Dr. Dorian Selz, CEO, Squirro
How are you involved with the financial services industry?
The company that I co-founded is Squirro, an augmented intelligence solutions provider that works with many firms in insurance, asset management, investment banking and other areas of FS. Our customers include brands such as Investec, ING and Helvetia and we have offices in the US, Asia and Europe, so we are fully understanding of the challenges faced by FS firms at a global level.
What are the main challenges, as you see them?
Since the crisis of 2008, the financial sector has faced a really tough time. It has to manage ever-growing volumes of complex regulatory requirements, it has seen the rise of more agile and nimble financial start-ups, offering a whole array of different products and services, which has meant that traditional corporate FS providers have found their position under threat.
It is also an industry that is fast-paced and relationship-driven. To source and win new business those that work in FS must be able to stay on top of industry trends (and how those trends relate to clients), be aware of what their clients’ priorities are and be able to identify potential deals and opportunities before their competitors do. Lead generation has never been more important and it has never been as competitive as it is now.
What’s the key to addressing these challenges?
When I started Squirro five years ago it was based on a simple insight: Most companies have unbelievable amounts of data with which they do next to nothing. This represents a treasure-trove of opportunity.
The reason for this discrepancy between data holdings and getting data to be put to use is the fact that most data sets are unstructured, siloed in various applications and ever changing. Get companies to be doing more with this data and you have a great company in the making.
In FS (and indeed other sectors), there is more data available on clients than at any previous time in history, and using the right tools, that data contains rich insight as to what those clients are interested in, how they would like to be approached and what market opportunities are likely to emerge.
But many FS firms are not capitalising on the available insight and are unable to truly understand their customers, so they miss opportunities and the bottom line is affected.
What do you mean by unstructured data, and what is the potential of this data?
Unstructured is a clumsy term. It denotes the fact that data sets such as call notes, email, news, research, premium external data source, are – from a computational perspective – difficult to make sense of.
Computers can work with structured data sets only. Yet 80% plus of all data is of the unstructured kind. That is where the potential is.
How does Squirro leverage AI to provide customer insights?
We use a multitude of AI methods to bring structure to unstructured data. Pattern detection, supervised and unsupervised machine learning help us to transform unstructured data sets into computable data. Out of this data, we infer actionable insights that we deliver to end users in the context of their workplace.
Why is insight so important?
Insight is of the highest importance for any business in 2018 and beyond. FS customers expect to be delighted and amazed on a regular basis and any business that does not do so will see their customers finding other providers that do. To become such a customer-obsessed organisation, one that puts the customer experience at the core of everything it does, insight into those customers is essential.
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year about a rumoured Amazon move into retail banking. Amazon has no track record in FS, but it’s not hard to imagine how it might make a success of such a move. It’s a company that has placed customer experience central to everything it does and applying that to a different sector such as banking doesn’t feel like a huge leap.
How can businesses act on the insights that Squirro helps them with?
The data insight generated by augmented intelligence can help FS firms greatly with their lead generation, not only identifying opportunities for clients but recommending the best product or solution for them.
Augmented intelligence solutions will look at data on competitors, partners and markets and identify catalysts that provide additional upsell or cross-sell opportunities to existing clients, and fresh approaches to prospective clients. In a competitive FS world, this is of the highest value.
What does the future look like for AI in banking?
AI – or artificial intelligence – is a powerful technology but augmented intelligence is where the real opportunity is for transformation in banking. Augmented intelligence builds on artificial intelligence, by enhancing human input and intelligence to create something infinitely more powerful, essentially people and machines working together.
This partnership will address deep but specific challenges within banking and provide insight and recommendations with reasons and with learning.