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OCBC opens AI unit with $10m investment

OCBC opens AI unit with $10m investment

Its services in wealth advisory and loans financing are bracing for AI upgrades.

OCBC opened its AI unit with an initial investment of $10m to adopt the technology the facilitate the adoption of banking services such as wealth advisory and loans financing. According to a statement, a team of three data scientists in the unit will be led by Ken Wong.

“The goal is to deliver greater value to customers by giving them access to banking services through natural user interfaces that are seamless and convenient, as well as targeted and tailored products and services that are contextually relevant, driven by machine learning,” OCBC said.

The AI unit sits within OCBC Bank’s Fintech and Innovation Group, The Open Vault at OCBC (TOV), and is named AI Lab@TOV. OCBC noted that the AI unit will serve as a ‘test bed’ for all new AI technologies and will demonstrate the feasibility of new technology before it is integrated into the bank’s existing systems. “Leveraging OCBC Bank’s data sandbox and application programme interfaces (APIs) to experiment with real-life anonymous customer data in a secure environment, the unit will generate proofs-of-concept that can be rapidly tested. AI Lab@TOV aims to double its headcount within a year to manage the surge in AI technologies that the bank plans to implement,” it added.

AI Lab@TOV head Ken Wong said: “With the set-up of our very own AI lab, we are able to experiment for the first time with deep learning neural networks and graphics processing units, which are heavily used in the gaming industry and hardly used in banking. This is an exciting new space to be in, especially for banking, and we welcome talent who have the passion to develop something new and fresh for the industry.”

AI Lab@TOV is currently experimenting with natural language and speech processing technologies, which uses research from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). AI Lab@TOV is developing AI technology that can recognise and understand local accents accurately, such as the Singaporean accent.

“If successful, the technology could be used to create chatbot services that can respond to customers using voice messaging. This solution could also enable customers to fill in banking forms digitally simply by having a phone conversation with their relationship manager,” the bank said.

OCBC said AI Lab@TOV will also work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) DeepLens, the world’s first deep learning video camera for developers. “Deep learning is a machine learning technique that uses neural networks to learn and make predictions. Supported by AWS Professional Services consulting and training, this AI technology will provide a more personalised experience to OCBC customers by leveraging facial recognition technology, and could be deployed at OCBC Bank branches or ATMs.”

It’s not OCBC’s first time to dabble with AI. “The AI-powered chatbot, ‘Emma’, launched in 2016, was developed with Fintech startup Cognicor to respond to customers’ queries on home and renovation loans and has since raked in more than $100m in home loans. In the following year, OCBC Bank partnered with Fintech firm, Thetaray, to use its AI solution to identify potential suspicious transactions. The solution has reduced the volume of transactions reviewed by anti-money laundering compliance analysts by 35%, and increased the accuracy rate of identifying suspicious transactions by more than four times,” the bank said. 

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