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The next frontier: artificial intelligence in banking

The next frontier: artificial intelligence in banking

Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana and Android has Google Now – but did you ever think that soon your bank could have its own version? Recent partnerships have shown that banks are starting to get involved with artificial intelligence systems: companies like Barclays and Goldman Sachs are investing in the development a similar kind of digital assistant. As Beata Dienes from Misys Financial Software writes in a recent article, ‘banks want to become a “lifestyle partner” rather than just an institution taking care of your money.’ This means that before too long we will be talking to a supercomputer instead of a human customer service representative, and we can make simple transactions with voice commands for hands-free financial management.


Let’s take a look at how artificial intelligence is changing the landscape of modern banking and the financial powerhouses that are picking up the trend.

In the beginning, there was Watson

No, this is not the Watson you’re thinking of, not the trusty sidekick of the most infamous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. This Watson is IBM’s artificially intelligent supercomputer, named after IBM’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson.

IBM’s Watson computer in 2011 (image source: Wikimedia Commons)

In July 2014, the United States Automobile Association (USAA) began using the system to help answer military members’ questions about financial planning as they transition back into civilian life. In doing so, they became the first corporation to develop Watson a consumer-facing application.

This set of a sort of chain reaction among banks, and now many are investigating the uses of artificial intelligence, especially in voice-assisted banking (VAB). In November 2014, Goldman Sachs announced their $15 million investment in Kensho Technologies, an analytics platform that makes – according to their website – ‘intelligent computer systems capable of answering complex financial questions posed in plain English.’ Another major bank has also jumped on board the AI train: Barclays confirmed at this year’s London Technology Week that they are ‘pursuing technology that could see users talk to a robot computer system to make money transfers.’

The future of banking

As banks continue to get involved in artificial intelligence, it’s clear that soon, these digital assistant applications will give some banks a more competitive edge over others and could be a big factor in drawing in new customers.

Although this marks a revolution in the banking industry, some backlash should be anticipated. People can be wary of artificial intelligence, especially when concerning their finances. And with any voice-activated software, there are bound to be glitches and problems to smooth out – think back to the homophobic Russian Siri debacle earlier this year. But for the most part, we have lots to look forward to. The convenience of this feature, especially for the visually impaired, will open up a whole new world for digital banking.

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