AI Meets Financial Services: What’s Next?

AI Meets Financial Services: What’s Next?

Helen Yu 19/06/2024
AI Meets Financial Services: What’s Next?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t waiting for top leaders to present a grand plan – employees are driving adoption.

This stunning revelation is one of many AI pulse points from the 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report from Microsoft and LinkedIn. The report focuses on AI in the workplace and even has a catchy title: “AI is Here. Now Comes the Hard Part.” One of the biggest opportunities for AI adoption is in financial services.

Of course, deploying large scale innovation is a challenge. As the report points out, leaders are responsible for ROI, a daunting task without a “plan or vision to go from individual impact to applying AI to drive the bottom line.” The report states that “moving past experimentation to business transformation” is the tough part. Yet, 76% of people are already using AI at work and 46% of them started using it less than six months ago. People at desks, kitchen tables and coffee bars everywhere have spoken: AI is a tool they want.

Talent Shortage and Other Top Challenges in Finance

According to the report, 55% of finance and accounting leaders feel a moderate to major concern about a talent shortage in the industry. AI is fast becoming an important skill. In fact, 71% surveyed said they would rather hire a less experienced person with AI skills than an experienced individual without AI knowledge.

Get your AI boots on.

There’s another, less talked about side to AI: upskilling. The report explores AI aptitude and suggests companies explore educating current employees. I agree. AI is a tool that requires training and could keep good employees while attracting a deeper bench of team members hungry to learn (who doesn’t want that?).

Another top challenge includes regulatory compliance. In the United States, financial service professionals must record calls and follow stringent FINRA regulations, which are constantly evolving. Global companies face the added complexity of varying regulations by country. We’ll need to unpack the new Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act) adopted by the European Parliament in March 2024. The European Union-backed regulation is the first of its kind and protects people’s rights on a large scale. It also underscores how AI impacts us – from facial scanning to data bias and privacy.

As mentioned earlier, employees aren’t choosing to wait for permission when using new AI tools. Generative AI standout Copilot, for example, is being leveraged to brainstorm ideas, organize emails, analyze revenue forecasts, create sales presentations and recap meetings.

For midsize companies requiring more affordability, the AI journey will start here with simple, low-cost applications that save time and inspire creativity as well as automated processes.

Microsoft Copilot, positioned as an “AI Companion” by the company, is rapidly proving its worth to many people, including myself. Working in concert with Microsoft 365 apps, documents, and meetings, Copilot enables productivity and creativity. This is good news for our digital debt.

I asked my browser for a definition of this term, and it spit out a pretty good one: “an overwhelm from digital technologies.” Take email as an example.

Sorting my inbox is like doing laundry at 1 a.m. – not fun. So I used Copilot recently after an industry event in Las Vegas. Each day of the event, there were meetings, panel discussions, dinners and work consuming my time. I used Copilot to identify my most important emails of the previous seven days. Like a personal assistant, Copilot reminded me of a customer case study I needed to send to my team. Copilot drafted a client email, found the presentation I needed and attached it for me, all on one screen. My AI companion saved me time otherwise spent on scrolling, searching, downloading and responding.

Impact on Financial Services

For financial services professionals, Copilot can be used in thousands of AI-enabled applications. These include fraud detection; underwriting, policy holder evaluation and risk analysis; algorithmic trading; mobile banking and customer service scenarios.

Consumer finance in capital markets is an excellent example. AI can be used at every point of the customer lifecycle starting with product and service awareness via personalized marketing communications when a customer visits a financial institution’s website or app. From there, AI has the potential to enable recommendation systems. For example, customers deserve an explanation when their loan is rejected. With AI, financial institutions can go beyond regulatory requirements with AI-enabled recommendations using data to tailor suggestions. There might be advice on improving their credit score or pointing out opportunities to improve income. AI can help explain how a decision was made and ways to help consumers achieve their goals.

Another example is in home or auto loans. Robotic process automation with AI can help extract data elements from documentation like tax forms and proofs of identity like a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate. During the acquisition and post-acquisition phrases, AI can be used to answer basic customer questions.

For insurance companies, for example, Copilot might be used to analyze risk of policyholders or improve the underwriting process. For financial institutions, it could help approve loans or analyze data in an unbiased way.

There was a time when “shadow IT” was a term. It described business users doing simple tasks on their own without the help of IT. Now, I’m hearing “shadow AI” whispered by those using AI without their companies having an AI policy or plan. Leaders must figure out how to bring everything together with a moral compass and use AI without fearing AI.

Think of it as instructions with boundaries. If you’ve ever been responsible for another human being, you know what I mean. You can give your child the keys to the car, but not without rules. Be home by midnight. No more than one other individual in the car. No blasting the radio with the windows down. And so on.

Since most of the time AI is programmed to achieve a goal, it will attempt to achieve that goal at any cost. People like you and me must tell the AI model that it needs to do its job responsibly, make sure we’re honest, don’t inflate numbers, we can’t cut corners. More than just efficiency and productivity and output, using AI requires values and responsibilities. There are three questions to ask:

  • What is the purpose of the AI application?

  • What are the limitations and scope of the AI application?

  • Who will be helped by the AI application and who could be harmed?

To that point, let’s switch up the letters, rethinking AI as IA: individual augmentation. This is the human lens to looking at technology. We all have so much going-on at work. Taking meeting notes is my least favorite – I either look like I’m not paying attention, or I could miss a key point. Several CEOs I talk with have a secretary on mute taking notes. What if we delegated the task to an AI companion like Copilot?

What if? Is the key phrase when it comes to AI.

AI and Future-Forward Boards of Directors

I sit on two boards. Both board communications are driven by email. Creating separate folders to find notes feels like getting water from a well when indoor plumbing is an option. One opportunity for boards is to rethink the role of AI. Rather than being under technology committee, AI is oftentimes under the purview of the Audit Committee or Risk Committee, both of which look at what already has happened rather than the opportunities that lie ahead. Risk is about eliminating. Opportunity is about innovating.

What if AI was treated as both a risk and an opportunity? Under a Technology and Innovation Committee, we could look at AI from an innovation lens and leverage AI for growth – not just worker productivity. No one person or organization has all the answers, but at the current pace of change, creating a culture of learning seems to be a necessity.

Here’s where AI has so much potential. A Board Copilot would be a great place for board members to communicate in a private, secure place and in a timely manner. Imagine the application in other knowledge-sharing groups.

Microsoft is not a New Player – And that’s an Advantage

Launched in 1975, Microsoft has almost half a century of learning as well as a well-earned fan base.

The Redmond, WA-based company has become known for its Windows operating systems (it has 28.79% of global operating system market share), XBox (100 million gamers as of 2022), Microsoft 365 productivity products (one out of every Fortune 500 company uses it), Microsoft Azure (more than 95% of Fortune 100 companies use it) and Microsoft Teams (jumped from 20 to 115 million users in 2020). These and other points are included in an article published earlier this year by, which describes Microsoft as “The Most Enduring Tech Superstar.”

Only you can decide if that’s a fair assessment. However, it is fact that Microsoft just introduced the first AI computer, a Surface Pro, a Copilot+ PC with AI capabilities. Highlights included 19-hour battery life, a handy Copilot key connecting me with AI capabilities, ironclad security and a heightened virtual meeting experience. Where might AI-enabled technology like this takes us? Will access to advanced AI models inspire our work? What does trillions of operations per second look like?

AI is not new. In 1948, British computer scientist Alan Turing wrote a paper entitled “Intelligent Machinery.” He said, “What we want is a machine that can learn by experience.” It has taken seventy-five years for AI to come of age.

I wonder what Mr. Turing would say about the “AI power user” of today? This is the top tier of AI users Microsoft identified in its report, along with skeptics, novices and explorers (ranked from least to most AI use). I think the father of AI would say: Finally, the tool I imagined can be used by all. I think Mr. Turing saw AI’s impact on real people when you teach a machine to learn. Microsoft’s report gives us a sneak peek.

AI power users save more than 30 minutes a day using AI at least several times a week with 92% saying it makes their “overwhelming workload more manageable” and “boosts their creativity.” And 93% say it helps them focus on the most important work with 91% saying it helps them feel more motivated and enjoy work more.

The AI power users have spoken. They are well-equipped to teach others too. This is what’s next for financial services – and many other industries innovating the future with AI.

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Helen Yu

Innovation Expert

Helen Yu is a Global Top 20 thought leader in 10 categories, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things and marketing. She is a Board Director, Fortune 500 Advisor, WSJ Best Selling & Award Winning Author, Keynote Speaker, Top 50 Women in Tech and IBM Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation. She is also the Founder & CEO of Tigon Advisory, a CXO-as-a-Service growth accelerator, which multiplies growth opportunities from startups to large enterprises. Helen collaborated with prestigious organizations including Intel, VMware, Salesforce, Cisco, Qualcomm, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft and Vodafone. She is also the author of Ascend Your Start-Up.

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