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Shaping the future of finance

AI is not a technology change but a cultural one

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I just picked up a Financial Times article talking about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will change the way you deal with money. It’s actually more about the Chinese internet giant Ping An, and how they’re changing finance using AI.

If you are a customer of Chinese financial services group Ping An, you can use a new service allowing you to send the company photos of your [damaged] vehicle [after an accident] captured on your smartphone. Its computers will automatically assess the damage, cross-check records of your driving history and offer you a while-you-wait quote to settle the claim — bypassing the usual rigmarole …

… imagine you are applying for a loan and your prospective lender requires you to answer a series of questions while looking into a video app on your smartphone. The reason? To allow the system to discern facial micro-expressions that might suggest you are lying. Another initiative from Ping An, this AI-driven software is one of the more striking developments in fraud prevention.

Admittedly it does talk about lots of other examples from Habito, an online mortgage broker using AI for advising what house you can buy, to Wealth Wizards who are using a chatbot to give you a financial health check. The thrust of the article is that banks currently have the advantage as they have the data lake. The issue is: are they using it?

I guess they are more and more. Just looking at other recent examples of AI in banking, there’s a raft of features and news. Many of the articles are fairly vacuous and hypothetical however, talking about the future promise of AI rather than real, practical examples.

However, if you are interested in the future of AI in finance, Finextra produced an interesting report. The report says that AI is at the peak of the hype cycle today, and is too much of a panacea for everything. Quite rightly, there is a massive difference between a chatbot and an AI engine with machine learning that can be a better stock-picker than Warren Buffett. The levels of intelligence vary greatly. As many note, we have AI, a basic level of machine intelligence that can perform one function, such as playing Chess; there’s then the next level of AI where a machine can perform several functions, such as being able to play Jeopardy and Chess, not just Chess; and then there’s super-AI, where machines are more intelligent than humans. That last one takes us to the Singularity of Ray Kurzweil which was originally predicted for around 2030, but most reports I see today say it’s more like 2045. We will see.

Meantime, the most notable discussion on AI is in Harvard Business Review where three McKinsey partners talk about Building the AI-powered Organization. The article says that AI is useless without having data-driven leadership and decision making. It’s a cultural thing, not a technology thing.

“At most businesses that aren’t born digital, traditional mindsets and ways of working run counter to those needed for AI.”

I totally agree and it is the premise of my whole thinking: you have to rewire the company to leverage digital technologies, whether they be AI, Analytics, APIs, blockchain or any other. Take note.


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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