What new possibilities arise for millions of people when AI, 5G, Cloud Computing, Distributed Ledger and Quantum Computing come together? This is the question the World Economic Forum asked of the financial services industry recently. In their report, Forging New Pathways: The next evolution of innovation in financial services new themes have emerged from the global thought-leadership forum.

“Financial services leaders are now thinking beyond using individual technologies in their businesses and instead examining the ways AI, IoT, 5G and/or quantum might be used together,” says Drew Propson, Financial Services Lead, World Economic Forum.
“There are new conversations, for example, around how AI and quantum might help solve some of today’s toughest problems in the capital markets, or how IoT, 5G, and AI could come together to redefine the way insurance is priced. By delving into these issues, we hope to offer insight into where the nexus of cutting-edge technologies can create new value for customers and business alike.”

Drew Propson, Head, Technology and Innovation in Financial Services, World Economic Forum

As a contributor and participant, the process is akin to a design-thinking session with the smartest and most experienced minds in the industry. The World Economic Forum further gathers this input across the globe to ensure a true synthesis of “the cutting edge” and near horizon opportunities.

Here are my key takeaways and impressions:

Emerging Trends:

  • Personalization at Scale — whether you’re one of 33 million SME business owners in the US, part of the underserved 75% of Americans without financial advice, or a financial services professional in a financial institution — there is general consensus that deeper personalization is the future.
  • Why? Personalization saves time by providing relevant information, it enables better services and products that are adopted and bought more readily, and it empowers faster and more effective decision making in business.
  • Real-time “10X Insights” — the ability to be armed with ultra high-quality insights gleaned from a combination of massively powerful cloud computing and AI will enable businesses and workforces to dramatically evolve, be more responsive to client needs and offer higher quality services.
  • Transportable Business Experience — the best thinking from the top performers in the firm can be codified, distributed via cloud computing and AI to empower new hires faster, and rapidly spread the most effective techniques and practices across the firm.
  • Instant On, Anywhere — with the 10x increases in bandwidth coming with 5G in late 2020, smart phones, iPads, laptops will become faster, quicker and seamless to interface with. The proliferation of automated insights in the workplace will super cede the need for manual review of datasets.
  • True mobility “Work from Anywhere” — with desktop class insights on your phone, on chip voice to text with ultra low latency, and flawless 4K video on every device — companies will be able to truly reconfigure how they do business — unleashed from the office and being closer to clients — digitally.

Enabling Technologies:

In order for these exciting new possibilities to fully take hold crucial changes need to take place:

Secure Data Sharing — to provide personalization and insights consumers need to trust that their data is secure and that they are in control of it. The same is true for large financial institutions. Financial institutions and international standards organizations and regulators will need to develop new standards around secure data sharing, including use cases and practical guidance.

Secret Computing — new encryption technologies such as “encryption in use” (also known as homomorphic encryption) enable data to be shared without revealing sensitive information about the data owner. Computations can be done in place on fully encrypted data — providing insights securely — and enabling aggregated data to be shared across multiple institutions. Both Google and Microsoft have open-sourced their frameworks and cloud compute performance improvements now make this possible to work with.

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) can enable decentralized coordination, and full individual control over data — securely transporting user information, tracking and monitoring the use of it and retracting data sharing privileges. This can be enabling for procurement and compliance between FIs and Fintech firms, facilitate inter-institution data sharing, faster trade payments, and user control over personal data sharing. This new trust paradigm is an exciting possibility however greater consensus is needed on implementation.

Greater Consumer Privacy Controls — these new technologies can also empower the consumer as they can decide how their data is used and share it at will. In the latest Apple iOS13 privacy updates customers are being asked to review on a per app basis how you would like your data used. The next step is to bring this to your financial and health data — empowering you to securely share and control your data and the provenance and usage thereof.

Together these new enabling technologies will foster greater interaction between financial services participants, a new openness coupled with tighter privacy control delivered to consumers, and ground-breaking new products and services that will come to market with accelerating velocity.

For financial services participants, it’s clear that we’re on the verge of a creative explosion of digital products and services from the 5G upgrade cycle and this new pandemic-driven freedom to adopt new tools and technologies. Digital leaders that cast forward and create new products and services will race ahead and own the future. Where will you stand?

You can find many further new ideas in the full report here.

Special thanks to the session leaders Luca de Blasis, Taryn Mason, Drew Propson and Ishani Mujamdar and the project team at the World Economic Forum’s “Future of AI in Financial Services” platform for bringing these world-changing perspectives to global leaders, and making a difference in the lives of millions.

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