Tough calls

Honda’s decision to move its plant from Swindon will not be welcome news in Wiltshire. Doubtless the discussion will run and run on whether this was Brexit related or not; Japan’s new trade deal with the EU surely being a factor. The relocation will deliver a loss of 3,500 direct jobs, plus the various ecosystem impacts. Receiving less mentions in the news this week was Citigroup CEO Michal Corbet’s statement in the FT that Citigroup might be able to substantially automate its call centre operations using AI. This is an obvious move that others will no doubt follow. Automation of roles provides not just cost advantages, it can also deliver better service through quicker call handling, better data insights, and a more interactive customer experience using smartphone apps. To put these two positions into relative context: there are c. 57,000 people employed in car manufacturing jobs in the UK; whereas there are over a million call centre workers in the UK. If Brexit is the trees, digital automation is the wood of which we should not lose sight.