Why We Are Deploying Artificial Intelligence In Our Operations, Services – Wigwe, Access Bank CEO
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By Rommy IMAH
Herbert Wigwe, Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc has said that banks are enjoying the current ride of improvement and scalability that technology provides, warning though that the current situation will be nothing compared to what technology will do, not only to the banking industry but to Nigeria’s economy as a whole, in the next 50 years or thereabouts.
Speaking at the Access Bank sponsored Africa Fintech Foundry, AFF Disrupt Conference 2019, held in Lagos on Thursday, Wigwe said the world is today experiencing the fourth industrial revolution which uses the ‘Internet of Things’, and Cloud Technology to automate processes, noting that this has enabled financial service providers to increase their digital offerings for customers so they can conduct banking transactions on mobile phones, the Internet, and at the ATM.
Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) is a pan-African accelerator aimed at inspiring, training, mentoring, and investing funding into growth stage technology startups operating primarily in the Fintech space.
Wigwe stated that technology-driven financial institutions will disrupt traditionally-run banks by taking advantage of any inherent weaknesses in their business models by offering better value propositions to their customers.
Themed: “Digital Gold Rush: Building A Sustainable Tech-Economy,” the AFF Disrupt Conference 2019 was aimed at brainstorming these weaknesses and uncover opportunities in banks’ current business models that technology will help to solve.
Recalling what Nigerian banks were before the emergence of disruptive technologies, Wigwe said, “Some 30-40 years ago, bank tellers used adding machines to check the addition of bank deposits. Then, they used ledger cards, posted nightly, to keep track of account transactions and balances.
“That was the period that if you needed cash or you needed to make a deposit, you visited your bank and hoped there wasn’t a long line of people waiting to do the same thing. Those were the days of “tally numbers” when, on your way to work, you had to stop by the banks then to pick up your “tally number”, and return during lunch break to carry out your basic cash transaction.”
Wigwe said this could sound so ancient now, but that was the life of Nigerians then, adding that the reality today, however, is that Nigeria like other parts of the world, is witnessing faster technological change than ever before in world history.
“With the prolific opportunities digital banking brings, Banks are now competing on the nature of innovation that can provide solutions, handle and predict customer behaviour in an incredible fast manner.
“Even though Banking has come this far, the future holds a lot more than what the past has ever held. Leveraging such technology, as artificial intelligence and utilizing data analytics is imperative if Banks and Fintechs are to remain competitive. Today, becoming an intelligent bank is not an option, it’s a necessity,” the bank CEO said.
While acknowledging that technology is redefining the way banks operate, the Access Bank CEO said Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Virtual Reality, Cryptocurrency have all brought enormous opportunities for banks to significantly improve the way customers access and manage finances.
“Thanks to automation technology, Banks and Fintechs are able to grant credit in seconds! Artificial Intelligence reviews legal documents. A manual review of 12,000 documents use to take 360,000 hours, but today, this can be done in seconds using Artificial intelligence!
“Blockchain can be used to execute smart contracts, eliminating manual costs of transactions! Robotics technology is used to serve customers in Banks. Only one decade ago, we could not have imagined such advances.
“And there is so much that can be done with Data. Big Data Analytics helps an intelligent bank understand its customers. This data categorises customers and analyses their behaviour and needs. Such understanding improves product development and enables effective cross and up-selling.
“Cloud Technology has also been a game-changer for Banks. It reduces server and infrastructure costs which is most appreciated in a country like Nigeria, where power generation is expensive, and its availability is not usually guaranteed. It enables the delivery of work from any location, where programmers can be based in multiple countries yet be working on the same project,” he noted.
On the place of the social media in banking business, Wigwe stated that Intelligent Banks are able to consider the impact of having an active online presence and social media for their business, and can now target social media for specific advertising, ensuring they provide the right product and content to the right customer instead of marketing all products to all customers.
“In this sense, banking has become much more tailored and personal. Intelligent Banks partner with critical stakeholders to expand the frontiers of their business. For example, the opportunities that exist from partnering with Fintech’s are enormous.
“Imagine instant cross-country payments between businesses who do not necessarily have a presence in those countries. Imagine third parties connecting to API’s to open accounts and making instant international payments. And partnering with Fintechs offers Banks an opportunity to earn revenue from transaction sharing.”
He said Access Bank was aware that Artificial Intelligence is the new path in Banking, offering ongoing opportunities to enhance convenience for its customers.
According to him, “We are in constant pursuit of being the best possible Intelligent Bank. Our applications of intelligent banking range from the review of legal documents, to conversing digitally with our customers.
“What about applying for a loan and receiving disbursement instantly! What about paying bills from the comfort of your sofa! Or making bank transfers instantly using your web device, knowing your account balance instantly, accessing statements and locating branches by chatting with a BOT.”
Brett King, futurist, author and Chief Executive Officer of Moven UK in a keynote address titled: “It is the technology that changes the world, it is the dreams behind the technology,”said by 2025, there will be more robots than human beings, and advised that human beings should begin to learn how to be nice to robots.
He hailed Nigeria’s financial services sector, admitting that the country has more modern payment platforms more than the United States and foresees a brighter future for Nigeria’s Fintech and financial services industry.
While warning that technology is moving much faster than it used to be, King asked banks to brace up for more disruptions as these will be central to the survivability of the financial services sector especially with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
The Conference featured Panel Discussions, Fireside Chat, Demo & Live Presentations, and Masterclasses.