How artificial intelligence is changing the face of banking in India
Artificial intelligence (AI) will empower banking organisations to completely redefine how they operate, establish innovative products and services, and most importantly impact customer experience interventions. In this second machine age, banks will find themselves competing with upstart fintech firms leveraging advanced technologies that augment or even replace human workers with sophisticated algorithms. To maintain a sharp competitive edge, banking corporations will need to embrace AI and weave it into their business strategy.
In this post, I will examine the dynamics of AI ecosystems in the banking industry and how it is fast becoming a major disrupter by looking at some of the critical unsolved problems in this area of business. AI’s potential can be looked at through multiple lenses in this sector, particularly its implications and applications across the operating landscape of banking. Let us focus on some of the key artifiicial intelligence technology systems: robotics, computer vision, language, virtual agents, and machine learning (including deep learning) that underlines many recent advances made in this sector.
Banks entering the intelligence age are under intense pressure on multiple fronts. Rapid advances in AI are coming at a time of widespread technological and digital disruption. To manage this impact, many changes are being triggered.
- Leading banks are aggressively hiring Chief AI Officers while investing in AI labs and incubators
- AI-powered banking bots are being used on the customer experience front.
- Intelligent personal investment products are available at scale
- Multiple banks are moving towards custom in-house solutions that leverage sophisticated ontologies, natural language processing, machine learning, pattern recognition, and probabilistic reasoning algorithms to aid skilled employees and robots with complex decisions
Some of the key characteristics shaping this industry include:
- Decision support and advanced algorithms allow the automation of processes that are more cognitive in nature
- Solutions incorporate advanced self-learning capabilities
- Sophisticated cognitive hypothesis generation/advanced predictive analytics
Surge of AI in Banking
Banks today are struggling to reduce costs, meet margins, and exceed customer expectations through personal experience. To enable this, implementing AI is particularly important. And banks have started embracing AI and related technologies worldwide. According to a survey by the National Business Research Institute, over 32 percent of financial institutions use AI through voice recognition and predictive analysis. The dawn of mobile technology, data availability and the explosion of open-source software provides artificial intelligence huge playing field in the banking sector. The changing dynamics of an app-driven world is enabling the banking sector to leverage AI and integrate it tightly with the business imperatives.
AI in Banking Customer Services
Automated AI-powered customer service is gaining strong traction. Using data gathered from users’ devices, AI-based relay information using machine learning by redirecting users to the source. AI-related features also enable services, offers, and insights in line with the user’s behaviour and requirements. The cognitive machine is trained to advise and communicate by analysing users’ data. Online wealth management services and other services are powered by integrating AI advancements to the app by capturing relevant data.
The tested example of answering simple questions that the users have and redirecting them to the relevant resource has proven successful. Routine and basic operations i.e. opening or closing the account, transfer of funds, can be enabled with the help of chatbots.
Fraud and risk management
Online fraud is an area of massive concern for businesses as they digitise at scale. Risk management at internet scale cannot be managed manually or by using legacy information systems. Most banks are looking to deploy machine or deep learning and predictive analytics to examine all transactions in real-time. Machine learning can play an extremely critical role in the bank’s middle office.
The primary uses include mitigating fraud by scanning transactions for suspicious patterns in real-time, measuring clients for creditworthiness, and enabling risk analysts with right recommendations for curbing risk.
Trading and Securities
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) plays a key role in security settlement through reconciliation and validation of information in the back office with trades enabled in the front office. Artificial intelligence facilitates the overall process of trade enrichment, confirmation and settlement.
Lending is a critical business for banks, which directly and indirectly touches almost all parts of the economy. At its core, lending can be seen as a big data problem. This makes it an effective case for machine learning. One of the critical aspects is the validation of creditworthiness of individuals or businesses seeking such loans. The more data available about the borrower, the better you can assess their creditworthiness.
Usually, the amount of a loan is tied to assessments based on the value of the collateral and taking future inflation into consideration. The potential of AI is that it can analyse all of these data sources together to generate a coherent decision. In fact, banks today look at creditworthiness as one of their everyday applications of AI.
Banks are increasingly relying on machine learning to make smarter, real-time investment decisions on behalf of their investors and clients.
These algorithms can progress across distinct ways. Data becomes an integral part of their decision-making tree, this enables them to experiment with different strategies on the fly to broaden their focus to consider a more diverse range of assets.
Banks are focussed to leverage an AI and machine learning-based technology platforms that make customised portfolio profiles of customers based on their investment limits, patterns and preferences.
Banking and artificial intelligence are at a vantage position to unleash the next wave of digital disruption. A user-friendly AI ecosystem has the potential for creating value for the banking industry, but the desire to adopt such solutions across all spectrums can become roadblocks. Some of the issues can be long implementation timelines, limitations in the budgeting process, reliance on legacy platforms, and the overall complexity of a bank’s technology environment.
To overcome the above challenges of introducing and building an AI-enabled environment. Banks need to enable incremental adoption methods and technologies. The critical part is ensuring that the transition allows them to overcome the change management/behavioural issues. The secret sauce of successful deployment is to ensure a seamless fit into the existing technology architecture landscape, making an effective AI enterprise environment.
AI & FINTECH – TWO GAME CHANGING REVOLUTIONS IN THE DIGITAL ERA
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.
Data Sciences @ Fintech Companies for Competitive Disruption & Advantage
Long considered an impenetrable fortress dominated by a few well-known names, the banking and financial services industry is currently riding a giant wave of entrepreneurial disruption, disinter-mediation, and digital innovation. Everywhere, things are in flux. New, venture-backed arrivals are challenging the old powerhouses. Banks and financial services companies are caught between increasingly strict and costly regulations, and the need to compete through continuous innovation.
How does an entire industry remain relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy while struggling to surmount inflexible legacy systems, outdated business models, and a tired culture? Is there a way for banks and other traditional financial services companies to stay on budget while managing the competitive threat of agile newcomers and startups that do business at lower costs and with better margins? The threat is real. Can established institutions evolve in time to avoid being replaced? What other strategies can protect their extensive infrastructures and win the battle for the customer’s mind, heart, and wallet?
Financial technology, or fintech, is on fire with innovation and investment. The movement is reshaping entrepreneurial businesses and shaking the financial industry, reimagining the methods and tools consumers use to manage, save, and spend money. Agile fintech companies and their technology-intensive offerings do not shy away from big data, analytics, cloud computing, and machine learning, and they insist on a data-driven culture.
Consider a recent Forbes article by Chance Barnett, which quantifies fintech startup investments at $12 billion in 2014, quadrupling the $3 billion level achieved a year earlier. Adding to the wonderment, crowdfunding is likely to surpass venture capital in 2016 as a primary funding source. And people are joining the conversation. Barnett writes, “According to iQ Media, the number of mentions for ‘fintech’ on social media grew four times between 2013 and 2014, and will probably double again in 2015.” All of this activity underscores how technology is rattling the financial status quo and changing the very nature of money.
Yesterday’s Bank: A Rigid Culture, Strapped for Funds
Established banking institutions are strapped. The financial meltdown in 2008 questioned their operations, eroded trust, and invited punitive regulation designed to command, control, and correct the infractions of the past. Regulatory requirements have drained budgets, time, and attention, locking the major firms into constant compliance reporting. To the chagrin of some, these same regulations have also opened the door for new market entrants, technologies, platforms, and modalities—all of which are transforming the industry.
For traditional banking institutions, focus and energy for innovation are simply not there, nor are the necessary IT budgets. Gartner’s Q3 2015 forecast for worldwide IT spending growth (including all devices, data center systems, enterprise software, IT and Telecom services) hints at the challenge banks face: global IT spending is now down to -4.9%, even further from the -1.3% originally forecast, evidence of the spending and investment restraint we see across the financial landscape.
With IT budgets limited, it is hard to imagine banking firms easily reinventing themselves. Yet some are doing just that. Efficient spending is a top strategic priority for banking institutions. Many banks are moving away from a heavy concentration on compliance spending to instead focus on digital transformation, innovation, or collaboration with fintech firms. There is a huge amount of activity on all fronts. To begin, let’s review the competitive landscape of prominent fintech startups.
Data Sciences Intervention
Digital data has snowballed, with the proliferation of the internet, smartphones and other devices. Companies and governments alike recognize the massive potential in using this information – also known as Big Data – to drive real value for customers, and improve efficiency.
Big Data could transform businesses and economies, but the real game changer is data science.
Data science goes beyond traditional statistics to extract actionable insights from information – not just the sort of information you might find in a spreadsheet, but everything from emails and phone calls to text, images, video, social media data streaming, internet searches, GPS locations and computer logs.
“Data sciences enables us to process data better, faster and cheaper than ever
With powerful new techniques, including complex machine-learning algorithms, data science enables us to process data better, faster and cheaper than ever before.
We’re already seeing significant benefits of this – in areas such as national security, business intelligence, law enforcement, financial analysis, health care and disaster preparedness. From location analytics to predictive marketing to cognitive computing, the array of possibilities is overwhelming, sometimes even life-saving. The New York City Fire Department, for example, was one of the earlier success stories of using data science to proactively identify buildings most at risk from fire.
Unleashing the power of Advanced Data Mining using Data Sciences
For banks – in an era when banking is becoming commoditized – the data mining provides a massive opportunity to stand out from the competition. Every banking transaction is a nugget of data, so the industry sits on vast stores of information.
By using data science to collect and analyses Data, banks can improve, or reinvent, nearly every aspect of banking. Data science can enable hyper-targeted marketing, optimized transaction processing, personalized wealth management advice and more – the potential is endless.
A large proportion of the current Data Mining projects in banking revolve around customers – driving sales, boosting retention, improving service, and identifying needs, so the right offers can be served up at the right time.
“Data sciences can help strengthen risk management such as cards fraud detection
Banks can model their clients’ financial performance on multiple data sources and scenarios. Data science can also help strengthen risk management in areas such as cards fraud detection, financial crime compliance, credit scoring, stress-testing and cyber analytics.
The promise of Big Data is even greater than this, however, potentially opening up whole new frontiers in financial services.
Seamless experience for customers
Over 1.7 billion people with mobile phones are currently excluded from the formal financial system. This makes them invisible to credit bureaus, but they are increasingly becoming discoverable through their mobile footprint. Several innovative Fintech firms have already started building predictive models using this type of unconventional data to assess credit risk and provide new types of financing.
While banks have historically been good at running analytics at a product level, such as credit cards, or mortgages, very few have done so holistically, looking across inter-connected customer relationships that could offer a business opportunity – say when an individual customer works for, supplies or purchases from a company that is also a client of the bank. The evolving field of data science facilitates this seamless view.
Blockchain as the new database
Much more is yet to come. Blockchain, the underlying disruptive technology behind cryptocurrency Bitcoin, could spell huge change for financial services in the future. Saving information as ‘hash’, rather than in its original format, the blockchain ensures each data element is unique, time-stamped and tamper-resistant.
The semi-public nature of some types of blockchain paves the way for an enhanced level of security and privacy for sensitive data – a new kind of database where the information ‘header’ is public but the data inside is ‘private’.
As such, the blockchain has several potential applications in financial markets – think of trade finance, stock exchanges, central securities depositories, trade repositories or settlements systems.
Data analytics using blockchain, distributed ledger transactions and smart contracts will become critical in future, creating new challenges and opportunities in the world of data science.