How are big banks actually using artificial intelligence? Chris Skinner reveals that risk management is where big banks feel most comfortable.

It is the nature of finance that at its core is risk. Insurance is all about covering yourself for the risk of uncertainty. You don’t know if your house will be robbed, but just in case it is, you insure it. You doubt you’ll have a car accident, but just in case, you insure it. You get the idea. Banking is all about risk, too. You don’t know if you might lose your investment, so you hedge it. You don’t know if this person or company will pay you back, so you assess it. It’s all about risk management.

Obviously, you can be better with risk through systems analytics. An intelligent engine can far better assess a risk than a human, using decades of statistics. Even so, you will still only know that a risk exists when you see it. That’s why companies, financial institutions and regulators can only deal with risk when it arrives. If we knew what systemic risks were out there, they wouldn’t be systemic risks as we would know about them and deal with them. This is the critical point: risk is all about unknowns, and if they’re known, then they’re not risks any more.

Risk: “A probability or threat of damage, injury, liability, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through pre-emptive action.”

The reason I mention this is primarily due to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in banking. I keep saying that a bank cannot apply AI to dirty data, which is where they struggle with customer service. A bank needs a single customer view to effectively apply AI to customer data, but most customer data is fragmented across multiple legacy and fragmented, silo-based systems. This is why applying AI to risk is far easier, as it can be modelled, simulated and calculated, which is why I see so many banks using AI for risk management.

According to a recent survey, 88% of respondents see AI as a foundational change for risk management. There again, in another survey, only a minority of respondents believe these technologies will work in the risk management functions due to legacy technologies (cited by 69% of respondents) and the increased velocity, variety and volume of data (named by 73%).

Regardless, with regulations changing every 12 minutes (185 global regulatory changes per day), the use of AI to sift through all of that mess will be critical. Having said that, I agree with the comments from Mark Hurd, co-CEO of Oracle, where he says that most people “talk about AI because if they get on TV and talk about AI, their stock goes up”. Ha! Certainly seems to be the case with a few banks I know out there. In particular, Hurd goes on to say that he “was at a meeting with the CEO of one of the biggest banks in the world. We spent half the meeting talking about patching. Imagine, the CEO of a top bank spends that amount of time talking about patching!”

So how a big bank can truly apply AI for risk management, let alone for customer-centricity, leaves me a little bit bemused still.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Image by Red monkey, Shutterstock.com

About the author

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is an independent commentator on the financial markets through the Finanser, and chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club, which he founded in 2004. He is an author of numerous books covering everything from European regulations in banking through to the credit crisis, to the future of banking.

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