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Deutsche Bank CEO gets brutally honest about what automation is going to do to banking jobs

  • Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan offered insight into how the financial world will change from automation and other technology at the Singapore Summit
  • Although he said it's "very hard to say" just how many jobs will be lost, he projected "a lot of people over the next five to 10 years" will see their roles affected

Technology threatens jobs in many industries, but one bank chief is already predicting that "a lot of people" in his industry will see their roles taken by automation in the next five to 10 years.

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan has made headlines before for his prediction that technology will end many banking jobs, but he offered more insight into exactly how the financial world will change in an interview with CNBC on the sidelines of the Singapore Summit.

The banking sector, he said unequivocally, will see many of its current roles automated. In fact, Cryan said, "it would be inappropriate not to say that's the case — it's not specific to our bank, in fact it's a sector-wide phenomenon."

Right now, he explained, many finance jobs require people to act like robots, so they'll easily be replaced by robots. His employees already know it, he added, and there may even be a silver lining to their current roles going to the machines.

"The opportunity that we always talk about internally is upskilling the job, making jobs more satisfying," Cryan said. "People who are just mechanically moving paper and numbers around don't have a very fulfilling job, and the career prospects there are not as attractive as they would be if we were able to automate a lot of that production. Then we can add a bit of thinking and a bit of creativity to the role."

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan
Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images
Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan

One way to change what it means to be a banker, the Deutsche Bank boss said, is to push people to use more interpersonal skills — something machines won't master anytime soon: "We need to increase the number of people who face clients and counterparts and external stakeholders and reduce the number who are focused internally, producing numbers, calculating outputs."

With all of that change on the horizon, it's "very hard to say" just how many jobs will be lost, Cryan said, emphasizing that he wasn't just trying to avoid the question.

"It's difficult to say where the market moves," he said, "but for the whole sector, it will be a lot of people over the next five to 10 years."