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Place for humanity in AI technology projects

date: 17 November 2022
reading time: 5 min

After thirty years of working in the financial and banking sector there are at least two things I can be sure of: that everything takes more time than planned and that the adoption of technology is the key to success. Let me explain why.

Evolution of the finance industry

Once again, we are living in interesting times. We’ve experienced and been part of an incredible shift in how things are done – across nearly every single aspect of our lives. I became conscious of the magnitude of the change early on, whilst still studying. An illustration of this is visiting the Jaguar factory at the time I was a student. Back then all was made by hand, the factory was noisy and dirty and difficult to understand.

Fifteen years later I visited Brown Lane, Coventry once again – outside the factory hadn’t changed much, but inside it was a completely different world: a bright, light and much quieter one. Based on “Just in Time” deliveries – all thanks to technology and changed working practices.

The same is true for the finance industry. Technology made it much more human-friendly and approachable. Years ago, doing anything related to finance took ages and had to be done in person, on a piece of paper. Today, most things at banks can be done with one click. All processes became very smooth – and in the palm of our hand!

The industry evolved due to the adoption of technology, which transformed human interactions and allowed people to free themselves from some dreary and error-prone tasks they used to do.  


Changes within the financial sector

Changes happen in increments – we often don’t see them unless we look back and take stock, like in the case of the Jaguar factory and my visit there after fifteen years. At the same time, we continually see some minor improvements, which make our lives easier.

In the last 25 years the process of change accelerated – the pandemic made us modify the way we live, work and do business, squeezing the next ten or fifteen years of change within a much shorter period of time. The result is that now, on the whole, we adapt to change much more easily and are readier to take on new approaches – but might do so sometimes with a yearning for simpler times…

Unlike in many other technology sectors, the evolution of the world of finance depends in part on regulations. They are a big factor when it comes to change, sometimes even the main driver. On the other hand, the financial sector likes adopting changes used and tested elsewhere. It looks at big companies like Google or Facebook that introduce many changes and use the newest technologies, and thinks: which of them could be applied here? Sometimes, it has to be said with a lingering envy, other times with a frustrated desire for expediency.


What do big players focus on today?

As an advisor in the fintech and finance world, I like to focus and concentrate on aspects that need improvement, or are ripe for a fundamental change. I enjoy looking closely at how things are done in different sectors, and trying to apply them within the industry, when it’s worth it. One of the most important issues that I am working on is CRM and the use of personal data – I am keen to better understand how to use it, what can be done with it, where will it take us – and how individuals can take control of the value of their data.

I also look at regulations – the way they affect people every day – and at risk – to establish how to make the industry safer by introducing more innovation around financial products and product governance.


ROI in finance related projects

One of the most important lessons to learn when working on projects is that everything always takes longer than expected. Delays are normal, as is the fact that projects cost more money than initially thought. How to deal with it? By being resilient and by keep going once the finances can be set or re-set to ensure it’s still beneficial.

This is why ROI is so crucial – even if the project does not go 100% according to the plan, you need to focus on the bigger picture – the outcome and the ongoing value that can be achieved.

The main benefit of looking at ROI is the unifying discipline – thanks to this approach you know where you are going to and what you want to achieve, which is a key to success. To get there, you need to ensure the conditions for success are established and all the people who work on your project feel their part in the ownership of it. You need to slice your project down to manageable slices, decide how to measure the success, and check how each person can influence it. You need responsible, empowered individuals with experience and knowledge, and you need to create the conditions for success, have them work together, understand the bigger picture and the rules of effective communication, so that the project and the change can happen in a controlled way.

Money is obviously extremely important, but not surprisingly exceeding the budget is something that happens regularly – you need to understand the reasons behind it and see how the projects evolve and where they lead to – effective management information, timely dashboard delivery and transparency are key to this.


Data in financial services

Financial services are all about data – the key is to know whether the data is usable and how it is going to be used. Data is there to build decisions, to structure projects, to come up with interesting conclusions. Some surprising statistics claim that only 3% of available data is currently used effectively – this is both an indictment and a tremendous opportunity. The important aspect is to visualise the data and to have an idea of how to use it in an intelligent way. And that’s what AI is all aboutdeploying data with intelligence.


The place of AI in the finance world

AI is a massive topic. It is being deployed in many different aspects of financial services, such as credit scorings, payments, and KYC validations.

And while it may be tricky to find as amazing examples of the use of AI in the financial world as you do in healthcare, where AI is proving to be much better at identifying cancers than people who are trained at it, there are still great improvements that can be made using it.

In finance, we are still at the very beginning of our AI journeys – the potential and value are tremendous.

In the finance world, AI can prove extremely useful in call centres – it may make a call centre of 10 000 people feels like one of 50 000 people, by giving more options to answer to questions and by providing more insight. Blended service opportunities are extensive in customer service.

A great recent example I’ve seen is the use of AI in car insurance. There is an application that assesses the car which just had an accident and establishes how much it will cost to repair it, all within a few minutes. Will that really change the face of humanity? Not necessarily, but it can make our lives easier.


The need of inclusiveness

A big task for the financial world now is to embrace inclusiveness. We need to be aware that there is no one solution that would fit everyone – indeed, the opportunity is for personalised service. We need more personalised choices – people should be able to decide what kind of service they want, which level of personalisation suits them. Do they want a cheaper option where the personal touch is almost inexistent, or do they prefer a “five-star hotel” version where they cannot move without a person who helps them out?

The financial sector has also to take into consideration different needs of different people: a young and tech-savvy person may well use a different level of technology than an elderly one, but not necessarily so! This is why inclusiveness is so needed. We are on the way to encourage it, but we still have more to do… an exciting chapter to be explored…


Civilised companies in civilised societies

What interests me now is the idea of a Civilised Company. What does it take to create one? What does it mean to be a Civilised Manager? Can a Civilised Manager influence people working within a certain organisation? How do we create a culture that is premised on doing the right thing, not just the most profitable thing in the short-term? And so forth – more to come on this topic.

I am keen to explore the phenomenon of “quiet quitting”– people who work just to get by, who do not give the most of them. What are the reasons behind it? Can it change? Can a Civilised Company change the way we experience work? Could many Civilised Companies change the way as a society we consume, work, deploy technology and live our lives? These are the things I am keen to explore and discover.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Max Ewart is a C-suite Commercial Executive, Director, Board Member and an Advisor, with a 30+ year career in international financial services. He is a Board Advisor at Wealthie Works Daily, Inc, an Advisor – Commercial Relationship Development at Acin, an Advisor at Kore Labs Ltd and an Advisor – Financial Services at Yext.

Ian is known as an industry leader and reference for marketing, business development and innovation.

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