No doubt, artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzzword right now. Most of your boards are probably asking you, “What is your AI strategy?" and “What do you plan to do about AI?" Among the more than 200 financial services clients that we serve worldwide, I don't know if I have heard two answers to that question that are the same. That is appropriate, however, because the answer should vary depending on the vision of your organization. AI is a means to an end, an enabler to enhance the experience between your users or customers and your business, rather than the end goal.
Depending on geography, we are seeing different responses to AI. In Asia, for example, there is a sense of urgency, adoption, and aggressive tech hunger around AI. On the other hand, Australia is now in a situation similar to the one the U.S. was in a few years ago. The Royal Commission has come in and is pushing hard on regulatory issues and oversight. So Australia is adopting AI, but almost reluctantly. In Europe, there are a lot of profitable banks. As a result, there is a resistance to change that results in slower AI adoption. In the US, and to a certain extent Canada, we see a very practical, pragmatic approach toward using AI to drive efficiency, speed, value, and safety. The response to AI varies by region.
Regardless of the region, when I'm asked “What should our AI strategy be?" I ask in return, “What do you want your business to be? How do you want to engage with your customers?" Because, the truth is, AI can be used anywhere, in any channel, even in your back office. Instead, what it comes down to is the experience.
In the financial services industry, we are seeing a transformation from a product-centric banking ecosystem to an experience-centric banking ecosystem. For example, banks are moving from selling an auto loan to facilitating a car-buying experience. AI can influence and improve this experience. In fact, AI will inform the whole process – everything from how you find a customer to how you service a customer and how you manage the products they consume.
We've seen many pilots, proofs of concept, lines of code, and, frankly, many failures when banks approach AI as a standalone initiative or a box that needs to be ticked to appease a board of directors. There is a lot of money being spent without return and without the type of customer impact you would aspire to have.
AI is everywhere. It's not a project to be implemented. It's embedded in how you monitor your customers on social media to understand what they're talking about, what they need, and what they're looking for from you. It's how you manage and train your employees. It's how you develop new products and capabilities.
When determining what your AI strategy should be, first ask yourself “What differentiates my organization?" “What is the experience I want to design?" Then look at where there are opportunities to inject intelligence, convenience, efficiency, and safety into the experience. No matter what region you operate in, that is where AI will come into play.
Approaching AI in isolation can result in a hammer-in-search-of-a-nail outcome: technologies being used without compelling reason. But thinking about the experience first, and then looking for ways to improve it with AI, positions AI in its rightful place as an integral part of the organization's fabric that drives performance and allows it to deliver true value to the organization.