Artificial intelligence (AI) is removing industrial and geographical boundaries for financial services organisations, according to AI expert, Dr Ayesha Khanna.

Singapore saw the change coming and early investments in the technology and people to support it mean the country will likely be the global leader when AI is “everywhere” in 10 years, according to Khanna, co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI.

“This is the reality we live in: Where the very fabric of our everyday existence depends on data and artificial intelligence and Internet of Things,” Khanna said during a Sibos Keynote presentation in Sydney today.

Khanna nominated Singapore, already regarded as a leading fintech hub, as the country best placed to benefit from the AI boom. The reason, according to Khanna, is its early investment in the technology and recognition that it will require a skilled workforce to leverage it.

Singapore Rising

“Singapore is obsessed with this idea of skills and development. Because it has nothing else. It doesn’t have energy resources, it doesn’t have commodities. It has people.

“And it wants to be a financial hub.”

Acknowledging the threat of automation to financial services early, with some estimates putting nearly a third of bankers at risk of being replaced by a machine, Singapore had two choices, according to Khanna.

“It could either put its head in the sand like an ostrich and hope this blows over or it could grab the bull by the horns and say ‘you know what? We’re going to disrupt ourselves.’

Dr. Ayesha Khanna is Co-Founder and CEO of ADDO AI.

“That’s precisely what [Singapore] did,” Khanna said.

According to Khanna, the country began attracting startups by offering hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and incentives. However, the goal was not to replace existing bankers, Khanna says, rather it was create the environment where they could up skill on AI and leverage their “domain expertise”.

“What Singapore said was ‘we will teach our bankers how to work with AI teams’.”

“Without domain expertise I can not write a single line of code,” Khanna said in reference to her own Singapore-headquartered firm which advises and develops AI solutions for governments and financial corporates.

“What is important in our employees is a domain expertise and the experience they have. To replace that with machines that don’t have that knowledge is a very big mistake.”

However, when asked if the jobs created by AI and the fourth industrial revolution could offset the ones they replace, Khanna said she was “not sure about that”. That creates the impetus for organisations and employees to act now and begin learning how they can work with AI, she said.

“The team of the future has artificial intelligence and data experts in it but also has bankers in it, sociologists in it, all the people that you need to make the products for your future consumer that lives in cities primarily.”

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