Do you remember when “The Cloud” was new? Or, at least the first time you’d heard about it? I can’t tell you the exact first time I heard about the cloud, but I do remember the first time that I realized how important it was.
Ginni Rometty is a hero of mine. She is tough as nails and her ability to simplify complex technologies into actionable advice is a skill that everyone in tech should copy – plus her “Devil Wears Prada” level pantsuits are pretty cool, too. About ten years ago, Mrs. Rometty went on a media tour to evangelize the cloud and the impact that it would have on all of our lives. Before I heard Ginni’s talk, it felt like “This is 40,” when Leslie Apatow says to Paul Rudd’s character, “Where do my photos go? What is the cloud? I don’t know!” Eight years later, most everyone knows it is simply someone else’s computer. By storing your data on “someone else’s computer,” which really just means in a held away data center, you can log on to most any device of your own to retrieve data whenever you need it. Gone are the days where you could blame the printer or even the “virtual network” for not being able to print your homework or TPS reports.
The Path Seems Familiar
The use of Artificial intelligence (AI) in business and daily life for that matter, is on the same type of path and trajectory. Many better understand the technology and have accepted its role and growing impact. Those who don’t understand, and even those who when asked will say they don’t like it, are interacting with AI in their daily lives and they don’t even realize it. This is why AI has the potential to have an even bigger impact than the cloud.
Right now, IBM, along with Microsoft and Google, are on the same type of speaking tours that I mentioned above, but this time for AI. On these “tours” (currently held via Zoom from the comfort of the exec’s home offices), they discuss how AI calls upon some of the other hot topics from conference stages of recent years like big data, the cloud, digital CX and commerce. Because of AI’s natural connection to these areas and its abilities in many others, AI’s net societal impact, as well as its commercial impact, will be bigger than all of these. Want some bottom line proof? The public cloud market is approaching one quarter of a trillion dollars this year¹ and AI is experiencing a similar CAGR when you compare it to the cloud’s maturity from ten years ago. You could pay for a research report on AI’s growth, but why do that when the big technology players have already identified the size of the market opportunity and are allocating big marketing budgets to it?
AI is All Around Us – Whether You Realize it or Not
We’ve established the commercial case, but now let’s take a look at something in daily life that is a hot topic right now – TikTok. Controversy about their pending sale aside, why did this app become such a juggernaut seemingly overnight? TikTok does something really well – they leverage AI to drive a great user experience and make powerful recommendations of relevant content. They’re not the only ones in social media or the app world doing so. And as I said earlier, users have either accepted this or don’t even realize how their experience is being driven by AI.
Elsewhere in tech, Google and Amazon are embroiled in negotiations around cloud contracts for the U.S. Government. You have to imagine that large public sector AI contracts are close to follow and it is telling that these large public sector contracts for the cloud are happening now, close to ten years after Mrs. Rometty’s speaking tour. So, once AI has claimed its space in government operations, the circle will be closed on its impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.
Driving the Next Wave of Digital Banking
So, “what does any of this have to do with financial services” you ask? In financial services, automation is so embedded in both back office and customer-facing operations that a human would have a hard-to-impossible time deciphering the system. From a customer’s standpoint, think about the role that the cloud has played in the digital banking experience. It began when banking moved from on premise systems into the cloud. Now, banking relies on cloud systems to show your balance as the same number across any internet connected device. This then grew to dozens of other digitally-automated capabilities and spawned the mobile banking app as we know it today.
And you guessed it – AI has found its place in digital banking and is at the forefront of the evolution of the digital banking experience. What began as robot process automation for back office work, customer facing AI-powered banking solutions, in the form of Virtual Financial Assistants, are driving the next wave of customer engagement and operational efficiency for financial institutions of all sizes.
It’s ok to have your head in the clouds, so long as you’re thinking about AI.