Despite the bad reputation some older movies have given AI, a recent survey by Accenture shows that it could well be a big deal in banking, says KELE BOAKGOMO, Managing Director for Financial Services practice at Accenture, South Africa.
Artificial Intelligence gets a bad rap in pop culture. Movies like Terminator (with its rebellious Skynet) and 2001 (with its murderous HAL 9000) portray a future where the robots get smart, and conclude that it is in their interests to try and destroy mankind.
But the truth about AI is a lot more mundane. Most of us use AI every day when we talk and interact with Siri or Google on our phones and AI is why Netflix knows what movies you’ll like and what other products you’ll want to buy on Amazon.
And AI is poised to become a big deal in banking. An Accenture poll of more than 600 bankers reveals that 79 percent believe AI will revolutionize how banks learn from and interact with customers; 76 percent believe that AI interfaces will be the primary point of contact between banks and customers within three years; and 71 percent think AI can be the face of their brand.
AI encompasses three different technologies: Language processing that allows computers to “talk” with humans; machine learning where computers compare new information with existing data to find patterns, similarities and differences; and expert software systems that provide personalised advice. At its best, machines learn from experiences and can interact with humans and behave in ways that mimic the human brain.
Robots and artificial intelligence are already being embraced by banks around the world, both in branches and in back offices. At City Union Bank in the Indian city of Chennai, a robot called Lakshmi tells customers about their account balances and the current interest rates on mortgages. At the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, a robot called Nao analyses facial expressions and behavior as it interacts with customers in Japanese, English and Chinese. Lakshmi and Nao are early, visible signs of how banks can use AI to personalize the banking experience.
In South Africa, AI is not new, but the move of AI beyond process to interaction with customers is new. AI is coming of age, tackling problems both big and small by making interactions simple and smart. It is becoming the new user interface in the banking space and underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of South African bank respondents in the recent Technology Vision for banking research agree that AI will revolutionise the way they gain information and interact with customers.
Now, banks in the U.S are also starting to catch on. Capital One customers can check their accounts and pay credit card bills by talking to Amazon’s Alexa and HSBC customers can quiz the bank’s virtual online assistant Olivia who can answer questions about security and other issues and learns from the effectiveness of her answers. Santander has voice banking, powered by Nuance’s virtual assistant Nina, which allows customers to make transfers and payments based on voice recognition authentication. And, RBS has developed Luvo – a customer service pop-up window that asks customers online if they need help with simple tasks, freeing staff to work on resolving more complex problems. At Accenture, we’ve built Collette – a virtual mortgage adviser that asks customers questions in a natural conversational style and generates personally-tailored advice.
But these cool services are only the first step. Banks need to start using AI to streamline the process of applying for loans or to reimagine ATM interactions to reflect the customer’s typical needs, giving customer’s a blank screen to start with, for example, rather than a standard menu. In the end, AI will help banks truly customise the banking experience by making personalised recommendations and advice. Your bank’s AI might notice from your deposits that your salary has increased and will suggest ways to save more for retirement, or that you just started purchasing diapers for the first time and maybe it’s time to start a college savings account.
Crunching a trove of customer data – everything from banking to automotive records and credit bureau reports – will give banks a clearer picture than ever before of what their customers might want from a financial institution. That’s important because more than two-thirds (67 percent) of bankers say they currently struggle to understand their customers’ needs.
But as banks move forward, they have to make sure they don’t lose the human touch where it’s needed. AI can delight customers and make their transactions quicker and easier. But it can’t completely replace people. In many situations, from personal interactions to nuanced understanding of someone’s financial status, customers need to work with human beings.
A Weber Shandwick survey reveals that, while more than half of consumers say they would trust AI to provide financial guidance, 52 percent of people are concerned about the possibility of stolen data or invasion of privacy — concerns that banks can address by applying extra levels of security around complex transactions such as transferring money between accounts.
Incorporating AI will make banks more efficient, save them money and will make staff more productive by freeing them up to help customers in a more targeted way. And, as we have noticed from other disruptive technologies, once other banks have embraced these advances they will become a mandatory component of any banking offering to retain customers and gain new ones.
Companies should take three steps to ensure that they get it right with AI: 1) Create a clear strategy for using customer data and define how AI tools can best leverage that information; 2) Consider developing an AI Center of Excellence to spearhead the effort; 3) Create a test-and-learn environment to accelerate innovation and to explore how machines can add the cognitive processes of perception, learning and reasoning.
It’s inevitable that customers will have fewer visits at bank branches, but these few interactions with human staff will become more important to customer satisfaction. That means that the bank of the future will need to blend a mix of AI and human interactions if they want to be successful. What we see around us is just the beginning.
How to power your SME when the lights go out
Tips for maintaining your IT – and your sanity! – when Eskom does the darkness, by AARON THORNTON, managing director of Dial a Nerd
While the recent wave of load shedding may have inspired more of us to indulge in candlelight dinners and non-virtual activities (yes, really!), it has been highly disruptive for SMEs. And while we all may be holding our collective breath to see what happens next with Eskom, the more intelligent move is to simply prepare for the worst. For savvy SMEs, such preparation need not break the bank. In fact, our tips will help you trim operational costs in the long-term. Bliss!
1 – Utilise the short-term happiness of the UPS (it’s clean!)
Okay, so we know that you despise acronyms: ‘UPS’ stands for Uninterrupted Power Supply and is essentially a battery that will keep electronic devices running for a short period of time. This can be a true lifesaver when you need to complete those essential tasks. Beyond the short-term relief, a UPS is even more valuable in that it will also (by virtue of its composition) provide ‘clean power’. On the other hand, while those noisy generators certainly can provide more continuity, generators often cause electrical spikes that damage equipment over time. In other words, generators produce ‘dirty power’.
2 – Purchase Surge Protectors (Simple but Critical!)
In line with the statement concluding Point 1, beware of electrical surges! And no, we are not talking about the surge of emotion you feel towards Eskom (or variants thereof), we’re talking about, well, real electricity. After a spell of load shedding, the danger is that when the power comes back on, it arrives with a spike or surge that can burn out or damage electronic equipment. Hence, we strongly recommend that business owners place surge protection plugs on all electronic devices. This is typically an investment of a few hundred rand – for devices that cost well into the thousands.
3 – Look for Power Savvy Hardware (hint: it’s under your nose)
While laptops and smartphones are useful fallbacks when the power goes out, SMEs can also opt for microcomputing devices such as the CloudGateXs – a locally developed mini-PC that uses less than ten percent of the electricity that a typical desktop requires. This type of energy-saving device enables SMEs to continue operating for a longer time (with much of the processing power and storage capabilities that traditional computers offer). No, this isn’t too good to be true…and yes, it’s highly affordable!
Now that you can equip your SME with the means to operate efficiently in the dark, you can also enjoy those candlelight dinners in peace!
Parents worried about online – but few discuss with kids
84% of parents worldwide are worried about their children’s online safety, according to the latest survey commissioned by Kaspersky and conducted by the market research company Savanta. Despite this, the report shows that globally, on average, parents only spend a total of 46 minutes talking to their children about online security through their entire childhood.
Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager of Kaspersky in Africa, says: “Although global figures, I feel that this situation is likely mirrored in the local market and something that needs attention to change. With the digital world expanding continuously, offering opportunities that cannot be ignored, we tend to be quick on the uptake of exposing children to all things digital, to support their schooling requirements and recreational activities. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the digital world is also a dangerous playground, filled with bullies and strangers that just like in the real world, pose risk to children.”
Using technology has quickly become a daily norm. Not only is the working world tech-reliant but globally the education sector is evolving towards more tech-related learning – meaning that children today need to understand how to use technology to successfully get through their schooling career.
It is not surprising then that the Kaspersky survey found that of the respondents, over 9 in 10 children between 7 to 12-years of age globally now have an Internet-enabled device, smartphone or tablet. Naturally, and considering this reality, children’s privacy and security online are becoming one of the parents’ most prominent concerns – but what are parents doing about it?
Some of the most dangerous online threats globally, according to those parents who participated in the survey include:
- Children seeing harmful content, such as sexual or violent (27%);
- Experiencing Internet addiction (26%); and
- Receiving anonymous messages or content inciting them to carry out the violent or inappropriate activity (14%).
Over and above these, there is also the concern of cyberbullying – which is particularly relevant in the local market.
Adds Badenhorst; “In the local market, we are hearing more about cases of a loss of life due to suicide as a result of cyberbullying. Having children of my own, this is a harsh reality that I am very concerned about and especially considering that a 2018 report, by research company Ipsos Global Advisor, shows that among 28 countries South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying.”
To reduce the potential risks children face, parents and/or guardians need to take the time to explain – and consistently – the dangers of the Internet and teach their children or their wards at consistent intervals about safe Internet habits and practices. While globally 81% of parents say it is a joint responsibility between parents and schools to teach children about online safety, 86% believe that parents are better positioned to undertake this important teaching as children generally trust them more.
Dr Tertia Harker, a Social Worker with a Doctorate in Psychology in private practice in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, says; “Today people look to technology as much more than a series of tools that can be used to complete certain tasks. In fact, for many people technology has become so integrated into every facet of their lives that it is viewed as a ‘lifeline’ that people feel they cannot live without – and content people are consuming through the use of technology affects their view of self. Essentially, people are looking to technology and the world around them to fill an internal void – and children are particularly sensitive to this as they are still very innocent and rely on feedback from the world around them to begin to form their view of self and the world.”
To protect children and encourage children to be safe when engaging on the Internet, Dr Harker indicates that it is important to:
- Form a nurturing and trusting relationship (between parent/guardian and child/ward), by:
- Teaching children self-awareness and self-acceptance
- Teaching children mindfulness and to be fully present in the moment
- Building children’s self-esteem
- Encouraging open and honest communication as a priority in your home
- Guide and support children to form an identity outside of technology, including:
- Supporting children to connect to nature and friends – with no technology present
- Teaching children to entertain themselves with no technology present
- Teaching children to not compare themselves with others on social media
- Encourage children to speak out about harmful content and predators they may come across online
- Always set a good example by your own actions when using technology
Badenhorst says: “While schools are and will continue to play a key role in supporting the education of online safety, ultimately this is a task and duty that parents/guardians should be driving forward and taking very seriously. We do unfortunately have to accept that the Internet allows children to encounter content we never want them to see and while we know how difficult it is to sometimes talk about these concerns with children, if parents/guardians feel uncomfortable or not well equipped to do this, there are various resources available to support them and that they should look to leverage on.”
To help families protect children from various Internet threats, Kaspersky recommends:
- If you know what your child is looking for online, you can offer help and support, and teach as you go about using the information carefully.
- Discuss with your child how much time they can spend on social media, if they have social media accounts and teach them about what information is not okay to share online (school, where they live, contacts details etc.).
- Try not to limit your child’s social circle online and teach them to take care when choosing friends and acquaintances. The same ‘stranger-danger’ principle applies in the online world.
- Subscribe to the Family edition of our Kaspersky Security Cloud. The service incorporates Kaspersky Safe Kids and helps to guard your family and private data, plus protect your kids online and beyond.
- For younger children, parents can seek guidance from a book by Marlies Slegers called Kasper, Sky and the Green Bear – a short illustrated story for kids ages 6 to 9 (which are considered good ages to expand a child’s knowledge of online safety) that was written to be fun for kids to read and that can help them understand what is OK in the digital world and what is not: https://www.kaspersky.co.za/blog/kasper-sky-book/21974/
To learn more about the most common fears, threats, experiences, and tactics when it comes to Internet safety for children, click here to download the full report.
Kaspersky conducted an international study of parents with 7 to 12-year-old children to explore trends, practices and challenges of keeping their kids safe online. Covering nearly 20 countries across each region of the globe, Kaspersky surveyed nearly 9,000 parents and explored how Internet enabled devices are being used at home, what are the biggest concerns when it comes to online security, and how parents are tackling them.