Carl Freer Swedish Businessman

Fact or fiction: Anyone can trade in Singapore

As Asia and Singapore becomes increasingly digitised, processes get automated and several industries are disrupted by technology, in particular, finance. From robo advisors to even analysts, there is no denying that finance in Singapore has been disrupted by new tech such as machine learning and predictive analytics.

State of play today

Artificial intelligence is progressing at a fast rate, and with it comes a deluge of data that humans cannot process quick enough. Whilst many of these technologies were created to help humans – for example, removing manual collation of data and data cleansing – so we can focus on other aspects of the business, what of the people whose jobs were mainly tied to such work, say for example stockbrokers? Are analysts (be it financial or data) who were once considered “unicorns” at risk of being replaced by AI that can calculate and perform complex tasks faster, minus human error? There’s no denying that with this disruption comes a period of uncertainty. The following list will separate fact from fiction.

Fact: Your next stockbroker in Singapore might not be human.

But it doesn’t mean you will sit in front of a robot. Financial institutions in Singapore are increasingly turning to machines to automate jobs that humans have done for decades. Take for example wealth management firm Charles Schwab and their offering Schwab Intelligent Portfolios launched two years ago.

Based on algorithms, i.e. lines of codes programmed into a computer, you’ll be informed of where to invest your money. The process is also relatively simple. You simply open and account, fill out a questionnaire and instead of getting a human that simply crunches the numbers, machine learning and predictive analytics step in to help you make decisions.

Fiction: People will always just want to deal with humans in Singapore

If you think about this particular model of business, you’re paying for an advisor that:

1. Doesn’t rest and is constantly learning about the market, daily
2. Doesn’t have human error in calculations
3. Is able to do things, learn and pick up on patterns at a higher velocity

Essentially, you get an advisor that never stops, for a fraction of the fees, as opposed to working with a traditional advisor where you might pay up to one percent. In this scenario, you get portfolio management at almost no management fee, and possibly, faster results. So with these factors in mind, would you take advantage of the tech, or still choose to work with a human advisor?

Fact: Every sector of finance in Singapore will be affected, but differently

Each sector applies AI differently; insurance leaders use AI to process claims and streamline their processes, and in some cases, even identify and fight fraud. It is also increasingly common to see banks adopting chatbots to improve the customer experience, any time of day. And whilst AI has made sporadic appearances within assets and wealth management, it is clear that the advent of robo-advisors is rapidly changing that pattern.

Fiction: No job is safe in Singapore

It’s not all doom and gloom however. Whilst people in the finance sector are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate for jobs, with the advent of all this technology, comes new opportunities for new types jobs. As Anand Rao, PwC Innovation Lead, Analytics, pointed out, “Artificial intelligence can help people make faster, better, and cheaper decisions. But you have to be willing to collaborate with the machine, and not just treat it as either a servant or an overlord.” And it is these collaborators that will be the next talent gap to fill.

Back to the question
So can anyone in Singapore trade in today’s landscape? The short answer is yes. Artificial intelligence and machine learning bring forth possibilities that allow humans to be more self-reliant, cutting out the middle man stockbroker or advisor. However, whilst the technology is advancing in leaps and bounds, it currently will only be as good as the human input that goes into it.

Whilst you can trade on your own with the assistance of a robo-advisor, whether you will achieve a 100% success rate is another story altogether. What’s guaranteed is that the process to achieving your goals will be a lot faster, and based on more solid data that is out there.

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