Money20/20 Europe: Banking on AI
This year’s Money20/20 Europe on the surface looked pretty much the same as most previous years.
It covered a broad range of topics with a focus on open banking, ESG (climate and diversity in particular) and of course AI. It’s hard to find a technology journal, blog or presentation that doesn’t include AI at the moment. There was even a 12ft physical “Money Bot” at the show.
What was most impressive though was that everyone that I watched on stage didn’t theorise about the art of the possible of AI, they gave examples of what their company or customers were doing with it. From the sessions that I attended on AI, three key themes came out: priority, accessibility and transformation.
In a panel that included Annerie Vreugdenhil (ABN Amro) and Emily Turner (Citibank), both speakers highlighted how leadership teams at financial firms had been educated in the use of AI. In the case of ABN Amro, this included their board of directors! While both banks have been using some form of AI for a number of years, it was generative AI that triggered a greater sense of urgency and priority.
In another session, Chalapathy Neti (Swift) said that while he has over 30 years of experience in AI, what he was seeing late last year was truly “mind boggling”. He urged those listening to ask themselves whether they had the data for the use cases they were targeting with AI, and not whether the use cases had clear and tangible benefits. In the same session, Jon Ander Beracoechea (BBVA) when questioned on priority, also advised the audience to push AI as a priority within their organisation. However, Mariana Gomez (ING) had a more balanced view, saying that it wasn’t quite so urgent as banks can continue to run without AI, but delaying its integration would put firms at a disadvantage.
All the key tech providers now offer AI in the cloud, providing the scalability and compute power to hold and process huge volumes of data and enabling banks to make use of data much faster. Vreugdenhil encouraged staff at ABN Amro not only to look at how AI can improve the bank, but also how it can improve their personal lives. The key here is that AI is accessible to anyone with a smartphone or access to the internet on a PC/laptop.
There wasn’t a single speaker that I heard that downplayed the impact that this technology is having and is going to have not only on their bank/organisation, but more broadly across all industries. Neti was unequivocal about the impact being greater than previous technology trends. Meanwhile, Sarah Hinkfuss (Bain) described most technology trends as waves that come and go, gently disturbing the sand. In comparison, she says AI is more like a Tsunami that will have “a tectonic impact changing entire landscapes” and affecting everything.
Personally, I’ve experienced a few trends in my career: micro/personal computers in the 80s, the internet in the 90s and smartphones in the millennium. All of these have had a huge impact globally and have collectively driven a trend where we have seen more and more delegated to the end customer/consumer. A push towards self-service shopping, entertainment and knowledge/education has made our lives easier and put us in the driving seat.
However, it is very much us humans that are driving the tasks. This new trend is a clear path towards handing over much of what we do to machines that are faster, smarter and tireless. We are moving from decades of automation to a new era of intelligent automation. Many of the speakers balanced this excitement with the need for “guard rails” so that this technology can not be weaponised by bad actors. Of course, references to movies like The Terminator and The Matrix generally get a mention. It was one of the opening speakers that pre-empted such thoughts, Rumman Chowdary (an ex-Twitter exec), by saying, “If you fear this technology, remember you can always switch it off.”
This week, I’m just saying that the best time to start looking at AI was yesterday, and the next best time is today. Again, Vreugdenhil provided some useful guidance: “You don’t have to find perfection in everything. Some things just have to be an improvement over what humans are doing today.”
About the author
Dharmesh Mistry has been in banking for more than 30 years both in senior positions at Tier 1 banks and as a serial entrepreneur. He has been at the forefront of banking technology and innovation, from the very first internet and mobile banking apps to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
He has been on both sides of the fence and he’s not afraid to share his opinions.
He founded proptech start-up AskHomey (sold to a private investor in spring 2023) and is an investor and mentor in proptech and fintech. He also co-hosts the Demystify Podcast.
Read all his “I’m just saying” musings here.