With an initial investment of S$10 million over three years, OCBC Bank is the first bank in Singapore to establish an AI unit to strategically develop in-house AI capabilities.
OCBC Bank recently announced
that it will adopt an AI-first strategy in developing digital capabilities. With an initial
investment of S$10 million over three years, the pioneering team of three data
scientists will drive the adoption of AI across banking services such as wealth
advisory and loans financing.
The goal is to deliver greater value to customers by giving
them access to banking services through natural user interfaces that are seamless
and convenient, as well as targeted and tailored products and services that are
contextually relevant, driven by machine learning.
The AI unit sits within the Open Vault at OCBC (TOV), OCBC
Bank’s Fintech and Innovation Group, and is named AI Lab@TOV. The AI unit will
serve as a test bed for all new AI technologies and will demonstrate the
feasibility of new technology before it is integrated into the bank’s existing
Leveraging OCBC Bank’s data sandbox and application
programme interfaces (APIs) to experiment with real-life anonymous customer
data in a secure environment, the unit will generate proofs-of-concept that can
be rapidly tested.
AI Lab@TOV aims to double its headcount within a year to
manage the surge in AI technologies that the bank plans to implement.
“With the set-up of our very own AI lab, we are able to
experiment for the first time with deep learning neural networks and graphics
processing units, which are heavily used in the gaming industry and hardly used
in banking. This is an exciting new space to be in, especially for banking, and
we welcome talent who have the passion to develop something new and fresh for
the industry,” said Head of AI Lab@TOV Mr Ken Wong.
According to Mr Pranav Seth, Head of E-Business, Business
Transformation and Fintech and Innovation Group, AI is going to redefine all
aspects of banking – from the way bank interacts with customers digitally, to
the way it helps them make faster and better financial decisions.
Since 2016, OCBC Bank has been leveraging AI to increase
operational efficiency and derive new revenue streams. It launched the
AI-powered chatbot Emma which was developed with Fintech startup Cognicor to
respond to customers’ queries on home and renovation loans. Last year, it also
partnered a fintech firm to use its AI solution to identify potential
suspicious transactions. The solution has reduced the volume of transactions
reviewed by anti-money laundering compliance analysts by 35% and increased the
accuracy rate of identifying suspicious transactions by more than four times.
Leveraging new AI technologies
AI Lab@TOV is experimenting with natural language and speech
processing technologies. Leveraging on research and technology from the Agency
for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), AI Lab@TOV is developing AI
technology that can recognise and understand local accents accurately, such as
the Singaporean accent.
If successful, the technology could be used to create
chatbot services that can respond to customers using voice messaging. This solution
could also enable customers to fill in banking forms digitally simply by having
a phone conversation with their relationship manager.
AI Lab@TOV will also work with Amazon Web Services (AWS)
DeepLens, the world’s first deep learning video camera for developers. Deep
learning is a machine learning technique that uses neural networks to learn and
make predictions. Supported by AWS Professional Services consulting and
training, this AI technology will provide a more personalised experience to
OCBC customers by leveraging facial recognition technology, and could be
deployed at OCBC Bank branches or ATMs.
Developing AI talent
In addition to hiring data science talents with AI
expertise, the AI Lab@TOV will serve as a specialised training centre to
further develop the data science skills of data analysts and technologists
within the bank.
Through specialised workshops run by AI Lab@TOV, OCBC Bank
data analysts and technologists will learn AI modelling and predictive machine
learning, which are core skills in employing AI.
Internal hackathons will also be organised to extract new
ideas from OCBC Bank employees across different banking divisions on the use of
AI for various aspects of banking. This will propagate the use of AI in even
more banking products and services outside this AI unit.
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