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Will Bankers Keep Up with Digital Innovation?

By Guillermo Kopp, Worldwide Financial Services Industry Director, Microsoft on April 10, 2017

Filed under Financial Services - Banking & Capital Markets

Back in the 60’s, a program named Eliza hinted at rudiments of artificial intelligence. This program matched word patterns using simple scripts and rules. Eliza baffled users with empathizing remarks and cunning questions that imitated a psychotherapist. People got the fleeting feeling of talking to a doctor.

In the 70’s, mainframes were powering pristine banking systems. Data center supervisors orchestrated a prank: An operator would hide within an empty cabinet behind the mainframe console and read out the computer messages that popped up. Another operator would listen for the commands that were being voiced to the mainframe and enter them at a secondary console nearby. Overestimating the scant intelligence of those early computer systems, novices would assume that the mainframe was engaging in a live conversation.

Let us fast forward to present times. Has the proliferation of digital systems changed the way that bankers work? Maybe to some extent, thanks to modern capabilities such as online banking, enterprise portals, workplace collaboration, banker mobility, and remote banking advice. Similar changes stem from digital technologies and customer habits that are redefining what bank branches stand for. Still, a more futuristic issue should hinge on whether artificial intelligence could end up displacing a banker.

What will artificial intelligence mean to banks? Will computers mimic a banker? Today’s cognitive services, to include computer vision, face and emotion recognition, natural language understanding, and contextual knowledge already bring artificial intelligence closer to human behavior. Besides responding to people, a daunting opportunity for intelligent computer systems will be to fully understand humans.

Could bots displace bankers? Banks will deploy chatbots to handle certain customer inquiries and provide basic financial advice. On the other hand, faster and interactive financial calculations will continue to augment a banker’s ability to pull information, process transactions, and serve customers. A challenge for bankers will be to reframe and transform the very essence of their role and reap the cognitive potential of emerging innovations in intelligent digital agents.

Intelligent agents will recognize bank transaction patterns and situations more comprehensively and earlier than bankers. Their frontier, which is sitting just around the corner, will be to anticipate and sway human behavior. Recreating Eliza’s paradox of a computer enacting a person, the smartest digital agents will influence actions by bankers or bank customers subtly and without anybody noticing. While clinging to their core competencies in credit, risk, financial products, and relationship management, modern bankers should capitalize on the power of intelligent technologies.

Read more on the Microsoft Banking & Capital Markets and Insurance blogs.

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