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‘Leadership gap’ stymying AI progress in financial firms

  • 01/10/2019
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‘Leadership gap’ stymying AI progress in financial firms
UK financial services firms have innovated with artificial intelligence (AI), but gaps in leadership emerged as a potential hinderance to further progress, a report from Microsoft UK has shown.


The report analysed views on AI from leaders and employees within corporate and state institutions across the UK and included a focus on financial services.

Among financial services leaders, 72 per cent said their organisation was using AI, up by seven per cent compared to 2018.

However, the report revealed a gap between leaders’ aspirations for AI and their knowledge and capability.

While 51 per cent want their organisation to be leaders in AI innovation, the same proportion wouldn’t know what to do if they disagreed with an AI application’s course of action. 

A further 59 per cent of financial services leaders admitted they were unaware of how AI technology reached its conclusions.

And while a majority, 53 per cent, believed their organisation could identify bias in AI applications, 49 per cent wouldn’t know how to respond if it did. A potential outcome of AI bias could be to reject a mortgage application where the client is suitable. 

The responses from employees of financial services firms showed that 60 per cent had not completed training on how to use AI in their job. And 93 per have never been consulted by their boss about the introduction of AI into their organisation.


Top AI applications in financial sector

The survey asked specifically about the use of eight different types of AI.

The top five were analytics and big data technologies, used by 52 per cent of financial services organisations, robotic process automation at 44 per cent, automation at 43 per cent, machine learning, used by 40 per cent and haptic voice recognition, at 29 per cent.

At the lower end, 27 per cent of financial firms used smart digital assistants, 25 per cent used AI enhancement within productivity software and 17 per cent employed research level AI.

Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest were among the financial firms to take part in the research. 

Abhijt Akerkar, head of AI business integration at Lloyds Banking Group, spoke about the challenges of scaling AI from experimenting to wider use.

He said: “The positive results from initial use cases serve as the biggest catalyst, but this has to be supported by ample demonstration of risk governance and control, to give everybody the confidence that we can scale AI safely and responsibly. For effective scaling, you will also need investment in a talent pipeline.”

From NatWest, senior innovations and entrepreneurship professional, Roshan Rohatgi commented on strategies to ensure inclusive and responsible use of AI.

He urged firms to adopt “a transparent and clear approach, for example using common terminology, having agreed principles and easy-to-follow governance that promotes consistency and collaboration between teams.”

The report, Accelerating competitive advantage with AI: How organisations are moving from experimentation to business impact, covered four sectors of the UK economy: financial services, manufacturing and industry, healthcare and retail.

Overall, 56 per cent of organisations were “doing something” with AI and 34 per cent were “doing nothing”.

The online survey was conducted by YouGov among 1,010 leaders and 4,002 employees between 15 and 23 July 2019.


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