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How AI will change banking

The question is not whether AI can change banking; it’s how it should change it, says Marco Ditta

Rhiannon Edwards


As artificial intelligence (AI) grows in capability, it’s set to help Intesa Sanpaolo on its journey to become a truly digital business. As well as making operations more efficient, AI has the power to transform the bank's capabilities.

Someone dedicated to this work is Marco Ditta, executive director and group data and artificial intelligence officer. “The main thing that excites me is that we can have the possibility to solve problems that were not on the table a few months ago,” he says. “That’s not only for a banker or within this business, but more generally, it’s for all the needs of the person.”

AI: a second brain

Within the bank, AI is already saving money and time. Indeed, it could become the ideal tool for workers because it can process and summarise huge amounts of information.

In corporate banking, AI solutions are already helping global relationship managers (GRMs) improve the proposal conversion rate by 70%. “AI is helping to process a lot of information that was difficult for GRMs to manage,” says Ditta. “This frees time for them to address the client relationship.”

For example, the tool Lisa (Linguistic Intelligence for Supervisory Awareness) reads and rapidly processes thousands of publications on banking supervision.

Another example already in use is Aptus.AI. Created by an Italian company, Aptus creates machine-readable versions of digital documents that can be adapted to different types of text content. This enables interactive access to regulatory data, saving time and allowing greater diligence in the decision-making process.

The right AI tool for the right job

While it is hugely powerful, AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The bank intends to be intentional in its deployment, using the right tools for the right job.

Ditta gives the example of Intesa Sanpaolo’s chatbot customer service, which is aided but not wholly managed by AI. “We have a lot of responsibility using AI,” he says. “We want to be sure that the service is the best we can manage.”

"Clients remain with us because they know they can trust in us – in our solutions, in our way of doing business and in our policies. This is something everyone feels inside the governance of the bank."

Marco Ditta, executive director and group data and artificial intelligence officer, Intesa Sanpaolo

He reassures that AI will never fully replace the human capability at the heart of the bank – because humanity is always at the core of how Intesa Sanpaolo operates. Rather, AI will help augment workers’ capabilities, while the bank’s staff will be the main input of how the business moves forward.

“We have to balance the technology with the skills of the person using it. The professionality and the sensibility of the people or their colleagues who are using this tool must be very high. 

“Clients remain with us because they know they can trust in us – in our solutions, in our way of doing business and in our policies. This is something everyone feels inside the governance of the bank.”

Experimenting with AI

Together with research partners, Intesa Sanpaolo has dedicated an entire innovation lab to developing and deploying AI. The lab asks not what AI can currently do, but what could it do in the future. It was the birthplace of the Anti-Financial Crime Digital Hub, a consortium set up to fight digital financial crime.

So far, experiments with generative AI have established 15 potential new use cases for the technology within the business. “I think that, more than facilitating efficiency, this technology can give more possibilities for better work to be done by every person at the bank,” says Ditta.

“The impact is in many of the bank’s main sectors – from human resources to back office, from corporate to legal and so on,” he adds.

“I think that by the end of 2024, we will see the first generative AI solution in production.

“Also I'm seeing a lot of crossover between what we are doing in the financial sector and other sectors of the economy – like healthcare, public sector and so on.”

Managing AI risk

Along with the joy of experimentation with AI, the bank emphasises managing the risks. Intesa Sanpaolo is activating risk management in several directions.

First, they are upskilling people. “We are putting a lot of attention into technical skill, of course, to manage the technology,” says Ditta, “but also in infusing the knowledge of the risk of using AI inside the bank.”

Intesa Sanpaolo has established strong partnerships with Google and Microsoft to ensure the technology is continually improved and up to date. The focus is on mindful progression: keeping risk low while deploying AI at the right places, to the greatest effects, and being at the forefront of AI application.

“Of course, no one can say perfectly what will happen with AI in the future,” says Ditta, “but we want to be on the evolution wave.”

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