AI Business recently interviewed Chris Jones, Innovation Manager at Nationwide’s Innovation Lab. Chris has worked at Nationwide for 18 years, covering roles across corporate strategy, business analysis, fraud and payments strategy. He draws on all of this experience in his current role in the Innovation Lab, where the objective is to improve the experiences of Nationwide customers and colleagues by identifying and bringing to life new capabilities for future delivery. After Chris and his team attended The AI Summit, we were keen to hear where Nationwide are up to with AI now and the challenges that lie in between them and an AI-enabled future.
Chris Jones of Nationwide
Chris and Nationwide view AI in the context of their entire technological development: “we see AI as a continuation and acceleration of the automation that has been central to the changing nature of financial services over the last twenty or thirty years”, he explains.
It is a perspective that involves looking back before looking forward:
“As an innovation team, we believe that history is often a good guide to the future and as in previous technological leaps forward, the view of AI being ‘destructive’ to jobs is too simplistic. It will instead change the nature of the jobs people perform”.
Chris expands on this notion and describes a couple of possible outcomes:
“In many areas this will prove beneficial by complementing what people do. Putting information at their fingertips and removing laborious manual processes will allow them to focus on the most fulfilling and challenging parts of their roles. For others, the impact will be to create new types of job where the focus will be on ensuring that information, processes and our environment are constantly optimised to enable machines to perform their roles.”
Going further, Chris says that there will be other impacts in the enterprise itself, where AI opens new markets and types of business:
“In much the same way that our investment in Nationwide Now (our in-branch advisor video calling service) has meant that we can provide high quality face-to-face help and advice in areas where it was previously difficult to do so, AI will similarly enable services to be opened to new markets that previously had a number of barriers to entry for some consumers when performed by human specialists (e.g. investment advice)”.
When we discuss the challenges that lie ahead in adopting AI, Chris touches on the often-cited, but nonetheless crucial, danger of being led by the technology rather than meeting real customer needs. But he also notes that “the only way to really get an understanding of what new technologies might be able to do for you is to experiment. David Schatsky from Deloitte summarised it nicely at The AI Summit by exhorting businesses to ‘start small, start now’ and focus on identifying the right initial use cases”.
We talked more about The AI Summit and the key message Chris and his team took away:
“The mantra that we took from the Summit was that AI is not about replacing humans, it is about enhancing our capability. This is something that is already embedded in our approach to innovation. Our approach will continue to be to test and learn, while working across the business to determine the right use cases to explore”.
One use case Nationwide have put in place is with TCS’s ignio platform, which they’re using for strategy planning. Chris explains the nature of this relationship:
“We have a long-standing partnership with TCS and were happy to be one of the early users of the ignio platform within our Enterprise Command Centre, where we monitor all of the IT services for the organisation. As an initial use case, we are using ignio to automate the analysis of our batch processes to better understand how changes affect the critical path and optimise the timings of each process to improve customer experience”.
Broadly speaking though, Chris points out that Nationwide is currently in an “exploration phase”: “the short-term goal is to ensure the business has a clear view about how these technologies might change the way we operate”. And in the long term? “We remained focused on finding the best ways to meet the needs of our 15 million members and customers”, he concludes.
We spoke to Chris after he attended the inaugural AI Summit in London on 5 May. The second, larger AI Summit takes place in San Francisco on 28-29 September. To find out more, and to join us at the Fort Mason Center in September, visit: theaisummit.com
Feature image credit: http://bit.ly/1r5ACtQ