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Ani Paul, CIO, ING Australia
It seemed like yesterday we were all saying ‘mobile-first.’ But in today’s world, anything less than ‘AI-first’ means you are likely to get left behind. What does that mean for banks and other companies who have invested hugely in their mobile presence? We have been so used to providing standard banking services, and focusing on the best platforms to provide those services, whether online or mobile. Does AI provide us with an opportunity to rethink that approach radically? Or, will it be more like a bolt-on to existing concepts and capabilities? Clearly, there are choices that we need to make, and the time to decide on how to leverage the transformative capabilities that AI offers, is now.
As companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple continue to set the expectations of consumers. Banks and other companies using strong legacy systems are struggling to adapt; not only to the approach of reducing friction that takes care of itself, but also the move to platforms that offer AI in increasing values and scales. To stay relevant we must move quickly to build value for customers using insights which help them get ahead in their day to day.
Most banks have invested huge amounts of resources in building their physical locations, their websites, and apps while being focused on an approach that brings customers to them. But the world of mobile technology, social media networks, and opportunities created by AI enables us to go where our customers are, and do more than offering them banking products. Moreover, we have the opportunity to offer them intelligent and actionable insights that helps them make decisions quicker, and build much greater relevance to their lives.
An example: Dave is driving home, and Siri says: “Hi Dave, remember that your daughter’s birthday is coming up a month. From her social media it looks like she’s a Taylor Swift fan. Tickets for Taylor Swift’s next concert will be going on sale next week, and since you hold an ING Visa card, you’ll have access to exclusive pre-release tickets in that sale. Would you like us to purchase those for you when they’re available?”
You can and should be on every digital platform where your customers are, and you shouldn’t be afraid to leave some platforms behind as you seek new opportunities.
But how do we get there?
The first step is to adopt the open-platform philosophy. That means we have to be able to be where our customers are. At the moment, they are using social media on mobiles; tomorrow they’ll be interacting using voice assistants in their homes and on their mobile devices. VoiceLabs 2017 report shows that the number of people using voice-first devices is at a staggering 87.5 percent of the entire population; the percentage is expected to grow further in the coming years. Beyond voice devices, consumers will be interacting with the next wave of wearable devices that interact with our brainwaves, our bodies, our voices, and our hand commands to create augmented reality experiences that integrate AI technologies. It will be these new platforms that carry the idea of ‘AI forward’ to consumers.
ING is working to launch services for customers on Google Home, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon Echo. The bottom line is, you can and should be on every digital platform where your customers are, and you shouldn’t be afraid to leave some platforms behind as you seek new opportunities. This means, businesses that focus on building architecture, should show its presence on any new platform and getting the underlying architecture right so that you can improve and scale across the board as these platforms change.
The second step is to embrace the advancements of those leading in AI technologies. At the moment we’re using those advancements to help us interact with our customers using natural language processing. So no matter if they ask their Google Home “Am I broke?”, or if they type “How much money I’ve got left?” into their Facebook Messenger, we’ll be able to understand and respond with what they need. These new AI capabilities are strong and are getting stronger, and you don’t have to force your customers to speak your language anymore; you can talk to them in theirs. This is critical as it’s another step towards empowering your customers to get ahead in a way that they control.
If you have any doubt about how quickly voice technologies will catch on, watch someone interact with a natural-language enabled bot over a voice-enabled device, and see how quickly they become comfortable with that interaction. Recently, we’ve been trialling these with our colleagues and the reaction is truly exciting to watch.
People trust us to protect their finances and information, so we must approach this cautiously, exploring how we can allow customers to opt for tools and functionalities that allow them to understand and analyse their own financial situation and choose what level of interaction they would like to provide interms of information, insights, and advice. We have to help customers solve problems, and consider banking products as commodities. Our true value and relevance will be realised when we can fully integrate AI capabilities with our data system build a model that generates insights for customers and provides solutions at relevant times
The journey to AI first for banks will be a hard one, but those who act first and innovate fastest will succeed. Our customers don’t need banks but they do need banking services that help them get ahead, and the future of how we do that is clearly ‘AI-first’.