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“It sounds unsexy. But now it’s critical.” That, and other takeaways from our webinar on AI and automation

By June 15, 2020 August 12th, 2020 No Comments
Webinar-451Group-TIIA-Ameriprise-AQR
  • Experts from 451 Research, Alkymi, Ameriprise, AQR, and TIAA on AI, automation, and digital transformation. .
  • Alkymi CEO Harald Collet and 451 Research founder & VP Nick Patience hosted a panel featuring Raja Doddala, Managing Director and Head of Fintech Strategy & Corporate VC at TIAA; Jay Leopold, Head of North America Investment Risk Management at Ameriprise; and Satish Mandalika, Managing Director and Head of Middle Office Technology for AQR.
  • The group discussed how global companies in the financial industry are deploying AI to automate processes, enable digital transformation, and build resilient operations.
  • Watch the entire discussion here, or read on for the top takeaways.

One: Automation pays off

451 Research found that 55% of financial firms use AI primarily for process automation—to good effect: over thirty percent of AI adopters cite the benefit of automation to improve productivity; more than one third cite cost savings.

The first mile that most business data has to cross—over 75% of it, by some estimates—is the email inbox,” said Jay Leopold of Ameriprise. “Trying to efficiently extract unstructured data from emails and attachments to provide customer service and digital assistance” is a critical component of automating business processes.

Raja Doddala, Managing Director at TIAA, concurred, saying that TIAA portfolio managers’ workflows include reviewing thousands of prospectuses. “If a machine could read them and surface actionable insights for a portfolio manager, that portfolio manager would be 100 times more effective. It’s as if you have access to a thousand interns.”

Another useful process automation is unifying information from disparate, legacy systems—including calendars, telephone calls, and even documents in the mailroom. It’s low in the “cognitive value chain,” and “it doesn’t sound very sexy,” Doddala said, “but it’s critical.”

Even a “really basic integration and automation of middle office and back office functions” can contribute gains, he added. “Any task that can be done by a computer in a data center shouldn’t even have an interface. Just have it done. That is the task of the day.”

Two: Simple is smart

AI receives a lot of buzz, but this star treatment means “there’s a little bit of an unrealistic expectation from AI,” said Satish Mandalika, Managing Director at AQR. In reality, AI doesn’t have to be exotic to create value.

Raja echoed that opportunities abound to automate simple, manual tasks that clutter daily workflows and perpetuate business processes that have been built in the pre-digital era. And Jay pointed out that most work still gets done in email, where employees spend too much time on low cognition and repetitive data processing tasks such as inbound contracts, RFPs, fund fact sheets, etc. 

“Coming to the real-world problems of operations, it’s very simple… intelligent behavior is more about simple situational understanding than complex reasoning,” he said. “It’s really important to have contextual awareness of the problem you’re trying to solve.… Intelligent solutions are more about simple, situational problem-solving as opposed to implementing very complex logic.”

Three: Human-in-the-loop democratizes AI

For all the potential value AI can unlock, it won’t amount to anything if it isn’t embraced by the people it’s designed to help.

“How do you enable effective human-and-AI interaction, and when do you have a human feedback loop so the system constantly learns?” Satish mused. “What is the automation, what is the business workflow, and at which point in the workflow do AI tools come in and help? AI tools need to be embedded into the human workflow.”

“Take out the repetitive work and leave the cognitive work to the subject matter expert,” said Harald Collet, Alkymi CEO. That’s the partnership between humans and AI that is the recipe for freeing up the next level of productive automation.

Freeing experts to focus on what they do best

AI’s most valuable contribution to changing how work gets done in the enterprise has less to do with the AI technology and much more to do with how employees experience it in their workflow. An effective AI solution automates away the inefficient parts of work, simply, in harmony with the employees, delivering transformational change.     

“When the data is important, you want to gracefully involve the employees to assist AI on harder tasks,” noted Harald. “We see Alkymi as the co-pilot for the subject-matter expert.”

To learn how Alkymi can make your workflows flow better, request a demo.