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Bots for banks: How will artificial intelligence change financial services?

Bots for banks: How will artificial intelligence change financial services?

Michael Worledge, Head of Financial Services, Harris Interactive

As another banking giant announces plans to introduce artificial intelligence (AI), questions are being raised about what this means for the future of financial services.

The technology has already been hailed as a solution to money laundering, fraud and even terrorist activity, as well as boosting revenue, and cutting costs. In fact, cost savings created by AI efficiencies are expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.

But banks aren’t just implementing AI to enhance security and efficacy; some are also trialling the use of AI as “robo-advisers” for direct use with consumers.

So, are we about to enter a new era of autonomous banking?

Not quite. But there are signs that AI is resulting in changes across the global financial services industry that could improve service quality, with bots making their way into many areas from trading to transfers. As long, that is, as banks ensure experiences exceed human capabilities and earn the vital seal of customer approval. The ultimate test will be: can the consumer tell if they are being served by a bot? Ethically though, it is important that consumers are informed.

Let’s take a look at the top five current use cases and what the future holds for AI in finance.

  1. AI to improve the customer experience and personalisation

Rather than conversing with a call centre on the other side of the world, customers could soon be talking to chatbots or virtual assistants who automatically engage in conversations while managing their transactions. From fingerprint to voice recognition, AI could build a more interactive and personalised experience. There are obvious security risks with these new types of technologies, but these have been weighed up against the benefits of a seamless customer experience.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, chatbots will be responsible for more than 85% of customer interactions. And there seem to be inroads in this direction, with Bank of America introducing Erica – a chatbot that can send notifications to customers with their bank balance, suggesting ways to save money as well as pay bills. 

  1. AI to help tackle financial crime

HSBC has reported that it plans to introduce bots to spot money laundering, fraud and terrorist activity. It will screen the vast amounts of data it holds on customers and transactions, and compare it against publicly held data to highlight suspicious activity. Banks spend £5 billion a year to combat this type of crime, and it is hoped AI technology will reduce this in real-time. 

  1. Advanced data analytics means improved AI efficiency

Machine learning – computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computers the ability to learn – can easily consume and process large amounts of data at an accelerated rate. Financial services can benefit from this type of AI through improved efficiency, seeing results in increased customer satisfaction, faster process delivery, and more targeted marketing.

JPMorgan Chase, for example, recently introduced a platform to extract data points from legal documents. What once took the bank 360,000 hours to analyse now takes seconds. Similarly, Germanbank, Commerzbank, is exploring ways for AI to write analyst reports. 

  1. AI to make money transfers

For a while now, Barclays Bank has been in the development stage for an AI system where users talk to a device which will give them the information they need for important transactions. Ultimately, users would be able to talk to a robot computer system in order to make money transfers.

  1. Bots on the trading floor

AI could be moving on to the trading floors of investment banks soon. Last year, UBS announced that AI systems would help traders perform better – this was after the bank worked closely with staff to see which processes they carried out that could be automated.

How will AI become an established part of financial services?

Today’s consumers are no strangers to digitisation or smart assistants, but for consumers to hand over control of their financial assets to a bot is a big leap of faith. Therefore, before bots become established in the industry, financial institutions must put in the groundwork to establish trust and confidence with their consumers.

Providing high-quality experiences that offer real individual value is a step in the right direction. To make sure this type of technological advancement is in the clients’ as well as the banks’ best interests, it is important that financial institutions are transparent when and how AI is being used, and what customers will get in return.

Taking time to garner customer opinions and feelings around the use of AI, co-create optimal propositions and build stronger brand confidence among consumers is the way forward. Banks must therefore ensure that a customer’s experience with a bot is at least on par with a human interaction or surpasses it.

With the banking industry undergoing one of its biggest ever transformations -thanks to new technology and changing consumer attitudes to data and tech – there is little doubt that AI will change the financial services industry. A recent report based on a survey of 400 global banking executives found that 22% believe AI will improve the user experience by increased personalisation. But intelligent tech must be handled with care.

Financial institutions need to ensure they respect customer needs as well as their privacy and data. If they are able to apply AI sensitively they will save money and time, and boost returns, as well as see a rise in customer satisfaction and long-term brand loyalty.

Shawbrook Bank “cautiously optimistic” as it Publishes Half Year Report for 2020

Shawbrook Bank “cautiously optimistic” as it Publishes Half Year Report for 2020 1
  • Financial performance impacted by the pandemic
    • Expected credit loss (ECL) charges of £45.8 million recognised on loans and advances to customers
    • Profit before tax (PBT) was impacted by the adverse effects of COVID-19 and the subsequent provisions set aside, reducing by 89% to £5.9 million
    • Customer deposits rose by 25% to £7.6 billion while capital remained strong with a CET1 ratio of 12.3%
    • A total of 15.9k payment holidays granted across the Group
  • The specialist bank continued to operate effectively through COVID-19
    • 98% of employees moved to remote working within days and no staff furloughed
    • Successfully achieved accreditation under UK Government’s CBILS
    • Continued investment in technology to digitalise the business
  • Shawbrook “cautiously optimistic” as momentum begins to return to certain specialist sectors

Shawbrook Bank has today (Monday 10 August 2020) published its half year financial results for the period ending 30 June 2020.

The specialist bank confirmed it had set aside £45.8 million of provisions to provide for potential future loan impairments caused by COVID-19. The bank reported it had also granted a total of 15.9k payment holidays to support its customers through the pandemic, of which 10.8k remained in force at 30 July 2020.

As a result of such provisions, the bank’s profitability was impacted with a reduction in PBT by 89% to £5.9 million.

Despite the challenging market conditions, the bank retained its active position in the UK savings market, increasing its retail savings deposit base by 25% to £7.6 billion. During the period, Shawbrook also successfully completed a £75 million Tier 2 re-financing to further optimise its capital structure.

Ian Cowie, Shawbrook Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said that COVID-19 has had a clear impact on the bank’s financial performance, but Shawbrook remained in a position of strength.

He commented: “Prior to COVID-19, the Group had continued to make good financial progress, starting 2020 with a strong balance sheet and prudently positioned capital and liquidity base.

“To further optimise the Group’s capital structure, during H1 2020 we initiated a Tier 2 refinancing and, despite the challenging market conditions, successfully completed the £75 million issuance in July.

“We have also maintained our active position in the UK savings market. However, the longer-term economic impacts of the pandemic remain hard to predict and as a result we have recognised expected credit loss charges in the period on loans and advances to customers of £45.8 million and on loan commitments of £1.5 million.

“While this has clearly had an impact on profitability, our capital strength positions us well to support our customers and grow our business in line with appetite as we enter the second half of the year.”

Throughout COVID-19, Shawbrook maintained full operational functionality, with no staff furloughed and 98% of employees transferred to remote working within days of the UK lockdown being announced.

The bank adopted a series of concession opportunities across its product range to help alleviate the financial impacts of COVID-19 on its customers. During this time, Shawbrook also successfully achieved accreditation to the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to provide further funding support to its SME clients.

Mr Cowie added: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our focus has remained on supporting our staff, customers and partners while at the same time safeguarding the long-term sustainability of our business.

“When the UK lockdown was announced in March 2020, we acted with speed and agility, moving to an almost entirely remote operation within days. Led by a stable and experienced management team and with the support of new and existing technology, we have continued to operate effectively throughout this period.”

Throughout the first half of the year, the bank also continued to identify investment opportunities to further digitalise its proposition, with a core focus on its SME offering.

Mr. Cowie added: “Notwithstanding the pandemic, we have continued to invest in our business to help drive our strategic ambition to become the UK’s Specialist SME Lender of Choice. As well as the ongoing deployment of targeted digital solutions across the Property, Consumer lending and Savings businesses, our investment in the development of a new growth platform in our Business Finance franchise will serve to further modernise our offering, delivering an enhanced customer journey as well as significant operational efficiencies.”

Looking to the future he continued: “Although significant uncertainties regarding the broader macroeconomic impact and pace of recovery remain, we are cautiously optimistic in our outlook as we start to see signs of momentum returning to certain of our specialist sectors.

“Our management expertise and prudent approach to credit decisioning, combined with investment in our digital propositions, means we are well positioned to adapt and respond to opportunities as they arise throughout the second half of the year.”

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Banking

Better banking—everyday in everyway

Better banking—everyday in everyway 2

By Bruno Pešec president at Pesec Global.

Some of the most innovative companies are also great at continuous and incremental improvement. I want to talk about three key points when it comes to succeeding with implementation of continuous improvement.

First is acknowledging that employee empowerment is at the heart of continuous improvement. The second is striving for total involvement by everybody, everywhere, everyday. Final, third point is that improvement is improvement. Cents turn into dollars.

Let’s expand on each.

Employee empowerment is at the heart of continuous improvement

In “Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success” Masaaki Imai divulges following as the core principles of continuous improvement:

  1. Process orientation. “Before results can be improved, processes must be improved, as opposed to result-orientation where outcomes are all that counts.”
  2. Improving and maintaining standards. “Lasting improvements can only be achieved if innovations are combined with an ongoing effort to maintain and improve standard performance levels.”
  3. People orientation. “Improvement is people-oriented and should involve everyone in the organization from top management to workers at the shop floor. Further more, it is based on a belief in people’s inherent desire for quality and worth, and management has to believe that it is going to “pay” in the long run.”

These principles are interlinked and interdependent. Without empowered people there can be no improvement. Micromanaging and overbearing bureaucracy stifle human creativity and desire to do better.

Due to the nature of my work I have residence in two countries, Croatia and Norway. Consequently, I have bank accounts in both as well. On one occasion I was had to make a bank transfer while in Croatia, and went to my local bank office to do so.

To my surprise they requested my debit card. I explained that I’ve forgotten it, but surely that shouldn’t be a problem as I’m here in person, have my national ID as well as passport, and cash required for transfer. The bank teller explained that he can ask branch manager to approve it, but it takes seven days.

Since the manager was right there, I asked why can’t we do it right now, since we are all here. “Sorry, such are the policy and procedures. I know it doesn’t make sense, but we must follow them.”

Banking is a highly regulated industry; fraud detection and anti-money laundering processes must be impeccable; but above is neither.

Everybody, everywhere, everyday

Bottom up is usually brought up when discussing implementations of continuous improvement. While it is true that those closest to work are most suitable to improve it, they often lack decision making power and budget to do so on a scale.

That’s why “everybody, everywhere, everyday” is a better mental model. No one is absolved of improvements. At any given moment there are at least hundred things you can improve right now, right here.

Think deeply about following:

  • Everybody in the organisation should be aware and have an understanding of organization’s strategy and objectives. There’s shouldn’t be multiple interpretations, and it should be unambiguous. Without clarity improvement efforts are going to be scattered and without impact.
  • No elitism, no absolution. Everybody should be actively committed to daily improvement, regardless of their rank or seniority. Leaders should be especially cognizant of leading by example. After all, how can they demand from others what they themselves are not doing. That’s hypocrisy at its finest.

    Bruno Pešec

    Bruno Pešec

  • To improve is to learn, and to learn is to improve. Unlock even more value from your continuous improvement efforts by capturing the learning and sharing it broadly and deeply within the organisation. Ideas spawn ideas, perpetuating a virtuous cycle. Peer learning is also a powerful intrinsic driver.

Improvement is improvement

Director of one European bank invited me to their customer service centre, and we were to discuss how could they innovate better. After the meeting I asked him to take me on the walk around the office so I can observe the processes. He was more than happy to oblige.

The walls were plastered with wallpapers and dashboard, colourful metrics were displayed one the hanging screens, and there was a special area dedicated to the “Hall of fame.” Much to my delight there was a wall dedicated to the improvement ideas.

It was covered with large sticky notes, each with few sentences about the problem and potential solution. I picked a few at random, and noticed that they have dates written in bottom left corner. All of the dates were months ago.

Perplexed, I asked the nearby call operator to illuminate me. What’s going on? She fired her response like she was just waiting for someone to ask her that question:

“After each call we used to write down some improvement ideas. At the end of the week we collated and submitted them to the improvement department. They were constantly rejecting our proposals for either being too small or not innovative enough. After few weeks we stopped sharing and tried to implement what we can. That resulted in one of us being scolded for taking initiative without approval, so we just stopped altogether.”

Director was blushing, but hasn’t said anything. I thanked the operator for her honesty, and told the director that he should find time to fix this. By ignoring small, incremental improvements, they are effectively atrophying their organisational muscles. And not to mention all the savings that are left behind, lost forever. Cents turn into dollars.

Better banking

I’ve talked about three key points in regards to the role of employee empowerment in the implementation of continuous improvement, and what you can do to use them well. Let me remind you that if you really want to engage in this, the first thing to do is take any of them and start today.

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Banking

UBX appoints new Chief Investment Officer

In line with its strategy to explore and invest in companies and platforms of the future, UBX—the Fintech and Corporate Venture Capital arm of Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) — is announcing the appointment of Matthew Kolling as the company’s Chief Investment Officer (CIO).

Matt Kolling

Matt Kolling

As CIO, Kolling will be managing UBX’s Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) fund. He will also play a key role in raising capital for UBX while assisting the company in key corporate transactions, including the structuring of joint ventures and acquisitions.

Prior to his appointment at UBX, Kolling has been Head of Venture Investments at Aboitiz & Company since 2019, wherein he had been working with UBX on investment portfolio decisions. Before that, he held senior positions in Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Investment Banking at firms such as Providence Equity Partners and Morgan Stanley in New York.

Kolling has more than 20 years of experience in managing investments and deals in the Technology and Telecommunications industries and is active in Venture Capital and startup communities in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region. He currently chairs the Manila Angel Investors Network, among others.

“We at UBX are excited to welcome Matt as our new CIO. We firmly believe that Matt will be instrumental in driving value creation opportunities, both within the CVC fund and our corporate ventures. We look forward to working with him as we fulfill UBX’s vision of a future where banking services are embedded into everyday experiences that matter,” said UBX president and CEO John Januszczak.

Meanwhile, UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said, “The addition of world-class talents in our pool reinforces our strategy to future-proof the organization and our business as we prepare for many new opportunities that come with the changing times.”

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