Practice Management

What advisers can learn from the industry's early AI leaders

Deloitte report finds frontrunners think very differently about the use of artificial intelligence

Aug 13, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Financial services firms will have to fundamentally reconsider how humans and machines interact, both within their firms and with customers, if they want to take advantage of artificial intelligence technology, according to a new report from the Deloitte Center for Financial Services.

Deloitte surveyed executives at 206 U.S. financial services firms to discover what early leaders in AI have done to successfully adopt the technology.

The frontrunners are doing a better job integrating AI into the firm's strategic objectives and using AI to improve revenue and the client experience, the report said. Firms lagging are instead more likely to view AI as a means to cut costs or hit productivity targets.

[Recommended video: Biggest changes advisers should make to be successful in the future]

Unsurprisingly, the frontrunners also are investing more heavily in AI and accelerating their spending at a higher rate. Half of AI leaders have invested more than $5 million in AI, and 70% plan to increase those investments by 10% or more in the next fiscal year.

For firms just getting started, Deloitte recommends building a long-term vision that embeds AI into strategic initiatives across the company. For example, many of the AI frontrunners have business groups dedicated to AI and a comprehensive, firm-wide strategy for how various departments were to adopt AI.

"Rather than taking a siloed approach and having to reinvent the wheel with each new initiative, financial services executives should consider deploying AI tools systematically across their organizations, encompassing every business process and function," the report said.

Deloitte also recommends implementing measures to track how AI impacts the bottom line and adding adoption of technology to sales and performance targets.

(More: Financial firms need to standardize data so fintechs can build next-generation software)

The study also found that most AI leaders aren't just using one technology solution. Many are taking a portfolio approach to AI — acquiring some technology, developing others and tapping into crowdsourced development communities.

"Identifying the appropriate AI technology approach for a specific business process and then combining them could lead to better outcomes," Deloitte said in its report.

For example, American Fidelity Assurance, a health and life insurance company, found robotic process automation to be a good fit for automatically sending emails to the correct department, but that technology couldn't identify departments based on the message's subject or keywords. The team turned to a third-party machine learning vendor to quickly resolve the issue.

(More: Is artificial intelligence the next bitcoin?)

To get a new AI program off to a successful start, the report said firms should be bold in their vision, generate confidence from management with early success with easily achievable projects, emphasize organization-wide implementation of the technology and adopt governance structures (such as cybersecurity and compliance) to scale along with AI.

Advisory firms were included in the study, however, Deloitte would not specify which firms.

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