Why you face redundancy (and how to profit from it)
See the guy in the photo? He's after your job. And if growth estimates for the robotics and automation industry are accurate, he's likely to get it sooner rather than later, especially if a large proportion of your work involves repetitive, monotonous tasks.
That's the conclusion reached by futurist Martin Ford in his book The Rise of the Robots. While some may dismiss his predictions of mass unemployment as fanciful at best and scaremongering at worst, he's certainly not alone in suggesting that we're entering a new age, one likely to rival the industrial and digital revolutions in terms of its economic and social impact. Last year, a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte suggested that 35% of current jobs in the UK are at risk of being automated in the next 20 years as more organisations appreciate the benefits that this increasingly sophisticated technology can bring.
Robots never get sick. They're never delayed by traffic or need to take holidays. Office politics? Not an issue. Some robots can already perform tasks and learn new skills at a faster rate than you or I ever could. And as the years pass, they're getting increasingly cheaper for businesses to buy. These benefits point to why, along with cybersecurity, robotics and automation looks set to be one of the hottest growth trends for the foreseeable future. Prospective investors may need to move fast.
The majority of companies working in this field hail from the US and Japan. The latter shouldn't come as a surprise since it's currently wrestling with the problem of how to care for a very large, ageing population. In the US, familiar names like Google and Amazon are also heavily involved, their almost limitless funds allowing them to easily purchase smaller companies showing lots of potential.
For those investors who prefer to look closer to home for opportunities however, the options are limited. That said, one company that may warrant further research is AIM-listed software developer, Blue Prism(LSE: PRSM). Specialising in robotic process automation, the £153m cap helps businesses complete routine tasks by creating a 'virtual workforce'. These invisible robots mimic what a human would do on a keyboard when undertaking administrative duties, allowing the latter to focus on more important, creative work. It's both clever and potentially hugely lucrative work.
Despite only arriving on the market in March, investors have piled in, leading Blue Prism's shares to rise from 78p to a high of 290p by late August, despite the company still being lossmaking during this period of rapid growth. The fact that Blue Prism can count the NHS, O2 and the Co-operative as customers suggests this optimism isn't misplaced. Although arguably riskier than your standard blue chip, this company appears to have bright future ahead of it.
Those reluctant to place their hope (and capital) in a single company, regardless in the world it happens to be based, may be attracted to the exchange traded fund offered by ETF Securities(LSE: ROBO). In addition to providing instant geographical diversification, this fund invests in a basket of both established and young robotics and automation companies. If you're looking to profit from the robot revolution but unwilling to take on board additional, stock-specific risk, this might be a great place to start.
Don't forget the future
The scarcity of crystal balls in investing can cause shareholders to focus rigidly on current and past performance. Unfortunately, this fixation makes them less likely to contemplate how things may change for their companies in the next five, 10 or 20 years. While nobody can know the future for sure, this mistake carries with it potentially heavy financial penalties.
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Paul Summers owns shares in Blue Prism and ROBO Global Robotics and Automation GO UCITS ETF. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.