Jochen Werne, Director Marketing & Business Development at Bankhaus August Lenz, explains in his keynote address how we can shape the future from the innovations and topics of the past and why digitization must be thought of not only technologically but also culturally.
Jochen Werne, Direktor Marketing & Business Development beim Bankhaus August Lenz, erläutert in seiner Keynote, wie wir aus den Innovationen und Themen der Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart die Zukunft gestalten können und warum Digitalisierung nicht nur technologisch, sondern auch kulturell gedacht werden muss.
Artificial intelligence is the new buzz word of the financial industry, says Jochen Werne. In view of the rapid pace of technological development it is becoming a source of hope for the banks – and rightly so, writes the author. After all, banks have an enormous amount of data at their disposal. Despite all the digitalisation and areas of application of AI, Werne sees the chance for a renaissance of consulting as a link between people and the technical world. Red. Bank und Markt
German: Künstliche Intelligenz ist das neue Buzz-Wort der Finanzbranche, sagt Jochen Werne. Angesichts der rasanten technologischen Entwicklung wird sie zum Hoffnungsträger für die Banken – zu Recht, meint der Autor. Schließlich verfügen Banken über einen enormen Datenschatz. Trotz aller Digitalisierung und Einsatzbereiche von KI sieht Werne jedoch die Chance auf eine Renaissance der Beratung als Bindeglied zwischen Mensch und technisierter Welt. Red.
AI is making its way into every industry, but banks, insurance companies and FinTechs in particular are seeing a renaissance for their data-based business models in disruptive times. Jochen Werne, director and head of the innovation team at Munich-based private bank Bankhaus August Lenz, explains the role that the human factor will play in banking and consulting in the future.
Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) have long seen artificial intelligence as the technology of the future. Banks and insurance companies also see the potential in machine and deep learning approaches to be a relevant player in the future in an increasingly technology-driven market environment. After “FinTech”, “Blockchain” and “Crypto-currencies”, “AI” is the new buzzword of the industry. From the AI-optimized chatbot to highly complex, self-learning, investment algorithms – the omnipresence of the term suggests that the integration of Artificial Intelligence into one’s own business model seems to be virtually necessary for survival. But is that really the case, where do we stand and which factors cannot be replaced by technology?
What becomes possible in times of exponential technologies is de facto nothing less than a revolution. The financial industry holds a vast amount of valuable and already processed data. Not only do they reflect our daily and extremely private life, from buying tickets for the subway via apps to the preference of our garments – but they reflect also the payment flows of entire companies and industries, and therefor our entire economy. Maturing AI systems not only make it easier to prepare and process this data, they also make it much cheaper, faster and more targeted. AI will not only enable banks to make their services more customer centric, it will also transform most areas of the financial industry – from asset management to business operations and money laundering prevention to marketing.
Data protection has top priority
Every major technological leap has historically been accompanied by a positive and an abusively usable development. TIME magazine recently published an article by Apple CEO Tim Cook entitled “It’s time for action on privacy. We all deserve control over our digital life”. Every electronic transaction generates customer-specific data. These structured data sets, which have been collected for many years, are now becoming the most valuable raw material. It’s important to create meaningful use-cases especially when it comes to the enrichment of existing structured data sets with external, possibly unstructured data. However, this is exactly where the risk lies. If sensitive data falls into the wrong hands and is deliberately misused, cyber attacks can cause considerable damage to individuals and groups. Trust is and remains therefore one of the most important assets of a credit institution or financial service provider. Consequently, the protection of customer data in a digital banking world has absolute priority today more than ever before. When using AI technology, it is therefore essential to use private and sensitive data in the interests of the customer. And this is where not only IT and cyber security departments of banks come into play, but also politics: their primary task must be to find meaningful solutions for handling the effects of the use of AI on society, the economy and thus on our lifes and the work of tomorrow. And this without endangering the competitiveness of our own country. The fact that this topic is taken seriously is evident not only in national initiatives such as the German Platform for Artificial Intelligence “Lernende Systeme”, but also, for example, in the European Artificial Intelligence shoulder-to-shoulder approach, which is being pushed forward at full speed by France and Germany.
The ideal model for private customer business: Connection of AI and human-based advise
In order to advance the acceptance of AI in the financial sector, it is important that existing digital tools are even better adapted to customer needs. The successful symbiosis between people and digital technology is indispensable. With the help of online financial forums, banking apps, vlogs and digital industry comparisons, private individuals can now achieve basically the same level of knowledge as financial professionals, but what is usually lacking is the successful filtering of the “information overload” and the consideration of the behavioral finance problem.
A realistic model for the successful transformation of the financial sector is therefore quite simple: streamline business models and processes, use data efficiently and always place the needs of customers at the centre of all activities. Taking advantage from technological progress always comes with successful deployment scenarios. Consequently, the technological revolution associated with the use of AI systems can only succeed if it is accepted by society – meaning, by us humans.
There is no lack of buzzwording when it comes to trends in the financial sector: Disruption, FinTech, block chain, crypto. Currently, another term is climbing the zenith of a media hype – platform banking. And not without good reason. “Platform Banking” was voted “Financial Word of the Year” in 2018. Behind this lies the call for banking institutions to open up to third-party providers. Banks and savings banks should not only offer their own services on open platforms, but should also integrate third-party offers and services. Consistently thought through to the end, banks will thus become more intermediaries for all possible services and less providers of their own financial services. The legally necessary prerequisites for such an approach in the strictly regulated financial market have already been set in motion by the adoption of the Payment Services Directive PSD2. Will platform banking become a new hope for the industry, or another risk component in the attempt to lose fewer customers to new technology competitors?
The hype surrounding the topic is understandable: Eight of the ten world’s most valuable companies – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Co. – have a platform in their business model. And even more striking: Only one of these companies was already among the top 10 worldwide in 2008. This growth potential, which is the result of the platform expansion, is of course intended by many industries to benefit themselves. The world of finance is also changing rapidly. In recent years, a variety of innovative developments have taken place in the areas of payment transactions and payments. The arrival of third party providers and fintechs has changed the market sustainably and comprehensively. According to a recent whitepaper by Deloitte Consulting, banks will also have to consider a platform strategy in the future: In the future, the customer base will also be able to access products and services from third-party providers in addition to the existing offering. The long-term goal behind this is well known – to retain existing customers, acquire new ones and increase margins.
Platform as recipe for success?
In general, a platform can be seen as a place where supply and demand meet. Economists call such a market – not a new discovery. Due to the digitization of all areas of business and life, geographical boundaries of the marketplaces belong to the past. The result: an almost unlimited number of supply and demand meet on a digital platform – and competition is known to stimulate business. In these business models, the so-called “network effect” ensures that with each new provider on a platform, the incentive for demanders and customers also increases. And in general the more demanders there are on the platform, the more lucrative it becomes for the suppliers. Both sides save enormous search and time efforts and transaction costs are reduced. In short, reflects this the recipe for success behind industry giants such as Amazon, AirBnB, Uber and Co. Nevertheless, there are existing fundamental reservations. The desire of many bank managers to grab a straw in order to grasp a component of hope in a difficult market environment seems understandable. However, blind action is fatal in this situation. Banks must not forget what the emergence of competition in the form of FinTechs has already revealed: frightening weaknesses with regard to their own modern hardware and software solutions, organisation and innovative corporate culture. The fact is that the challenge facing change management is proving to be enormous. And this already now, without having given space to the idea of creating a single platform. The current wave of closing down banking or partnership-based Robo Advisor solutions shows how quickly these carriers of hope can become problems. The commission model behind this, which is always transparent and low priced, is hardly profitable for the banking infrastructure and marginalises the added value that an institution is able to provide for its customers.
The complexity of the changes on all levels, starting with the completely changed, technological possibilities and their effects on the transformation of long-established business models, over the resulting new economic situation of the enterprises are enormous. The difference to the past decades lies in the temporal component. If companies today do not react directly to market changes, they open the way for competitors to their own customers. And this faster than ever before. In such disruptive times, all those involved want an “efficient” change process. However, active, well-considered and vital change management is often criminally neglected. For this one opens door and gate to blind actionism.
The business model of a financial platform is complex, the regulatory framework is strict and the willingness of customers to switch is only slightly visible. For this reason, this business model has so far been too uninteresting for Internet groups. And now, of all things, the banks, often perceived as conservative and unmodern, are to be transformed into digital platforms that can compete with Amazon & Co?
Enormous change management challenge
Banks need a forward-looking and sustainable strategy. That is beyond question. At the latest since the massive “democratization” of the Internet at the end of the 1990s, our lives have been shaped by leaps in technology. In short, the world feels like it is turning faster than ever before. What does this mean for the banks of the 21st century? Anyone who does not understand this exponential dynamic of technical possibilities or does not take them sufficiently into account in his business model can quickly lose touch – with the customers of today and tomorrow. Open banking is both an opportunity and a technological challenge for the banking industry. The European Payment Service Directive 2 – or PSD2 for short – has inevitably made opening up to third parties the focus of the digital strategy.
At the technical level, this is primarily associated with the use of programming interfaces, so-called APIs, which enable both internal and external cost-effective and fast access to data, as well as functions of software applications. What provides the end customer with a cross-product customer experience, means for banks to strategically cooperate with external partners. For FinTechs, cooperation is also advantageous. It creates fast access to customers and their data, as well as to the necessary financial and structural prerequisites.
Anticipating these developments requires a good eye for tomorrow’s customers. After all, customer data is a success driver for future business models. A few years ago, FinTechs began to “poach” their digital offerings among the customer base of traditional institutes. All of this culminated in Robo-Advisors, standardized, computer-controlled asset managers with low fees. It was therefore time for the banks to set sail anew. The plan was to enter into symbioses with FinTechs or “buy” their products directly into their own portfolios. For many large banks, it has become good form to enter into cooperation with small, independent and innovative financial service providers. This is also clearly demonstrated by the current situation of FinTechs. Mergers and co-operation are nothing else than a proof for the fact that the search for sustainable business models is not easy with a fixed idea to solve, not even with the platform strategy. Nevertheless, neither the previous business models nor the product possibilities seem to be mature.
Don’t forget the human factor
The personal relationship, the touchpoint between customer and consultant in the real world, has been increasingly reduced by the acceptance of digital banking. Nevertheless, even if a digital experience is a good thing for a modern bank, consumers continue to appreciate human contact points – especially in economically or politically turbulent times.
This is precisely the added value that banks can really deliver in this environment today. And this without having to rely on the healing promises of platform banking. Be a guide in the digital jungle and protect customers from ill-considered gut decisions. In addition, it is important to include the customer’s background, apart from monetary issues, in the decision-making process. This usually requires a counterpart. Not a digital one, but a human one. A person of heart and soul who generates trust and can provide a place for personal encounter. Today, it is the customer alone who determines where this is located and what it should look like. The same goes for when this meeting takes place. The modern customer expects the best possible service regardless of space and time, not only in view of the phenomenon of digital gadgets.
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Artificial intelligence is finding its way into the highly regulated world of banking. And not only GAFA Silicon Valley high-tech companies see it as the technology of the future, but also FinTechs and established banks. How it came to this, what possibilities and limits there are at the moment and why humans will remain irreplaceable not only when it comes to money – the commentary
by Jochen Werne, innovation and transformation expert Munich private bank Bankhaus August Lenz
Original published in German in the IT-Finanzmagazin (31 July 2018). Translation by DeepL
After “FinTech”, “Blockchain” and “Crypto”, “AI” is the new buzzword in the banking world. Whether chatbots in the digital customer center or self-learning algorithms for highly complex investment strategies are being discussed – the omnipresence of the term suggests that the integration of artificial intelligence into one’s own business model seems to be virtually vital.
Artificial intelligence and big data are currently the strongest and most vibrant innovation trends in the financial sector …
… was also one of the guiding principles of Prof. Joachim Wuermeling, board member of the Deutsche Bundesbank, in his speech on “Artificial Intelligence” at the second annual FinTech and Digital Innovation Conference in February 2018 in Brussels.
The choice of the conference venue, which like rarely any other city combines both a belief in progress and a deeply rooted European tradition, can hardly be more symbolic of the forthcoming change. In fact, the topic is by no means new: the development towards an increased use of so-called non-human intelligence is based on approaches from the 1940s – with the invention of the first computers
Artificial intelligence: revolution as a reaction to mountains of data?
But what is now possible in times of exponential technologies is in fact nothing less than a revolution. The financial industry is sitting on a valuable mountain of data, the extent of which is currently difficult to estimate. The maturing AI systems would not only make the preparation and processing of this data easier, but also much more cost-effective, faster and more targeted. Data already collected could become the most valuable raw material and a resource due to the technological leaps in the field of AI, which, in combination with the enrichment of external, non-structured data, must be “usable” in a meaningful way.
The industry is asked to use private data in a sensitive way for the benefit of the customer, – a goal that should certainly apply to all AI-based approaches.
To find meaningful regulations for the handling and the effects of the use of AI on society, economy and thus on our life and the work of tomorrow is the task of politics. The fact that this topic is taken very seriously is evident not only in national initiatives such as the German Platform for Artificial Intelligence “Learning Systems”, but also in the European Artifical Intelligence shoulder-to-shoulder approach, which is being pushed forward by France and Germany.
“Digital hand holding” in the event of a financial crash is not enough
At present, it is still too early to say which operational areas of the financial world will sooner or later be supported – in part or even entirely – by the use of AI systems. However, the financial crises of the past have shown this time and again:
Trust is crucial when it comes to money. Trust in the markets, the banking system and the human contact as an intermediary in a complex issue”.
However, the banking industry knows very well from its own experience how easy it is to loose customer’s trust. An experience that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook recently also had to make in connection with the Cambridge-Analytica scandal. As with every new technology and every new approach, the same applies to the topic of “intelligent” systems: a lot of trust, coupled with half-knowledge and a big dash of emotionality results in a popular trend cocktail, which, however, bears a certain risk of headaches on the following day.
Jochen Werne is the authorized signatory responsible for Marketing, Business Development, Product Management, Treasury and Payment Services at Bankhaus August Lenz & Co. After two years as navigator of the sailing training ship ‘Gorch Fock’, the international marketing and banking specialist completed his studies as client coverage analyst at Bankers Trust Alex. Brown International and in Global Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank AG, he has worked on numerous projects in other European and American countries. In 2001, he joined Accenture as a Customer Relationship Management Expert in the Financial Services Division before joining Bankhaus August Lenz & Co. AG in Munich, where he has since been responsible for various areas of the institute. As part of the Innovation Leadership Team of the Mediolanum Banking Group, a member of the expert council of Management Circle and the IBM Banking Innovation Council, Jochen Werne is a keynote speaker at numerous banking and innovation conferences.
Author Jochen Werne – Original in German at Bank-Blog – Translation by DeepL
Banks have to become guides for investors
Financial blogs, online communities & Co.: The ubiquitous flood of information can be both a curse and a blessing for bank customers and investors. Today more than ever, banks and savings banks must be “guides” for their customers.
Anyone who wants to invest money today gets a flood of information about the net. Dedicated private investors worldwide can be almost as well informed as professionals, in case of interest and sufficient know-how and time. Never before in the history of mankind have so many people worldwide had so much information at their disposal. Whether prices in real time, the latest assessments by analysts or experts, key figures on a security in an industry comparison, the diversity of opinion in a community – all this is available around the clock.
How intensively and purposefully this offer is used is another question. It can be assumed that only a minority is so urgently concerned with their investment or can be so concerned at all. In addition, the situation of the decision-maker is adversely affected by two factors: the excessive amount of unfiltered information and the classic behavioral finance problem.
Coping with the abundance of data and big data
Alvin Toffler, who brought the term “information overload” to prominence in his bestseller “Future Shock” in 1970, described the phenomenon and its consequences as follows:
“Information overload occurs when the input quantity of a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have a fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Therefore, if information overload occurs, it is likely that a decrease in decision quality will occur.”
Consequently, it can be concluded that the wealth of information that accumulates every day can hardly be processed by a classic investor alone, let alone placed in the right context. In addition, there is an almost unmanageable and constantly growing mass of financial products for private customers. In short, a large proportion of investment decisions are therefore not made analytically correct, but spontaneously subjectively and emotionally, as the studies by Nobel Prize winners Kahneman and Tversky show.
Banks as a guide only for wealthy clients?
Clay Shirky, writer and consultant for Social and Economic Effects of Internet technologies and well-known in New Media circles, presented an interesting reflection on the problem of information overload:
„It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.“
This provides a great opportunity for traditional banks to position themselves as problem solvers for the investor. The alternative – at least for wealthy private clients – apart from filtering their own information mass, is dialogue with a competent expert. A person they trust – and trust to not only filter out from the wealth of data what is relevant to their needs, but also to protect them from the classic emotional mistakes of financial decisions in volatile markets.
Development of a new, adequate support concept for all bank customers
All those who do not belong to this clientele, and this is mostly the classic retail customer, have little more than to accept the zero interest rate on their accounts and short-term securities. According to Bundesbank statistics, the majority of Germans have invested their assets in these forms of investment. This makes the Federal Republic a leading nation in financial matters when it comes to missed opportunities, as can be read again and again in the Sunday editions of the major national daily newspapers.
Today more than ever, the function of bank and financial advisors must be to act as filters and guides for customers in the jungle, providing them with a flood of information. Because no algorithm, no digital advisory service can protect the investor from an ill-considered, intuitive and possibly wrong decision. For modern bank management, this means setting up a completely different support concept with cost-efficient consulting structures, a powerful and highly flexible team and the appropriate digital and mobile equipment.