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AI and the future of banking

With high-profile advances in the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), from Amazon’s Alexa to Google’s self-driving cars, there is a growing view that machines will start to perform more and more day-to-day jobs, potentially threatening the livelihoods of millions. While we can’t predict with any certainty what will happen in the future, in one sector, financial services, we can already see the potential for machines to work with, rather than replace, humans and in so doing deliver better, faster and more efficient customer service.

AI now and why we still need the human touch

Presently, one form of AI which has seen considerable advancement is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). AI excels at those tasks which are routine and repetitive, freeing humans to concentrate on more complex tasks, raising their skill levels. Chat bots are a good example of applied AI, typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition.

Although the use of technology is growing, a recent report by McKinsey estimates only 5% of jobs are expected to be automated within the next ten years. Where AI falls down is in understanding human emotions and questions which require a more thought-out response. A winning strategy combines AI and humans. At BT for example, all chat bots are constantly monitored by humans who can intervene at any point to approve the response or answer more complex questions.

Humans are bright, efficient and creative – attributes that are key to the success of the financial services industry in the UK. Unlike AI, humans can develop innovative solutions to complex problems and think outside of the box, not limited by programming.

Innovation and opportunities within the financial services sector

Within the financial services sector AI can play a crucial role in helping to improve the experience of consumers. Robo-investing, where investment decisions are automated, is already here and soon AI will be able to provide clearer financial information and guidance to the wider public, with increased financial literacy about products such as credit cards and APRs as well as utilising virtual reality storyboards to explain complicated transactions and mortgage agreements.

AI will also be able to greatly increase the level of security surrounding personal banking and payment systems. Many banks have already implemented voice recognition to access account information and with the addition of facial recognition, we could soon see the authorisation of simple transactions following completion of these security checks.

AI can be used to detect fraud by recognizing inconsistencies or inaccuracies in payment information across a large volume of data. Once detected, AI can greatly shorten the response time and help customers, especially those travelling abroad, by reporting the fraud and blocking cards in a matter of seconds rather than following a lengthy discovery and reporting process.

AI is developing at an incredible pace and we are only at the beginning of our journey in understanding its true capabilities.  What is clear already is that it will play an ever-increasing role within the financial services sector, helping customers make the most of the services offered by banks and other institutions. But I believe that it is in combination with humans, rather than as their replacement, that we will see AI deliver the biggest benefits to customers.

 

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