Financial Services Leaders Optimistic About AI – EY Study

Amanda Cheesley Deputy Editor 13 December 2023

Financial Services Leaders Optimistic About AI – EY Study

London-headquartered Ernst & Young (EY US) has just released its "2023 Financial Services GenAI Survey."

A new report released this week by Ernst & Young (EY US) shows that 99 per cent of financial services leaders, including wealth and asset management executives, think that their organisations are deploying artificial services (AI) in some way.

Respondents said they are either already using, or planning to use, generative AI (GenAI) specifically within their organisation.

The survey reveals that 91 per cent of wealth and asset management executives believe generative AI can improve the experience that customers and clients have with their organizations. Some 84 per cent of wealth and asset management executives think the benefits of generative AI outweigh the risks.

With AI arguably the hottest technology trend in 2023, there's been a barrage of commentary about the its use cases in sectors including banking and finance, sparking ideas about how some jobs could be replaced or augmented, compliance functions affected, and services changed with using devices such as chatbots.

Wakefield Research conducted the survey between 15 and 18 August 2023 among 300 executive directors, managing directors or higher at financial groups with $2 billion or more in revenue. Financial organisations are defined as banking and capital markets, insurance, and wealth and asset management industries, with 100 responses collected from each sector.

Amid the universal adoption plans, just over one in five respondents said they are nervous or sceptical about the potential impact of GenAI on their organisation, the survey shows. That same percentage also does not feel confident that their organisations are well-positioned to take advantage of the potential benefits that AI might bring.

Insurance is ranked highest in the nervous or sceptical category (24 per cent), while banking and capital markets leaders had the lowest levels of scepticism (17 per cent), followed by wealth and asset management (21 per cent), EY said.

“While there’s a whole world of possibilities and efficiencies, AI can create for financial services in areas ranging from data analysis to customer service optimisation, blind optimism and hype around the technology can ultimately have a counterproductive impact on a business,” David Kadio-Morokro, EY Americas Financial Services innovation leader, said.

“We like to take an ‘innovation intelligence’ approach to putting artificial intelligence to work – planning, education and an agile test and learn strategy for implementation are imperative for those looking to make the most of AI’s potential benefits,” he continued.

Most respondents felt positive about AI, with more than half (55 per cent) saying they felt supportive and optimistic about using AI in their organisation. The long-term sentiment is even more optimistic, with 77 per cent of executives viewing GenAI as an overall benefit to the financial services industry in the next 5-10 years, the firm added. Leaders see a particular opportunity in customer and client experience, with 87 per cent stating that they believe AI can bring improvements to this space.

Annabelle Bryde, managing director and head of UK Private Bank and Crown Dependencies at Barclays Private Bank, also thinks that AI will play an important role in wealth management. Benefits of AI range from automating repetitive tasks, providing data-driven advice in specific areas such as portfolio optimisation, risk management and tax analysis. See more here. 

When asked about the challenges financial organisations will face in taking advantage of GenAI, the EY survey shows that 40 per cent of respondents believe that there is a lack of proper data infrastructure and 35 per cent a lack of technology infrastructure. Thirty-six per cent of respondents also said there is a lack of clear commitment from leadership and 33 per cent said there’s unclear governance and ethical framework.

“Generative AI holds the potential to revolutionise a broad array of business functions,” Sameer Gupta, EY Americas Financial Services Organization advanced analytics leader, said. “With each new wave of AI and analytic innovation, it becomes increasingly clear how important it is to have a tech stack with a solid foundation. Our role is to support financial services organisations in making sure their legacy data and technologies are unimpeachable before adding AI applications on top of existing systems.”

If organisations want to take advantage of AI’s benefits, a major factor in their success will be a better understanding of, and improvements in, their data infrastructure, the firm continued.

“Focusing on the human role of AI implementation is just as important as technology infrastructure,” EY Americas Financial Services accounts managing partner Michael Fox added. “Our data showed that 44 per cent of leaders cited access to skilled resources as a barrier to AI implementation, but there’s only so many already skilled professionals in existence. Part of the solution is deploying upskilling programmes today that can equip your current workforce with the skills they need to help leaders and their business thrive in an increasingly AI-centric world.” 

The firm believes that implementing AI in financial services will change the way sector leaders learn, serve customers, process data and manage risk. Organisations that act now with investments in training, talent and infrastructure development – while putting proper governance and controls in place – will reap the benefits that AI offers their industry. Setting out the business case for investment, they are likely to find themselves a step ahead of their peers, the firm concluded.

EY, one of the big four accounting firms, provides assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions services to its clients.

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