Family offices may not appear to be obvious candidates to benefit from automation — they’re small, often highly customized companies with an extremely broad range of complex service offerings and relatively few information technology (IT) resources. Classic IT-driven automation strategies have focused on high volume, highly standardized processes in an environment where change is predictable and seldom necessary — hardly a description of the variable, often chaotic environment of the family office.
On the positive side, however, as small companies they are both agile and adaptable as flat, team-driven organizations that can quickly organize to take on a new challenge. And, as family offices, they can take a long-term view using their “patient capital” to invest in technologies that enable them to function more strategically.
Studies have shown that, despite fears that the deployment of a robotic workforce will displace human workers from white-collar jobs, robotic process automation (RPA) may result in an unexpected benefit: hybrid, high-performing human and robot teams that produce cost savings, better outcomes, and higher employee satisfaction. For millennials, who characteristically embrace technology, indications are that that they will not only accept robotic coworkers, but welcome the opportunity to share repetitive tasks with an AI peer.
This will prove to be even truer when we consider the need to maintain trust in an increasingly interconnected world. A recent study of millennials conducted by EY showed their highly skeptical attitude toward traditional institutions (including, according to survey respondents, corporate America, governors, the news media and federal government.) But even as trust diminishes, the size and scope of the family office’s information footprint are increasing exponentially.
The sheer volume of this means that AI and robot-enabled processes will be an essential part of the solution to maintaining the family’s privacy because AI can function at the scale of the internet, monitoring social media, big data collectors and even institutional partners, while continuously testing for and erasing a stakeholder’s “digital past.”