Smart Digital Assistants are Leading the Digital Transformation in Finance

Smart digital assistants that use advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) were front and center at the AI Financial Summit held on November 16 in London. Speakers at the event included the head of strategy and architecture-UK at Allianz, the director of digital design for Barclays UK, the managing director of the innovation & analytics group at Lloyds Banking Group, and the global head of AI for Prudential Plc.

(This article is joint work by Shahzia Holtom and Megha Agarwal, both data scientists at Pivotal, London.)

Below are some of our key takeaways from the talks at the summit.

“To Uber ourselves, before we get Kodak-ed” is essential, say industry leaders

The consensus among the financial services firms at the summit was that they need “to Uber ourselves, before we get Kodak-ed,” meaning staying stagnant in the face of the digital revolution is not an option.

AI was acknowledged by all participants as one of the advancements that is changing the rules of competition in the financial industry. Some threats facing financial services firms are automation, agility and the removal of the barriers to entry due to technological advancements.

Amongst those who presented, the early winners in digital transformation are Barclays, Lloyds Banking and Prudential, in our opinion.

For Barclays, which serves 24 million customers or roughly 1 in 2 adults on the UK high street, AI-based solutions are helping the company become a trusted partner to customers by helping customers achieve their financial ambitions.

One of the early AI-based solutions presented by Barclays is a smart digital assistant that provides customers advice on savings and helps customers better understand their spending habits.

“Don’t strategize, experiment,” says Lloyds Banking Group

For financial services companies starting their digital journey, the main advice from the Lloyds Banking Group was to embrace experimentation. The innovation & analytics group at Lloyds began by building a predictive model for targeted intervention and were able to deliver real business impact within a short time-frame.

Eighteen months later, Lloyds can boast of smart algorithms across their entire value chain from fraud detection, value optimisation, digitising conversations, and digital assistants for customers.

Rapid innovation needs the right skills and expertise, says Publicis.Sapient

The head of the AI practice at Publicis.Sapient noted that, with one S&P company being replaced by a new, disruptive company every two weeks, AI is set to play a bigger role in the digital transformation of large organisations. This requires leaders in the financial services industry to do the hard work to find the people with the right skills in AI.