Would you want a robot managing your money? Are you comfortable with a computer that could think and learn?
While this might sound like a futuristic science fiction novel, it’s already happening in financial services. Robots and smart computers are helping to manage your money, and they will enable banks to increase revenue and employment over the next five years, according to a report by Accenture on realizing the full value of AI.
Artificial intelligence refers to computer systems that are able to perform tasks that historically required human intelligence, such such as recognizing images, understanding speech, translating languages and making decisions. Some examples of artificial intelligence in financial services are mobile checking deposits that read checks, custom notifications that flag high payments and specific transfer reminders.
Recently, J.P. Morgan Chase announced that it was rolling out an AI-powered assistant in the treasury services division that will handle an average of $5 trillion daily. While the assistant is only for corporate clients right now, other banks have launched virtual assistants that use AI technology for retail customers.
A majority of banks and financial services companies are planning to implement AI technology in their business or already have, according to a 2017 study by Greenwich Associates, a global market intelligence and advisory services firm in Stamford, Connecticut. Over half of the 100 executives surveyed were exploring the technology and had plans to implement within 12 months, and 18 percent had already started using AI technology.
Financial advisors and banking employees say that new advances in technology are nothing to fear. In fact, most think that it will help them do their jobs more effectively.
It will “help advisors make better decisions and spend less time on the boring parts of the job,” said Paul Dravis, partner of Future Perfect Machine.
There are many examples where AI technology has already improved money management. Bank of America and Wells Fargo have virtual assistants for retail consumers. In addition, there are FinTech start-ups dedicated to using new technology. FinTech stands for financial technology, and refers to a new industry that uses innovation to improve traditional financial services.
These products generally offer a more sophisticated interface than robo-advisors, which offer portfolio and investment management. They mimic human-like qualities by being more conversational and easy to engage with because you can talk or text with them like you would a person.
Kasisto, the company that worked with J.P. Morgan to run its AI engine, has a retail offering as well. KAI, a conversational AI platform, is used by companies such as MasterCard and Wells Fargo in virtual assistants, also known as chatbots.
“What we do is really enable conversations,” said Dror Oren, the co-founder and chief product officer of Kasisto. “But we are seeing a wide range of usage of AI in banking across the board, from planning and advising to fraud detection.”
Aside from conversation, AI shines in personalization and compiling data. Oren says that you can ask AI specific questions such as “how much money have I spent in restaurants in 2018?” and it can answer for you almost instantly. In addition, it can also offer to do things for you, such as setting up an alert to tell you when your restaurant spending has gone over a certain amount.
For banks, and for anyone looking to manage money, AI is a useful tool for engagement and education. Oren said that consumers of KAI include financial advisors who use it to add to their productivity and accuracy.
Pefin, another FinTech start up, has also noticed that financial advisors benefit from its AI product as well as consumers without an advisor.
“We don’t see it as replacing advisors, we definitely believe that there are always going to be extremely complex situations,” said Catherine Flax, CEO of Pefin.
Pefin has the ability to do advanced models based on different variables, such as showing you how moving to a new state would affect your retirement savings. It takes into account millions of data points over the life of the user for its calulation.
“All the variables in the decision processes impact future decisions,” said Flax. “Compound questions that are hard for people to answer are easy to see in the context of the platform.”
Flax said that while the platform was developed to bring financial advice to those who could not afford an advisor, it has also helped those who do have an advisor understand their finances better. Because it updates daily and lays out information in a clear way, it’s a great tool for anyone looking to manage their money, said Flax.
Banking employees and executives think that AI will change the future of their work. Nearly two-thirds of banking executives believe that intelligent technology will completely transform the industry, according to the Future Workforce Survey by Accenture which surveyed 100 CEOs and executives and 1,300 bank employees.
“It already helps with trading, rebalancing and calculating risk,” said Jim Shagawat, a certified financial planner with Windfall Wealth in Paramus, New Jersey. “I think we’re going to see it help with prospecting clients.”
In addition, over half of executives said that they believe human-machine collaboration is important to achieve their strategic priorities. Most advisors are not worried about AI replacing them.
“You’re never going to completely eliminate the human element in financial services,” said Charles Weeks, founder and president of Barrister Wealth Management in Philadelphia. “There is always nuance in everything.”
Advisors don’t think that technology will offer a solution for every problem.
“Don’t become reliant on technology to the point where you’re dependent on it,” said Ashley O’Kurley, a certified financial planner in south Florida. “You still need to have judgement, and judgement only comes from human intuition and experience.”
Advisors say that new technology such as AI has allowed them to spend more time on client relationships and build trust, something a robot cannot do. Instead of spending a lot of energy researching investments, they are able to focus on what is important in their client’s lives.
“That empathy and emotional connection is what allows us to give advice,” said Josh Nelson, founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services in Loveland, Colorado. He said that he doesn’t think that AI will go away, but that is not a bad thing.
“AI is an enhancement, not a thing to be feared,” Nelson said.
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