Singapore's OCBC establishes dedicated AI Lab

Singapore's OCBC establishes dedicated AI Lab

Singapore's OCBC Bank is to spend $10 million over the next three years to develop inhouse expertise in artificial intelligence with the creation of a dedicated AI division.

OCBC launched its first AI-powered chatbot, Emma, in 2016 to respond to customers’ queries on home and renovation loans, and has since raked in more than S$100 million in home loans.

In the following year, the bank joined with Thetaray to use AI to identify potential suspicious transactions, slashing the volume of transactions going to manual review by 35% and increasing accuracy four-fold.

The new AI unit, initially led by a three-person team of data scientists, sits within OCBC's Fintech and Innovation Group, and will drive the adoption of AI across banking services such as wealth advisory and loans financing.

Dubbed AI Lab@TOV, the department will serve as a ‘test bed’ for all new AI technologies, leveraging OCBC Bank’s data sandbox and APIs to experiment with real-life anonymous customer data in a secure environment. AI Lab@TOV aims to double its headcount within a year to manage the surge in AI technologies that the bank plans to implement.

Ken Wong, Head of AI Lab@TOV, said: “With the set-up of our very own AI lab, we are able to experiment for the first time with deep learning neural networks and graphics processing units, which are heavily used in the gaming industry and hardly used in banking.”

The Lab plans to use research and technology from Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), to develop natural language processing services that can be used to respond to customer queries using voice messaging. It will also deploy Amazon Web Services (AWS) DeepLens, a video-based machine learning technique that uses neural networks to learn and make predictions. This is expected to lead to breakthroughs in facial recognition technology for use at the branch and across the bank's ATM estate.

The Lab will additionally act as a training centre, running workshops and hackathons to extract new ideas from OCBC Bank employees across multiple business departments on the use of AI for various aspects of banking.

Pranav Seth, head of e-business, Business Transformation and Fintech and Innovation Group, says: “AI is going to redefine all aspects of banking - from the way we interact with our customers digitally, to the way we help them make faster and better financial decisions. The impact cannot be ignored. The time to act on AI is now."

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