In this week's budget, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that the government was bolstering its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by £1.1bn "supporting technologies of the future".
It marks an ongoing appreciation of the importance of AI to the business landscape, with the UK and EU both having made announcements earlier this year promising multi-billion pound investments into AI projects. The fact that Google CEO Sundar Pichai commented earlier this year that AI is more profound to humanity than electricity or fire gives some indication of just how significant AI is.
We recognise this significance in Jersey too. Jersey TechWeek last month provided a valuable opportunity for the financial services and digital communities to come together to discuss some of the cutting-edge innovations in the global fintech space during a dedicated Fintech Day. Alongside virtual currencies and ICOs, the opportunities and challenges posed by AI was, unsurprisingly, a hot topic.
With speakers at the event highlighting that up to 80% of banking transactions today are done digitally, there's clearly a real need for financial services businesses to be exploring ways in which technology can assist them in supporting customers and staff as business is increasingly conducted in a digital environment.
In Jersey, we're committed to a strategic vision that positions Jersey as the easiest jurisdiction to do business with remotely in a digital world. Some recent national coverage around Jersey's impressive 100% fibre connectivity is a case in point.
We understand that, used well, AI can enhance judgement, boost cost-effectiveness and create a better environment for smart interactions, engagement and communications. To that end, a number of firms here are already a long way down the track in embracing how AI can work for them.
For instance, AI 'bots' can take on some of the more repetitive processes that humans would otherwise have to fulfil, converting mundane tasks into quick, accurate automated activity. For example, red flagging if a bank account drops below a certain threshold; or filtering through mass data to produce client reports or inform investment decisions.
In addition, automated image, language and voice recognition platforms look set to revolutionise client onboarding. Enabling AI to undertake identification processes means that firms can be taking on new business from distance, more quickly and more accurately.
The potential of machine learning is significant too. Technology that has the capacity to pattern match data to identify trends and models could be transformative – not just in opening up opportunities for new business, but also in identifying unusual activity and fraud, such as 'smurfing', that might otherwise go undetected.
Much has been said about the risk to jobs as a result of AI, but the reality is that AI has actually been around for some time – you are probably already using AI in some capacity already. In fact, an OECD report published earlier this year suggested that fewer jobs are likely to be replaced by AI than has been previously suggested – it said that 12% of jobs in the UK and 10% in the US are at "high risk" of being automated over the following 20 years, far less than previously thought.
What Digital Jersey's Fintech Day this year really brought home was that yes, AI is set to transform our landscape in the way that Sundar, governments and many others predict, but it also served as a reminder that business is ultimately transacted between people, not bots.
And that whilst bots and automated processes can be useful, their primary added value is based in their ability to support human intelligence, not replace it.
In fact, we are seeing that AI in financial services has the ability to create new roles; for instance, roles that specialise in using AI process automation. Firms are investing not just in AI itself, but in training for staff with a view to creating a whole range of future-focussed roles that can complement and capture the upsides of AI and bring added value to a business that has not previously been possible.
Humans, for instance, are able to improvise and provide empathy, things that machines find hard to do. Chatbots can work well for general enquiries but often lack contextual understanding in engaging in emotive discussions around issues such as probate or fraud. Meanwhile, we believe that future value in financial services will continue to be relationship driven, something Jersey excels at.
That's why as a jurisdiction we are focussed both on providing an enabling environment for exciting digital innovations, whether that's in AI, cyber security or virtual currencies, and on supporting a world-leading workforce that embraces such innovations and their future potential.
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