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Friday, May 4, 2018

Opinion > Masthaven

Ask me a question only a human could answer

Jon Hall, managing director at Masthaven | 16:57 Wednesday 28th March 2018

We're often sold the idea that AI solutions and automated systems – increasingly employed in banking, retail, food service and many other spheres – will makes processes more efficient and improve customer service.

But it seems to me that they just make things harder.

Don't get me wrong – such solutions have improved greatly in recent years. A decade or so ago, I remember calling up a bank and asking an automated system for a PIN reminder. The saga is not worth going into in detail, but put it this way: I was on the phone for a very long time.

So I've no doubt AI will have its uses. But I have a question: where have all the humans gone? Because trying to find one is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

Automation and AI is already threatening physical jobs. Take a look at car manufacturing, wholesale industries and retail to name a few. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that 30% of jobs in the UK could be at “high risk” of automation by the early 2030s.

But the rise of the robots not only threatens physical jobs. It is also dehumanising the relationship between business and customer, a problem that's becoming increasingly prevalent in banking.

As companies strive to harness technology to 'maximise efficiencies', the popularity of virtual assistants is on the rise. We're increasingly seeing it in the world of customer services, whereby banking customers find themselves speaking to a bot, not a person.

It's here where there's a big problem, I feel. Machine learning certainly has its place in understanding some mainstream consumer requirements. But it's when it falls into the sphere of money that

I think we have a big problem, because personal finance is exactly that: personal.

Banking cuts to the core of our everyday lives – it's with us when we go to university, get married, buy a home and lots more. So, when we want to speak to someone about our money, we want someone who gets it, who understands, who's human – just like us. Money is so personal, so subjective, that having a human expert is key.

AI bots might be getting more sophisticated, but I doubt they'll ever be able to truly replicate the human experience. They will only ever be able to give you a pre-defined answer. In this way, engagement with a digital human isn't a conversation. It's a run-through of a script.

Where a financial decision really matters to me, give me an expert, understanding human any day of the week.

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