By Jonathan Barrett, Managing Director, Dataminr
There are few industries that will be left unaffected by artificial intelligence (AI). AI has the ability to fundamentally change the way that people work and open up new frontiers, roles and careers that are unimaginable today.
And the financial industry is not exempt from this. To fully appreciate the challenges of AI and machine learning, and the benefits it can bring to financial professionals, it’s necessary to first define these two terms and how they are related to each other.
AI is an umbrella term that encompasses many subfields. For the sake of simplicity, most of what people think of as AI currently — embedded in computing services we use everyday, when we search the web or review social media posts, for example — has machine learning at its core. AI aims to emulate or supercede human intelligence, while machine learning establishes and employs algorithms that learn models from data.
With the variety and volume of data sources in finance expanding, greater demands are placed on a wide variety of professionals in the industry, who must extract what is most relevant to make timely and effective decisions. That is why organisations are turning to AI-enabled solutions to distill and catalogue data to drive efficiency and provide situational awareness that can make a real difference to their clients and businesses.
In fact, a recent survey by the Financial Times of 30 leading banks about their use of AI revealed an industry excited about the prospects of a technology that can help cut costs, drive innovation and boost returns.
Businesses and individuals need to willingly embrace new models and new skills that will enhance their ways of working, enable them to make informed and better calculated business decisions, and in doing so, ensure that they remain ahead of their competitors.
The shift to higher value work
McKinsey estimates that up to 50% of tasks currently performed by humans could be automated by 2055, creating an important opportunity for businesses to thoughtfully prepare their teams for new frontiers of work that we can’t imagine today. With the automation of certain tasks, especially those that are time-consuming and repetitive, we can realise the real benefit that machine learning can have on optimising business performance and improving operations in the long term.
By eliminating time spent on the monotonous aspects of jobs, machine learning is enabling a range of financial industry professionals to focus on creating strategies for growth, doing more with the enterprise and customer data they have, and learning more about the market-impacting events around them so that they can make more informed decisions.
Room for growth
Any emerging technology comes with limitations, and machine learning, especially within finance, is no exception. The financial markets are fluid, formed by an intricate network of parts both outside and inside the sector. An alteration in the market mechanism can be caused by anything from a natural disaster to regulatory shifts. As such, the data the financial markets create, like the markets themselves, are complex and constantly changing.
Although machine learning platforms have made significant strides in identifying trends and accounting for particular risk factors, they can fall short when faced with unpredictable changes and fluctuations in the financial markets. Particularly when making financial decisions such as adjusting investment strategies, machine learning tools cannot be exclusively relied upon to provide completely reliable or precise information. While machine learning can certainly be advantageous and ease the process, it must be used in tandem with human intelligence to avoid hidden risks.
Human capabilities to form opinions, use emotional intelligence, and drive creativity remain essential to running any business — and can be greatly enhanced when coupled with machine learning. Such technology can give financial professionals the time, methods, and multi-dimensional information required to be more innovative, productive and valuable to their organisations.
This is a unique time for the industry to understand how the combined power of human and artificial intelligence can transform business, while ensuring that industry professionals now and in the future can evolve their skills and reach new levels of performance.
Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears
By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.
Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.
Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.
Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.
Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.
As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.
“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.
The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.
The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.
While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.
A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.
A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.
Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.
Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)
GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback
By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont
(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.
The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.
In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.
Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.
Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.
GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.
“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.
The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.
Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.
To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.
Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)
Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.
Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.
“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”
Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.
“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.
Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.
“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.
Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.
The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.
Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.
There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.
“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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