Following the The AI Summit in London, AI Business got the chance to catch up with one of the event’s key attendees, Marc Lien, Director of Innovation and Digital Development at Lloyds Banking Group. We spoke to Marc to find out his view on AI’s impact on business overall, his key takeaways from The AI Summit and the future of an AI-enabled Lloyds Bank.
Marc Lien of Lloyds
Marc began broadly, sharing his thoughts on AI’s overall impact on the business world: “It’s difficult to overemphasise the potential transformation in the way in which businesses might operate, and how society might take advantage of the opportunity. But there’s more than just potential here: what strikes me in particular is the speed of the change. The cloud is democratising processing power, and open source is making hugely capable technologies available to all. The combination of these two trends alone is creating the conditions for a fundamental reinvention of what we know today. What wasn’t possible just six months ago, suddenly is now is”.
Although AI for business has come a long way in a very short time, Marc admits there are a number of challenges that enterprises face in adopting AI technologies. He breaks them down into three ‘lenses’:
The first is people. “People are at the very heart of the conversation, and it should always remain this way”, says Marc. “I don’t see a zero-sum future where a business picks people or machines. Instead the conversation should be about the combination of smart colleagues and smart machines. Each have qualities not evident in the other. What’s the challenge here? How to ensure the conversation around AI is focused on unleashing human potential. This is important because the people understandably fear the unknown, and AI is an unknown for the majority. There is also a war for data science talent”.
The second challenge comes in the form of processes and data. “The main challenge here will be the extent to which most businesses have digitised their knowledge – whether they can access the expertise, or the process steps necessary to complete the objective in hand. Let’s be clear, having knowledge available in this way is also a huge benefit to colleagues. So is having a smart assistant available to help them support customers. Beyond this, I would expect businesses will continue to face into longstanding challenges, such as data quality. It is also important that we adapt to accommodate new regulation such as the pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was developed before many of these AI techniques were commonplace”.
The final challenge? The technology itself: “I think the challenge will be how we can oversee and audit the mechanics of decisions being made, as a larger number of decisions are made or contributed to by ‘smart services’. This gets even more complex when decisions are made on top of other decisions. Some machine learning methods are by their nature quite black box. To operate safely, businesses will need to find a way to evidence the basis upon which AI suggestions and decisions are made, and be able to demonstrate that they were fair, auditable and repeatable”.
Marc was one of many enterprise innovation leaders who attended The AI Summit in London; he talked us through the important messages he took away from the event: “I was impressed by the range of possible business applications. I was also struck by the number of large, familiar enterprises that were present. It certainly seems as though we’ve moved beyond the point at which this is a promising opportunity into the early phases of large-scale adoption. In very practical terms, we met with a number of firms that we’d like to follow up with. We had the opportunity to look at challenges in a fresh light, and it was useful to reflect on the ways in which other large organisations are moving forward. Some have stepped carefully, others are charging hard with AI at the forefront”.
Marc is positive about the future of an AI-enabled banking industry: “A combination of technological progress and pending regulatory developments will make for a very exciting period for the industry, with the customer standing to benefit. Smarter services could help customers manage all of their money in one place. We should expect greater use of comparison platforms, and for those services to become much more personalised as they benefit from greater access to data and AI-based services. Some customers might want their banking delivered in a different way – as set of nudges for example. Of course, we’d expect to see Fintechs very active in this space. Banks will need to mature and expand their advanced analytic capabilities. It’s a great time to be at the nexus of these trends”.
And what about Lloyds specifically? We asked Marc what the short- and long- term AI strategy at Lloyds looks like: “We think about the question slightly differently”, Marc explains. “Our strategy and vision are very much customer-first, and drive us to finding ways to become simpler and more efficient in order to be the best bank for customers. As such, the question we ask is: how is AI and machine learning contributing to that strategy? So, rather than an AI strategy, how can AI support the business strategy?
“In the near-term, I believe Lloyds Banking Group is a digital and AI leader in the financial services sector. We have created a partner ecosystem and technology environment that allows rapid development, testing and scaling of algorithms across many business applications. For example, we deploy natural language processing and text analytics to help understand customer feedback. In turn, that helps us deliver more customer-focused services. In dealing with fraud, we use a range of machine learning capabilities. As we look to the longer-term, we’ll continue to assess how the technical possibilities line up with our strategic aims, and measure up against what our customers want”.
We spoke to Marc following 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://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/Media/media-kit/image-library/branches/lloyds-bank/