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How AI will revolutionize the financial services workplace

Jun 20, 2018 / Technology

Artificial intelligence is on the path to changing the world. Depending on how you see it, this can be an exhilarating prospect or more than a little unnerving. AI’s massive potential to mimic human reasoning and responses leads naturally to ethical considerations that address, among other topics, the future of the workforce. Discussion about AI and the closely related robotic process automation (RPA)—where computers are trained to take over routine, labor-intensive tasks—often lead to speculation that these technologies could replace workers.

This includes those who work in financial services.

While AI has the potential to make everyone’s jobs easier and more enjoyable by streamlining or eliminating mundane tasks, it’s easy to understand the uncertainty. Let’s say a financial institution uses AI-generated insights to find opportunities to automate time-consuming employee assignments. While this would create obvious benefits for staff and customers, you could also assume fewer staff will be needed as more tasks become automated. This could happen in some situations. But it’s more likely we’ll see exponential increases in productivity similar to when computers debuted in the workplace. In fact, AI-driven insights could create new jobs.

“It’s important for financial services leaders to understand how AI will affect their organizations in the future,” says BAI managing director Karl Dahlgren. “Integration of AI into their operations will empower employees to make smart decisions with quick, relevant and actionable data.”

Helping humans do what they do best, better

The real value of an AI-driven future centers on the ability to draw more intelligent insights from traditional data. Its sophisticated algorithms can dig deep into the wealth of information at a financial institution’s disposal and uncover important findings: putting them at an employee’s fingertips at just the right time.

Easier access to relevant information also empowers employees to make better-informed decisions with unprecedented speed and scale. What’s more, financial services organizations can create more intelligent experiences for customers by personalizing offers and interactions—targeted to each individual’s needs and desires. As AI applications take in data and build knowledge over time, meaningful and actionable insights will multiply.

Business performance improves when AI is utilized to boost the brain power of an organization’s staff. As an added bonus, employees have the satisfaction of working in an environment where they can perform at their peak. These conditions make it easier to recruit top talent because the best candidates want to join a highly engaged team that uses the latest technology.

For some employees, AI’s rise will mean increasing focus on taking its insights to market. For example, an AI-powered solution may identify that many customers would be interested in a certain type of mortgage. The leadership team can use that information to design a new mortgage offering. And while AI can identify a customer’s potential interest in this new product, it can’t elicit the unique, nuanced personality of an employee who presents the offer to them in an appealing way.

Putting intelligent automation to work

AI can root out information to identify the next best steps financial institutions should take to achieve greater automation. As AI and RPA technologies mature, and machines take over more routine tasks, financial institutions will flourish—this thanks to reallocating employees’ time from manual tasks to higher-value responsibilities. Automating the mundane processes employees don’t enjoy will free up their time for new opportunities that create more value for themselves and customers. This shift in responsibilities leads to higher employee engagement, an ongoing key to a successful company.

Remember that even when repeatable processes are automated through a combination of AI and RPA, employees are needed to make decisions when conditions fall outside the norm. Businesses constantly come up against new situations that prove impossible to anticipate. Teams must stand ready to think fast, think creatively, adjust policies and fine-tune AI systems. That way, they can address new realities such as evolving forms of fraud.

Gaining employee acceptance

As financial institutions plan for an AI-infused future, they should stay aware to the cultural challenges they may encounter within their organizations. Keep in mind: AI is still coming into focus. When the long-term vision isn’t clear, people can wrestle with adoption. Financial institutions that stay open about their goals for AI—and stress that the intent is to better equip and enable people, rather than replace them—will keep a leg up in ensuring their teams fully embrace and support their strategy.

While it’s not possible to perfectly predict where AI will take financial services, there’s no doubt that emerging capabilities will continue to impact the industry in a big way. Financial institutions using AI technologies to help their employees make informed decisions—and serve customers the way they want to be served—will achieve higher engagement and, ultimately, bottom-line results. There is no artifice surrounding such sound business intelligence.

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Marc West is executive vice president and chief information officer at Fiserv.

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