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More investors are setting their sights on the financial technology (Fintech) arena. According to consulting firm Accenture, investment in Fintech firms rose by 10 percent worldwide to the tune of $23.2 billion in 2016.
China is leading the charge after securing $10 billion in investments in 55 deals which account for 90 percent of investments in Asia-Pacific. The US came second taking in $6.2 billion in funding. Europe, also saw an 11 percent increase in deals despite Britain seeing a decrease in funding due to the uncertainty from the Brexit vote.
The excitement stems from the disruption of traditional financial institutions (FIs) such as banks, insurance, and credit companies by technology. The next unicorn might be among the hundreds of tech startups that are giving Fintech a go.
What exactly is going to be the next big thing has yet to be determined, but artificial intelligence (AI) will play a huge part.
The growing reality is that, while opportunities are abound, competition is also heating up.
Take, for example, the number of Fintech startups that aim to digitize routine financial tasks like payments. In the US, the digital wallet and payments segment is fiercely competitive. Pioneers like PayPal see themselves being taken on by other tech giants like Google and Apple, by niche-oriented ventures like Venmo, and even by traditional FIs.
Most recently, the California-based robo-advisor, Wealthfront, has added artificial intelligence capabilities to track account activity on its own product and other integrated services such as Venmo, to analyze and understand how account holders are spending, investing and making their financial decisions, in an effort to provide more customized advice to their customers. Sentient Technologies, which has offices in both California and Hong Kong, is using artificial intelligence to continually analyze data and improve investment strategies. The company has several other AI initiatives in addition to its own equity fund. AI is even being used for banking customer service. RBS has developed Luvo, a technology which assists it service agents in finding answers to customer queries. The AI technology can search through a database, but also has a human personality and is built to learn continually and improve over time.
Some ventures are seeing bluer oceans by focusing on local and regional markets where conditions are somewhat favorable.
The growth of China’s Fintech was largely made possible by the relative age of its current banking system. It was easier for people to use mobile and web-based financial services such as Alibaba’s Ant Financial and Tencent since phones were more pervasive and more convenient to access than traditional financial instruments.
In Europe, the new Payment Services Directive (PSD2) set to take effect in 2018 has busted the game wide open. Banks are obligated to open up their application program interfaces (APIs) enabling Fintech apps and services to tap into users’ bank accounts. The line between banks and fintech companies are set to blur so just about everyone in finance is set to compete with old and new players alike.
Convenience has become a fundamental selling point to many users that a number of Fintech ventures have zeroed in on delivering better user experiences for an assortment of financial tasks such as payments, budgeting, banking, and even loan applications.
There is a mad scramble among companies to leverage cutting-edge technologies for competitive advantage. Even established tech companies like e-commerce giant Amazon had to give due attention to mobile as users shift their computing habits towards phones and tablets. Enterprises are also working on transitioning to cloud computing for infrastructure.
But where do more advanced technologies such as AI come in?
The drive to eliminate human fallibility has also made artificial intelligence (AI) driven to the forefront of research and development. Its applications range from sorting what gets shown on your social media newsfeed to self-driving cars. It’s also expected to have a major impact in Fintech due to potential of game changing insights that can be derived from the sheer volume of data that humanity is generating. Enterprising ventures are banking on it to expose the gap in the market that has become increasingly small due to competition.
All about algorithms
AI and finance are no strangers to each other. Traditional banking and finance have relied heavily on algorithms for automation and analysis. However, these were exclusive only to large and established institutions. Fintech is being aimed at empowering smaller organizations and consumers, and AI is expected to make its benefits accessible to a wider audience.
AI has a wide variety of consumer-level applications for smarter and more error-free user experiences. Personal finance applications are now using AI to balance people’s budgets based specifically to a user’s behavior. AI now also serves as robo-advisors to casual traders to guide them in managing their stock portfolios.
For enterprises, AI is expected to continue serving functions such as business intelligence and predictive analytics. Merchant services such as payments and fraud detection are also relying on AI to seek out patterns in customer behavior in order to weed out bad transactions.
People may soon have very little excuse of not having a handle of their money because of these services
Concerns Going Forward
While artificial intelligence holds the promise of efficiency, better decision-making, stronger compliance and potentially even more profits for investors, the technology is young. Banks need to find ways to lower costs and technology is the most obvious answer. A logical response by banks is to automate as much decision-making as possible, hence the number of banks enthusiastically embracing AI and automation. But the unknown risks inherent in aspects of AI have not been eliminated. According to a Euromoney Survey and report commissioned by Baker & McKenzie, out of 424 financial professionals, 76% believe that financial regulators are not up to speed on AI and 47% are not confident that their own organizations understand the risks of using AI. Additionally an increasing reliance on artificial intelligence technologies comes with a reduction in jobs. Many argue that the human intuition plays a valuable role in risk assessment and that the black box nature of AI makes it difficult to understand certain unexpected outcomes or decisions produced by the technology.
Towards the future
With the stiff competition in Fintech, ventures have to deliver a truly valuable products and services in order to stand out. The venture that provides the best user experience often wins but finding this X factor has become increasingly challenging.
The developments in AI may provide that something extra especially if it could promise to eliminate the guess work and human error out of finance. It’s for these reasons that AI might just hold the key to what further Fintech innovations can be made.
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The Banking and Finance sector (BFSI) is witnessing one of its most interesting and enriching phases. Apart from the evident shift from traditional methods of banking and payments, technology has started playing a vital role in defining this change.
Mobile apps, plastic money, e-wallets and bots have aided the phenomenal swing from offline payments to online payments over the last two decades. Now, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in BFSI is expediting the evolution of this industry.
But as the proliferation of digital continues, the number of ways one can commit fraud has also increased. Issuers, merchants, and acquirers of credit, debit, and prepaid general purpose and private label payment cards worldwide experienced gross fraud losses of US$11.27 billion in 2012, up 14.6% over the previous year1. Fraud losses on all general purpose and private label, signature and PIN payment cards reached US$5.33 billion in United States in the same period, up 14.5%1. These are truly big numbers, and present the single-biggest challenge to the trust reposed in banks by customers. Besides the risk of losing customers, direct financial impact for banks is also a significant factor.
Upon reporting of a fraudulent transaction by a customer, the bank is liable for the transaction cost, it has to refund merchant chargeback fee, as well as additional fee. Fraud also invites fines from regulatory authorities. The recently-passed Durbin Amendment caps processing fee that can be charged per transaction, and this increases the damage caused by unexpected fraud losses. The rapidly rising use of electronic payment modes has also increased the need for effective, efficient, and real-time methods to detect, deter, and prevent fraud.
Nuances of Banking Fraud Prevention Using AI
AI enables a computer to behave and take decisions like a human being. Coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at MIT, the term AI was little known to the layman and merely a subject of interest to academicians, researchers and technologists. However, over the past few years, it is more commonly seen in our everyday lives; in our smartphones, shopping experiences, hospitals, travel, etc.
Machine Learning, Deep Learning, NLP Platforms, Predictive APIs and Image and Speech Recognition are some core AI technologies used in BFSI today. Machine Learning recognises data patterns and highlights deviations in data observed. Data is analysed and then compared with existing data to look for patterns. This can help in fraud detection, prediction of spending patterns and subsequently, the development of new products.
Key Stroke Dynamics
Key Stroke Dynamics can be used for analysing transactions made by customers. They capture strokes when the key is pressed (dwell time) and released on a keyboard, along with vibration information.
As second factor authentication is mandatory for electronic payments, this can help detect fraud, especially if the user’s credentials are compromised. Deep Learning is a new area in Machine Learning research and consists of multiple linear and non-linear transformations. It is based on learning and improving representations of data. A common application of this can be found in the crypto-currency, Bitcoin.
Adaptive Learning is another form of AI currently used by banks for fraud detection and mitigation. A model is created using existing rules or data in the bank’s system. Incremental learning algorithms are then used to update the models based on changes observed in the data patterns.
AI instances in Insurance for Fraud Prevention
Applying for Insurance
When a customer submits their application for insurance, there is an expectation that the potential policyholder provides honest and truthful information. However, some applicants choose to falsify information to manipulate the quote they receive.
To prevent this, insurers could use AI to analyse an applicant’s social media profiles and activity for confirmation that the information provided is not fraudulent. For example, in life insurance policies, social media pictures and posts may confirm whether an applicant is a smoker, is highly active, drinks a lot or is prone to taking risks. Similarly, social media may be able to indicate whether “fronting” (high-risk driver added as a named driver to a policy when they are in fact the main driver) is present in car insurance applications. This could be achieved by analysing posts to see if the named driver indicates that the car is solely used by them, or by assessing whether the various drivers on the policy live in a situation that would permit the declared sharing of the car.
Claims Management & Fraud Prevention
Insurance carriers can greatly benefit from the recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. A lot of approaches have proven to be successful in solving problems of claims management and fraud detection. Claims management can be augmented using machine learning techniques in different stages of the claim handling process. By leveraging AI and handling massive amounts of data in a short time, insurers can automate much of the handling process, and for example fast-track certain claims, to reduce the overall processing time and in turn the handling costs while enhancing customer experience.
The algorithms can also reliably identify patterns in the data and thus help to recognize fraudulent claims in the process. With their self-learning abilities, AI systems can then adapt to new unseen cases and further improve the detection over time. Furthermore, machine learning models can automatically assess the severity of damages and predict the repair costs from historical data, sensors, and images.
Two companies tackling the management of claims are Shift Technology who offer a solution for claims management and fraud detection and RightIndem with the vision to eliminate friction on claims. Motionscloud offer a mobile solution for the claims handling process, including evidence collection and storage in various data formats, customer interaction and automatic cost estimation. ControlExpert handle claims for the auto insurance, with AI replacing specialized experts in the long-run. Cognotekt optimize business processes using artificial intelligence. Therefore the current business processes are analyzed to find the automation potentials. Applications include claims management, where processes are automated to speed up the circle time and for detecting patterns that would be otherwise invisible to the human eye, underwriting, and fraud detection, among others. AI techniques are potential game changers in the area of fraud. Fraudulent cases may be detected easier, sooner, more reliable and even in cases invisible to the human eye.
Those who wish to defraud insurance companies currently do so by finding ways to “beat” the system. For some uses of AI, fraudsters can simply modify their techniques to “beat” the AI system. In these circumstances, whilst AI creates an extra barrier to prevent and deter fraud, it does not eradicate the ability to commit insurance fraud. However, with other uses of AI, the software is able to create larger blockades through its use of “big data”. It can therefore provide more preventative assistance. As AI continues to develop, this assistance will become of greater use to the insurance industry in their fight against fraud.
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Rapidly evolving technology and a digitally focused world have opened the door for a new wave of automation to enter the workforce. Robots already stand side-by-side with their human counterparts on many manufacturing floors, adding efficiency, capacity (robots don’t need to sleep!) and dependability. Add in drones and self-driving vehicles and it’s no wonder many are questioning the role of humans going forward.
Supply chains, although automated to a degree, still face challenges brought about by the amount of slow, manual tasks required, and the daily management of a complex web of interdependent parts. The next generation of process efficiency gains and visibility could be on your doorstep with artificial intelligence in supply chain management, if only you’d let the robots automatically open it for you.
Robotic Process Automation
RPA works by automating the end-to-end supply chain, enabling the management of all tasks and sections in tandem. It allows you to spend less time on low value, high frequency activities like managing day-to-day processes, and provides more time to work on high value, exception-based requirements, which ultimately drives value for the entire business.
PwC estimates businesses could automate up to 45% of current work, saving $2 trillion in annual wages. “In addition to the cost and efficiency advantages, RPA can take a business to the next level of productivity optimization,” the firm says. Those ‘lights out’ factories and warehouses are becoming closer to a reality.
Four key elements need to be in place for you to take full advantage of robotic process automation in your supply chain:
- robots for picking orders and moving them through the facility;
- sensors to ensure product quality and stock;
- cognitive learning systems;
- and, artificial intelligence to turn processes into algorithms to guide the entire operation.
In addition, you’ll need strong collaboration internally and among suppliers and customers to tie all management systems back to order management and enterprise resource planning platforms.
Artificial Intelligence In Supply Chain Automation
AI is changing the traditional way in which companies are operating. Siemens in its “lights out” manufacturing plant, has automated some of its production lines to a point where they are run unsupervised for several weeks.
Siemens is also taking a step towards a larger goal of creating Industrie 4.0 or a fully self-organizing factory which will automate the entire supply chain. Here, the demand and order information would automatically get converted into work orders and be incorporated into the production process.
This would streamline manufacturing of highly customized products.
Artificial Intelligence In Supplier Management And Customer Service
Organizations are also increasingly leveraging AI for supplier management and customer management. IPsoft’s AI platform, Amelia automates work knowledge and is able to speak to the customers in more than 20 languages. A global oil and gas company has trained Amelia to help provide prompt and more efficient ways of answering invoicing queries from its suppliers. A large US-based media services organization taught Amelia how to support first line agents in order to raise the bar for customer service.
Artificial Intelligence In Logistics & Warehousing
Logistics function will undergo a fundamental change as artificial intelligence gets deployed to handle domestic and international movement of goods. DHL has stated that its use of autonomous fork lifts is “reaching a level of maturity” in warehouse operations. The next step would be driver less autonomous vehicles undertaking goods delivery operations.
Artificial Intelligence In Procurement
AI is helping drive cost reduction and compliance agenda through procurement by generating real time visibility of the spend data. The spend data is automatically classified by AI software and is checked for compliance and any exceptions in real time. Singapore government is carrying out trials of using artificial intelligence to identify and prevent cases of procurement fraud.
The AI algorithm analyzes HR and finance data, procurement requests, tender approvals, workflows, non-financial data like government employee’s family details and vendor employee to identify potentially corrupt or negligent practices. AI will also take up basic procurement activities in the near future thereby helping improve the procurement productivity.
Artificial Intelligence in new product development
AI has totally overhauled the new product development process.by reducing the time to market for new products. Instead of developing physical prototypes and testing the same, innovators are now creating 3D digital models of the product. AI facilitates interaction of the product developers in the digital space by recognizing the gestures and position of hand. For example, the act of switching on a button of a digital prototype can be accomplished by a gesture.
AI In Demand Planning And Forecasting
Getting the demand planning right is a pain point for many companies. A leading health food company leveraged analytics with machine learning capabilities to analyze their demand variations and trends during promotions.
The outcome of this exercise was a reliable, detailed model highlighting expected results of the trade promotion for the sales and marketing department. Gains included a rapid 20 percent reduction in forecast error and a 30 percent reduction in lost sales.
AI in Smart Logistics
The impact of data-driven and autonomous supply chains provides an opportunity for previously unimaginable levels of optimization in manufacturing, logistics, warehousing and last mile delivery that could become a reality in less than half a decade despite high set-up costs deterring early adoption in logistics.
Changing consumer behavior and the desire for personalization are behind two other top trends Batch Size One and On-demand Delivery: Set to have a big impact on logistics, on-demand delivery will enable consumers to have their purchases delivered where and when they need them by using flexible courier services.
A study by MHI and Deloitte found more than half (51%) of supply chain and logistics professionals believe robotics and automation will provide a competitive advantage. That’s up from 39% last year. While only 35% of the respondents said they’ve already adopted robotics, 74% plan to do so within the next 10 years. And that’s likely in part to keep up with key players like Amazon, who have been leading the robotics charge for the past few years.
What is the mantra ?
These examples showcase that in today’s dynamic world, AI embedded supply chains offer a competitive advantage. AI armed with predictive analytics can analyze massive amounts of data generated by the supply chains and help organizations move to a more proactive form of supply chain management.
Thus, in this digital age where the mantra is “evolve or be disrupted”, companies are leveraging AI to reinvent themselves and scale their businesses quickly. AI is becoming a key enabler of the changes that businesses need to make and is helping them manage complexity of the constant digital change.