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Consumers have been paying their bills online and managing their finances for a couple of decades now, but big banks still remain laggards when it comes to adopting AI solutions that can improve their service to customers, a group of panelists who spoke about fintech at MB 2017 said.

“Banks have a giant base of customers, and it’s hard to move them all. Many people still prefer to go a bank branch to do their banking,” said Dion Lisle, VP of fintech at Capgemini. “I hate to say this, but I think we’re seeing a lot of ‘innovation theater.'”

Some banks are moving faster than others, but even the laggards will feel pressure to adopt more AI features soon enough. “We’re being pushed into a place where we have to innovate,” said Dan Stern, director of digital innovation at Edmonton, Ontario-based ATB Financial.

Many of the innovations to date have been at smaller banks like ATB that are more nimble about change. Startups that work with banks are finding that change is coming to big banks as well. “Banks are disrupting themselves,” said Jake Tyler, CEO of, which makes a personal-assistant app focusing on financial management. “You will see banks bringing in people at big institutions as change-makers. Retail banking profits are at risk over the next ten to 15 years.”


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Panelists also discussed some of the AI applications already at work today. ATB has several uses for AI, including bots and emotion recognition. “That helps us identify when a customer is unhappy and they’re not telling us,” said Stern. Massimo Mascaro, director of data engineering at Intuit, said his company is “applying machine learning to so we can understand financial behavior of consumers in a detailed way.”

Other examples of fintech at work include a bot serving as a personal banker or machine learning that can benefit small companies that don’t have a financial accountant. “If we can democratize that kind of service with technology, we can have a big impact,” said Mascaro.

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