Saturday 23 September 2017 News Updated at 03:09 AM IST
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Artificial intelligence to power banking - Deccan Herald
Artificial intelligence to power banking
Uma Kannan, DHNews Service, Bengaluru,
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Giant robot holding a businessman with a telescope, helping him to look further ahead.
The power of AI
With an increase in the number of FinTech startups, banks are now trying to collaborate with them, thereby leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, to serve their customers better.

Also, with small finance banks and payments banks coming in, banks want to get the most of the newer technology. Yes Bank has embarked on a journey to setup a world-class SMAC (Social-Mobile-Analytics and Cloud) support system, as it believes that this will play a key role in enhancing the overall customer delivery and service process.

Yes Bank Chief Digital Officer Ritesh Pai says, "Over the last two years, our dedicated teams have extensively worked to set up a mobility platform, CRM system and also an analytics platform, which is tightly integrated with various internal and external data sources including unstructured data from various web and social sources which is often referred to as Big Data,” he adds.

The bank recently launched the Yes Fin-tech accelerator. Pai says the aim is to find startups and help them scale up, by giving access to Yes Bank’s banking expertise, banking systems as a sandbox as well as bring in mentorship and regulatory understanding for these companies.

"Yes Fin-tech will act as a robust support system for FinTech startups with a clear focus on building solutions relevant to use-cases identified by Yes Bank and providing FinTech startups access to Yes Bank’s over two million retail customer base and over 15,000 SME and corporate clients,” he adds.

Recently, six startups graduated from Axis Bank’s first startup accelerator programme at its innovation lab 'Thought Factory’, which was launched a year ago. Since its launch, Thought Factory has been a major FinTech ecosystem enabler in Bengaluru, hosting multiple events, workshops, international visitors and other corporate clients; thereby enhancing industry-startup collaboration. Thought Factory team has collaborated with OCBC Bank & Visa Innovation Lab, Singapore and AWS, India for co-innovating.

Axis Bank Executive Director Rajiv Anand says, "We are proud to be the springboard for breakthrough ideas that can disrupt the banking landscape. Besides the Accelerator startups, the bank, along with the Thought Factory team, has been working with other upcoming startups too.”

Recently, 14 enterprise-ready startups, majority of them were into Artifical Intelligence and Big Data, graduated from Microsoft Accelerator's 10th cohort, and VPhrase is one among them.

The startup’s patent pending platform is Phrazor, which takes out the dry numbers and delivers simple words that communicate the hidden insights. It is working with large enterprises in India such as Accenture, HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Motilal Oswal Securities, and ITC, among others. VPhrase CEO Neerav Parekh says BFSI is an extremely old industry with a lot of antiquated processes. "It’s just that we’ve got used to them”.

"AI is playing the role of a catalyst shaking up these processes. BFSI companies are using AI to improve their internal operations as well as customer interactions. Customers today demand personalised attention and AI is enabling that. VPhrase’s tech is helping large banks and brokerages to send personalised communication to their customers at scale,” he adds.

RBL Bank has adopted an approach of massive collaboration and partnership, and it can be seen in initiatives such as RBL iLabs Hackathon, participation in StartupbootCamps and mentoring of FinTech players.

The bank embarked on its AI journey last year. RBL Bank Head - Technology, Innovation and Customer Fulfillment - Sanjay Sharma says, "Currently, we are evaluating multiple offerings and solutions which will help us deliver the most relevant management insights in a cost-effective manner. We will learn from the pilots and embed the most suitable platform. As with natural intelligence, the ecosystem will continuously get more mature and insightful with time.”

"As far as Big Data and Analytics are concerned, we started our journey in 2011. We will only invest in areas where we believe will yield maximum positive results for the bank in the near future. We also intend to establish a full-fledged Analytics and Big Data Centre of Excellence (CoE) comprising data scientists and programmers to extract maximum benefits and build 'insights driven bank’,” he informs.

TeamLease Assistant Vice President Sudeep Kumar Sen says, in this fiscal year, AI will expand in its scope and utility and will be assisting banks and FinTech sector to speed up processes. "Presently, AI is widely used in finance and ecommerce sector.

Banks and other non-banking financial institutions have tonnes of data that are not used for decision making purposes. With Big Data Analytics and superior AI capabilities, the sector can be made quick, intuitive and smart, ready to work in real-time. Futuristic FinTech players, in their bit to stay ahead of the edge, shall be prompt in either collaborating with AI startups or developing such functionalities in-house,” Sen says, adding this space is likely to create more than 30% jobs in coming days.

Yes Bank uses AI powered chat bots for transactions on its Yes Pay Wallet. "AI Bots allow users to engage in transactions in an easy, intuitive manner and also enhances efficiencies for the bank. We have also powered with other AI startups to launch solutions in the bank that can help improve productivity as well as provide a superior banking experience and service to our customers,” says Pai.

When asked about competition, Pai says with so many changes in the digital landscape of the country, it is impossible to believe that a single entity will be able to innovate and come up with use cases using latest technology. "We realised this soon and hence, we have started to partner with various FinTech companies or startups over last 30 months on various initiatives as part of our A-R-T (Alliances, Relationships and Technologyframework,” he says.

The bank has a dedicated team which works with experts across various business teams within the bank to identify the suitable startups/FinTech companies which can enable bank to create new solutions for customers.

"We embraced the spirit of partnership much before the FinTech boom. The approach towards FinTech has also been collaborative rather than viewing them as competition. Through multiple initiatives mentioned previously, we give a fair chance to the entire FinTech world and select the most beneficial FinTech startup through parameters such as relevance to RBL Bank, financial and operating performance, management point-of-view, ease of integration etc. We firmly believe this approach will help RBL Bank create a strong differentiation for itself,” says Sharma.

DCB Bank Head-Retail and SME Banking Praveen Kutty says, "Interesting disruption times lie ahead. Security of data, availability of on-demand reliable and constant wireless data network, wearable tech are challenges as well as opportunities.”

Cyber security, a huge problem

With digital banking and lot of experimentation and adoption in newer technology, there comes cyber security issues. "We have also realised that these rapid digital changes will also open up a window of opportunity to the fraudsters who want to create disruptions in the progress or exploit the vulnerabilities of the newer technologies. Hence we are also working with both existing tech giants and startups to strengthen the customer authentication processes. We are also working on a Fraud detection framework which can be tightly integrated with our Analytics Platform so that any possible misuse can be prevented,” Pai says.

He adds that they have a robust application testing and infrastructure vulnerability assessment framework which monitors the bank’s infrastructure and applications periodically and highlight the possibility of exploitation.

RBL Bank conducts sessions with senior management and all other key stakeholders regarding the criticality of cyber security and measures to be taken. "We have also issued guidelines with regard to downloads, usage of emails, password, social networking etc. With the world getting more interconnected through the Internet of Things (IoT), the touch-points for initiating an attack are growing exponentially. We are fully cognizant of the threats and will continue to work proactively in this space to protect ours and our customers’ assets,” says Sharma.