IBM's deal to buy Promontory Financial Group portends a dramatic change in the roles computers and humans play in regulatory compliance — and perhaps banking generally.

If the deal announced on Thursday goes through, the 600 consultants at Promontory will have the task of teaching Watson, IBM's massive artificial intelligence engine, how to handle risk management and compliance chores for financial services firms. Such automation may not make bank compliance officers obsolete, but it could mean that far fewer of them will be needed in the future, and that their time will be devoted to higher-level tasks.

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