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Professor Bhimani delivered a talk at Barclays Bank to executives in the corporate banking division at Canary Wharf on 8 May 2019. He spoke on “Digitalisation and Finance: What’s there to worry about?” He noted the diverse forms of data growth which, if meshed with other data types within financial institutional environments, can enable novel decision platforms in the search for value growth. He stressed that the banking sector is rapidly changing globally both in developed and developing contexts. This is so not just in relation to the closure of physical branches but also in the growing usage of mobile platforms to access financial products and accelerating bankability. Traditional services are rapidly being replaced via innovative technologies. Further, digital financial products, via their integration and inter-connections, offer possibilities for network effects to be created for customers which further accelerates growth. Professor Bhimani noted that the data that is usable must now be seen to reside not purely within economic transactions and/or financial pro-formas but also derives from indicators, trends and metrics which encompass a mix-up of financial, non-financial, social and predictive information sets that couple the quantitative and the qualitative. He noted how some banks investing in artificial intelligence have augmented their revenues by more than 5%. Much of this derives from the analysis of data with an extreme focus on the volume and velocity of information and correlations which cannot be sensed through traditional methods. The appeal of ‘statistics on steroids’ is there because this engenders decision making value. The application of AI however is so far primarily focused on established activities such as loan repayment tracking, fraud detection and risk management. But once financial institutions extend the realm of machine learning and deep learning insight onto new decision based information inputs then executives will be able to access intelligence that competitors may not perceive or if they do cannot access. Such AI based initiatives produce competitive competencies that can be difficult to dislodge. In essence, fintech possibilities can upend established financial decision making orders and ultimately also disrupt large banking sector players. The large data troves available to established institutions can help counter this. What is essential is a realisation of the potential of AI and to train finance executives to viably invest in systems intended to tap into data that can be harnessed and to develop skill-sets that sponsor the deployment of novel data forms.
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