?ME exploring artificial intelligence

Big four banks challenger, ME, will explore artificial intelligence technologies this year to build on its existing automated decision-making capabilities and further streamline how it deals with more than 365,000 customers.

ME’s IT chief Mark Gay told CIO Australia that the online bank is focusing on making better use of its data to help ‘put the customer at the centre of everything we do.' Nailing customer experience is something financial technology (fintech) organisations have done well and they pose a threat to the banking sector, he said.

“It sounds like a simple statement but getting our bank to design everything in a digital branch from the way a customer would want to interact and use things is a big challenge,” Gay said. “A simple example is ‘how do we get a 60-page mortgage contract down to one page’ because, trust me, the customer does not read 60 pages.”

“From a technology point of view, it really comes down to better use of data in the organisation,” he said. “As we automate more and more, we require data and it’s about, ‘how do we use artificial intelligence to take a step higher than automation, how do we use robotics to further drive productivity across the organisation?’

Gay said the bank would be feeding data into the Microsoft Analytics Platform System, a big data analytics appliance that it purchased last year to gain further insights. ME regularly purchases evaluation, credit and behavioural data to help automate decision-making.

Gay said that while four other companies have adopted the appliance, ME is in the only one that has it in production.

“We use that [data] to make better decisions today and we are exploring how to take that to the next level from automation to artificial intelligence. AI will help us be more pre-emptive and responsive to customer requirements.

“Customers don’t come to a bank because they want to deal with a bank, they come to a bank because they want to buy a house for example. I think as banks we fall into this trap [of thinking] that customers come to us because they really enjoy dealing with us and that’s just bullshit – they deal with us because they have to.”

ME needs to take that viewpoint on board and use artificial intelligence to make the process easier for customers, he said.

“We are working through use cases [for AI]. We have a hypothesis around that – what are the data feeds that are out there and how could we potentially use it?

“One example – which is probably not artificial intelligence, it’s more analytics is – ‘how do we understand, based on data, what are our customers spending habits? How do we understand more about where they are in their lifecycle and pro-actively support them through that?

ME is owned by a consortium of superannuation funds and can use customer information to predict where people are in their lives.

“For example if they are about to pay their mortgage off, we can suggest that they divert their mortgage payment into their super because they are probably at that cycle of their life.

“That’s more of an analytics kind of thing but it gives of sense of how we are trying to flick the thinking of the bank around to ... drive more benefits for them [customers].”

A nebulous term

AI can be quite a nebulous term and despite seeing its obvious potential, ME is still building out use cases for its adoption, said Gay.

“When I hear people talk about artificial intelligence they say, ‘that’s just kind of analytics and decisioning.’ To me, decisioning is building a decision matrix off a set of data – there’s nothing artificial about that … the logic is created by us. It’s about how we take it to the next level and create that thought process around it.”

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