Over 2,000 attendees from start-ups, banks, government, and media came together at London's Guildhall for the annual Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS), which kicked off on April 29th. In its fifth year, the leading FinTech event brought business leaders from the likes of HSBC*, Société Générale* and Citibank* together with a series of lively panel discussions – meshing a spectacular backdrop of history with an exciting glimpse of the future.
1. Regulating for AI
Manoj Saxena, CEO Executive Chairman of Cognitive Scale*, kicked off the AI session with an impassioned call for AI applications to be designed for human benefit, not technology's own sake. He likened its potential power to that of nuclear bombs, emphasizing the need for trusted and transparent AI – achievable through government regulation that balances innovation with control.
Meanwhile, in the ‘AI Innovation in Focus: Competitive Edge, Governance, Ethics and Regulation’ panel discussion, Stuart Sherman, CEO of IMC*, suggested that governments were slow-moving, and that business leaders under existential pressure to stay on top of AI ethics should self-police.
In China, the debate over whether to follow EU laws like GDPR – which in Asia can be perceived as too strict – highlights the trade-off when it comes to competition and regulation. Dr Jian Guang Shen, Vice President and Chief Economist, JD Digits* believes that AI regulation should not come from the government and cites the comparatively low number of UK start-ups as a proof point.
Manoj rounded off his keynote with the pertinent reminder that AI is neither good nor bad, what's important is how we make decisions about how we use it.
2. AI Can Be Intuitive and Personal
All industries are facing a disruption of customer loyalty as the focus shifts from product to experience and brands become increasingly commoditized. That's according to Russell Pert, Industry Head, Financial Services, Facebook*, who used his keynote speech to highlight shifts in customer behavior with the majority favoring applications like Messenger* and WhatsApp* over email and phone when communicating with businesses. With a focus on frictionless experiences, Facebook customers like Globe Telecom* and FirstCar Quote* have built chatbots to get closer to their customers via Messenger and WhatsApp.
But not all bots are born equal. During Stuart Sherman's keynote address, he highlighted the number of bots that are launched and then quickly pulled. He argued that building tailored bots emulating intuition with personality analytics is key. Intuitive AI is real, but it requires fresh data that takes us beyond our current demographic approach. He shared the demographic traits for Prince Charles and the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne – demographically the same and yet entirely different people. This case emphasizes the power of the missing data to distinguish between these two apparently well-matched individuals – it is the missing data that enables businesses to build a variety of treatment paths for customers.
3. Move Beyond the AI Hype
During the ‘AI in Practice: The A to Z of AI Applications in Financial Services’ panel discussion, experts considered the practical applications that are revolutionizing Financial Services. From taking the drudgery out of extracting information from 4 million balance sheets a year using AI and computer vision with Evolution AI*, to Intel's work with China UnionPay* addressing a spike in successful fraudulent activity with an intelligent, artificial neural-network, risk-control system – AI is already transforming FSI. But it’s not without its challenges.
Successfully implementing AI applications means cleaning up your data and getting the C-suite on board. Walter Riviera, Intel EMEA AI Technical Solution Specialist, highlighted the challenges facing business leaders: “In my opinion, lots of people are jumping on the AI train, because they want to differentiate their business from competition or innovate ahead of time. But it’s important to start from your business need. The beautiful thing about AI is that you get the value out of your own data. If you don’t know what's in your data, how well it’s structured or how reliable it is, you don’t really know what you can build on top of it.”
Riviera encourages business leaders to stick a pin in the AI hype. He says: “Just because AI is a buzzword, it doesn’t mean the application has to be complex – it can be simple, so long as it works. In financial applications like trading we need real time responses, very close to when we get the data, and want to be able to deliver that answer as soon as we can. Complexities might create delays.”
The panel agreed that AI spells the end of the repetitive tasks humans hate, potentially giving time back to employees. This doesn’t mean that AI will be ‘stealing our jobs’, rather, it will free up our time to do more complex jobs.
4. Pitch360: AI Innovation in Action
Innovate Finance Global Summit’s finale brought us over to Grocers’ Hall, where 24 innovative start-ups competed before a panel of judges to be crowned champion of the Intel-sponsored Pitch360. Intel's Global Head of FinTech, Dejan Kusalovic, was on hand to kick-start the competition. Introducing the range of start-ups competing, he said: “The single most important common denominator in all of these businesses is data. Smart innovative use of diverse and ever growing data is key for the success of new technologies in Financial Services.” Indeed, eight entry categories spanned the full FinTech spectrum, from cryptocurrency to payments and FinTech for good. The full scale and potential for innovation was quickly apparent as business leaders took to the podium.
The AI and Machine Learning category turned the spotlight on three start-ups focused on using AI to enhance search abilities and decision-making for investors and asset managers. Kite Edge* was first up to discuss its next-generation of enterprise search which uses a semantic analysis engine to process content from researchers, news outlets as well as internal documents and unstructured data – ultimately using machine augmented intelligence to help asset managers improve their decision-making.
Next up, the Meltwater* Outside Insight* platform demonstrated the power of AI when it comes to recovering otherwise missed investor opportunities and working through inefficiencies and potentially biased decisions. It uses AI to scour web data and surface signals that can be used to make better, more informed decisions and is targeting the investor community for the first time. Finally, CRiskCO* is using AI to transform commercial credit, enabling financial institutions to automate and shorten the commercial loan origination process, vendor risk management, and advanced risk assessment.
The audience took to their phones to vote and Meltwater stole the crown in the AI category – but the overall winner was Novastone*. The company aims to make client interactions frictionless, focusing on ‘conversations not form filling’ with its instant messaging platforms. This makes for a highly personalized client experience.
The key message from Innovate Finance Global Summit 2019 seems to be clear – there is a whole plethora of use cases for AI in Financial Services, but applications must be tailored to your business and customer needs.
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