AI Is the Answer to Regulatory Uncertainty

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A change in political leadership with Donald Trump's presidential victory and GOP control of Congress has raised expectation of policy shifts that could affect the regulatory compliance process. The incoming administration is promising to work to "dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation."

This scenario would have plusses and minuses. On one hand, bank stocks are on the rise because of Trump's promise to lessen regulation. On the other hand, a complete dismantling of Dodd-Frank would mean that banks would have to overhaul the compliance processes that they have spent billions of dollars to put in place over the past six years. Manually, this would be a daunting task. But yet another revamping of regulatory system would also be coinciding with the rise of cognitive computing technology.

About a year and a half ago, I predicted that supercomputer IBM Watson may change everything. At the time, the financial services industry was in the early stages of adapting artificial intelligence. In those days, USAA had begun using Watson to help military families financially transition to civilian life, and UBS was using artificial technology from Sqreem Technologies to sort through wealth management customer data.

I was correct, but more than I realized at the time. I am still surprised at the lightning fast speed at which Watson and other AI technologies are changing everything — a trend that will only continue.

In November, IBM announced that it was acquiring a risk management and regulatory compliance consulting firm, Promontory Financial Group, to train Watson. A better trained Watson means that banks can use IBM's regulatory compliance analytics to react to changing regulations more quickly and less expensively than in the past. For example, bank compliance officers can use those analytics to track new regulations and rationalize controls so banks can dedicate compliance staff appropriately, thus helping banks reduce compliance costs and the time it takes to respond to regulators' questions.

AI also has benefits for customer service. Earlier this year, the Royal Bank of Scotland implemented a trial in which staff used AI, named "Luvo," to help answer customer service questions, for instance. Luvo, which understands the ways that human beings ask questions, can quickly sort through huge amounts of information before it answers in a human-like fashion, much how Watson was able to play Jeopardy. Due to this capability, Luvo can answer common questions while leaving staff's brainpower to handle more complex questions.

However, notice that in each of the banking adoptions of AI mentioned above, there is always a human element. Intelligent computers taking away our jobs (and taking over the world) may be the plotline of science fiction movies, but in reality banks will always need flesh-and-blood staff to handle bank compliance and customer service needs. If you doubt this, just consider the troubleshooting programs companies like Apple or Microsoft offer on your computer or smartphone. Yes, these apps can help you figure out how to change a setting, but you still have to call customer support or take a trip to the Apple or Microsoft store for the really difficult questions. In other words, troubleshooting apps help save consumers time and money, but they also free personnel's time to work on what really needs their attention.

It is much the same with banks' use of AI. Do compliance officers really need to spend their time reading pages and pages of new regulatory policies? Absolutely not. What a waste of their time and, by extension, their employers' money. Instead, compliance officers can use AI's cognitive capabilities to highlight the sections that they should read in addition to using AI to pinpoint what divisions will be affected by each aspect of regulation.

So here's another prediction: In the face of regulatory uncertainty, AI will become bank compliance officers' best friend.

April Rudin is chief executive and founder of the Rudin Group, a wealth marketing firm. She can be reached @TheRudinGroup.

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