When artificial intelligence in business became public knowledge, there was a general freak out about all of the jobs that would be lost to the robot overlords. If AI assistants wormed their way into marketing and sales departments and could more effectively perform the work of human employees, how many people would be out of a job?

To quell everyone's fears, numerous AI experts pointed to the case study about ATM machines in the 1970s. In a nutshell, there was the same general panic when ATM machines were introduced to the banking industry; people believed that bank tellers everywhere would lose their jobs and our world would become a whole lot less...human.

Well, they were somewhat right.

ATM machines meant that branches needed far fewer bank tellers. But what they didn't expect was that the banks would become more efficient and make more money, allowing financial institutions to open up more branches and, yes, staff them with humans. In the end, the invention of the ATM actually created more jobs for people, while helping banks to steadily grow. AI is doing the same for numerous industries now - and not just the obvious marketing and sales techs.  

According to Jason Raznick, founder of Benzinga, we're actually well into the first phase of AI and machine learning adoption in financial services. I became very keenly aware of this last month at the Benzinga Fintech Summit, when a panel of investors openly discussed their most sought-after projects; of course, AI-powered fintechs were the top of their list.

The enthusiasm for AI-driven fintech amongst the investors prompted me to chat with Raznick about how disruptive fintechs are utilizing the machine learning to their advantage. The way he sees it, there are two primary models in which AI has enabled fintech innovation:

Efficient Scale

 "AI allows startups access to scale that they previously couldn't attain," he says. "For example, personal finance startups use machine learning to map what their users are doing with their money, which allows them to offer predictive advice on which financial products they might use."

That's exceptionally powerful. AI means companies don't have to employ a huge staff to analyze data or personally make recommendations to their users, which is an effective way to scale and grow. Think of how this will hugely impact startups. Entrepreneurs spend a great deal of time figuring out how to become more efficient and work with a skeleton crew, before they have enough money to hire a full team.

Fintech companies are showing us that artificial intelligence and machine learning can be utilized from the beginning to put our efficiency on steroids.

Improved Services

Fintech has been touted as one of the hottest industries to be in for the last few years, which means that the competition is rife. The leaders in the space are using AI to continuously get ahead of the innovation curve, as Raznick points out.

"We've seen institutional players adopt AI to deepen and improve existing services," he says. For example, quant hedge funds like WorldQuant are using AI to outsmart the market and deliver returns to their investors, and companies like TIAA have acquired roboadvisors like MyVest to enhance its line of B2B investing products. These cases are interesting because they allow for innovative teams to work with massive amounts of resources behind them."

As innovators invent, there will be some trial and error, but for those who embrace machine learning, it's going to be considerably less. AI cuts costs and helps companies generate revenue faster.

The Future 

Artificial intelligence is everywhere. Even if we don't know if it's present in a specific industry yet, chances are that it probably is. In 2018, we can expect to see the tech become more ever-present, says Raznick.

And what's next for the Fintech industry as it pertains to AI? He has some ideas about that, too.

"Potentially, one of the biggest developments would be a mainstay bank deploying a personal financial advisor product to compete with the growing segment of AI-powered advice apps," he predicts. "Incumbents quickly took back ground from disruptors in the robo-advice space once they developed their own robos and banks might see a similar opportunity in the personal advice market."

The future of AI-driven fintech is an innovative one. With the ease of scale and efficiency of product creation, I wager to say we'll see this relationship teach us a thing or two large-scale growth. And hopefully, how to innovate a whole lot of new jobs for humans!

Published on: Oct 27, 2017