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Real opportunities in artificial intelligence

- By Kuljit Singh and Saurabh Jain

One of the most interesting parts of our fun-filled annual get-together was the gems of wisdom imparted by our senior management. Most emphasis was laid on how the financial services industry is captivated by artificial intelligence (AI). It was stated categorically that AI is and will remain at the top of our agenda for some time to come.

My earliest memory of robots with intelligence, and in this case with lots of muscle, is that of the movie, Terminator's part one. It is fascinating to understand that what was shown as fiction in the movie, in terms of the Terminator gathering myriad data and processing it to take its decision in real time, has now become a reality and fad.

Financial services firms are using AI in the forms of real-times analytics, predictive analytics, machine learning, deep learning, image and video analytics, graph analytics, bots, RPA, and more to improve their understanding of customers and also to improve their services and processes. If we look around, AI is becoming ubiquitous and is touching all domains and functions within financial services, like, fraud analytics in consumer banking, real-time analytics in corporate banking for loan approvals, real-time analytics in capital markets for monitoring trade, etc. Similarly, biometrics is used in consumer and corporate banking for identification, in capital markets for identifying trading patterns, and more.

One of the recent examples which gave us inklings of banking interests in AI is Santander's announcement that it would be using voice recognition via its mobile app to provide secured transactions. RBS bank's AI customer service assistant, Luvo, which interacts with its staff, is on trial. RBS plans on using it to serve customers in the future. Swedbank's Nina, a web assistant, and many such banks are already using or are in the process of using AI for various aspects of banking.

The focus is now moving from basic robots to humanoid robots with human emotions, like Pepper, the robot developed by Softbank, which is powered by IBM Watson. Mizuho Financial Group started using Pepper to address customer inquiries in 2015 itself. Not to be left behind, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial has also trialed a humanoid robot named Nao.

With such sharp focus and widespread acceptance of AI, it is imperative for technology companies to up their games to be able to service the demands of financial services clients. As AI moves deeper into the organizations, the opportunity is getting bigger for vendors to help select, deploy, and maintain this new AI ecosystem.

As in Terminator, where the famous antagonist spoke in an impersonal and robotic voice with no human touch, the same malady also ails the current robots. And to find the cure to these and other issues is going to present challenges and opportunities, which would keep banks as well as vendors busy for some time to come.

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