being replaced by AI-powered applications and this will accelerate. Progress inevitably means that many clerical roles may be lost but new, more interesting roles will emerge and established business models will evolve.
Jimmy Vestbirk brings people together who are interested in the future of legal services and feels that technology is driving slow but important cultural transformation:
“The traditional billable hours model is changing – long gone will be the days when companies could charge for photocopying. Lawyers doing manual tasks doesn’t make them become better lawyers… The people who go into law are the sort of people who like to be challenged but billable hours has produced an unhealthy, stressful culture.”
The same can be said of accountancy where AI is replacing manual processes like audit sampling with vastly improved and speedy data analysis. Freed from such drudgery young lawyers and accountants and brokers can focus on developing the insight and creative skills which will make them more valuable and professionally fulfilled.
Matthew Grant is clear that corporate culture will have to evolve to remain attractive:
“The energy will be in small dynamic companies which give people more control over their lives and offer a more flexible working environment.”
By 2030 hybrid skills development will be the norm
The ICAEW’s Kirstin Gillon, who works in the tech faculty providing practical help, research and policy advice, believes that developing the right skills in the sector will be the greatest challenge and also the biggest opportunity in the next decade:
“Our vision is to make the most of technology, automating non value-add and embracing what can help. Accountants are guardians of data, we are grounded in it and we’re already putting emphasis on technical skills in qualifications – tech is a “golden thread” embedded in every training module and this will continue to evolve. Accountants don’t need to be technology experts but they need to develop greater data skills in particular, which will be in great demand to help measure, understand and solve business problems, providing trusted and insightful advice.”
Kirstin also foresees the rise of the Virtual Finance Director and concurs with Matthew:
“Data will be used for predictions and insight.and there is a real challenge in NOT taking data at face value. Advisory will be where accountants add real value to all businesses”.
Will the UK still be a world leader in law, finance and insurance in 2030?
“We are in a good position but countries like Singapore and China are ones to watch” says Kirstin when considering the accountancy sector.
“The UK has a fantastic skills base with strong business and tech knowledge and our strengths in corporate advisory will be where we really add value. We need to continue investing , need to stay at the forefront… and we also need to make sure that the benefits of new technology are felt across the whole sector – not just the Big Four.”
Jimmy at Legal Geek is equally optimistic:
“We do events around the world now and I honestly think that we are in the best place… The regulatory atmosphere is progressive – the Law Society and SRA are supportive and positive about change and less protective than other countries membership bodies. (LawTech enables) that swift decision-making will be so good for the economy.”
Back in 2010 , Kenneth Cukier published a special report in The Economist entitled: ‘Data, data everywhere’ and wrote “…the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster more rapidly… The effect is being felt everywhere, from business to science, from governments to the arts. Scientists and computer engineers have coined a new term for the phenomenon: ‘big data.’”
In the same year, Deepmind was founded in London…Fantastic developments have happened in the space in the last ten years; corporates have built internal data science teams, AI startups have burgeoned, some have become internationally recognised unicorns. It is difficult to predict the future, but if the pace of innovation matches the last ten years, we might well see flying taxis becoming a reality!
AI for Services in partnership with Early Metrics is hosting a Legaltech Matchmaking event on the 5th March in London. Startups and innovative SMEs interested to meet large law firms in an evening of facilitate speed networking can find more information on the event and how to apply here
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