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Analysis and opinion 16 May 2017

Artificial Intelligence - designing for the future

AI is a core focus for BBVA and for many banks around the world.

The reason for this is simple: automating tasks, adding insight, processing information and managing data can increasingly be done faster and more efficiently by machines.

This is not to denigrate the impact of human interaction, rather that we can empower people - whether customers or colleagues - to do more if we use the power of computing to help them make decisions or understand information.

BBVA already has examples of AI in usage today - for example our MIA chatbot service our Garanti customers in Turkey enjoy - and we'll be rolling out more in the coming months and years.

But how do we design future AI products and services - often years in advance - and what are the scenarios we are looking at. One of those best placed to answer is BBVA’s Spring Studio Co-Founder Sanjay Shamdasani, who this week was speaking at the Global A.I. Summit in London.

Sanjay said: “Today, most of the focus of AI is on utility, practicality and efficiency. Machines can far better predict what you might buy or not.

“But they can’t understand why, and how you will feel. There is a lack of emotion, human quality and understanding in most AI experiences. And feelings play a significant role in decision making.To design these experiences in the future, we must find ways to account for different emotional states. Experiences should make customers feel individually understood.”

BBVA’s Spring Studio Co-Founder Sanjay Shamdasani

So how do you do this

The first thing is to understand the drivers behind emotional reactions and build empathy into solutions. For example, while a personal advisor who takes care of all your investments and allocates money from your salary to pay bills and top up funds might seems a great thing to affluent customers, for less affluent people it could seem like control is being taken away from them.

So what we need is to design tailored solutions for individual circumstances. And create different personas - different people, with different lives who will respond differently to products and services and the interaction between them and the technology behind it.

Sanjay explains how it might work in practice for the advisor scenario: “For the affluent: the advisor will focus on reducing the stress of making the right investments for people to achieve their goals.

“For lower income individuals: we could focus on reducing the stress of managing cash flow by optimizing bill payments to match cash flow needs and managing credit to pay off debt. By reducing our customers stress and giving them more time, we create opportunities - not just around their finances but their lives.”

So how does this translate when designing for the future? One of the tools we use is speculative design. Speculative design is about looking 5-10 years forward and speculating on how things could be.

It’s not about predicting the exact future but about creating a vision of some possible futures

Sanjay adds: “We create scenarios of what’s possible, plausible, probable, and preferable.

  • Possible futures - are ones that "might happen".
  • Plausible futures - are ones which "could happen".
  • Probable futures - are ones which are considered "likely to happen".
  • Preferable futures - are ones that we "want to" happen.

“Doing this exercise allows us to perceive futures in the present, discuss the kind of future our personas might want or not, and prepare us for whatever might happen

Using this framework, lets consider a few future scenarios for financial services:

1. Preferable Future Scenario: My bank takes care of my finances and more

One preferable future is where your banking digital assistant takes care of all your financial needs automatically – moving money, opening new accounts, paying bills, saving, investing, buying insurance, booking travel, dining reservations, switching utility providers.

Here the bank is the enabler and process driver.

2. Plausible Future Scenario: My devices manage my finances

A plausible future is that devices, like Alexa, Fitbit, Google Home and Nest manage our customer’s financial needs. Each device fulfilling a certain need. For example Fitbit sorts health insurance. It has the best access to people’s life attributes so insurance plans could be tied to data collected from it - with permission - and premiums adjusted automatically based on lifestyle choices.

In this scenario, banks still underwrite the insurance, process payments, and act as guardian of your finances, but devices, driven by personal choices, are the interface to customer’s financial needs.

3. Possible Future Scenario: My lifestyle operating system manages everything for me

The syfy possible future could be a scenario where we augment our brains and senses with implants. You could perfectly remember every event in your life and do online research inside your brain. Data is fed to you as and when needed, and you could purchase a self-driving car with a thought and a wink - your personal biometrics triggering appropriate authorizations for a bank loan and transfer of funds.

OK - so this last one is just a fantasy for now, but the point is that only by imagining the future and the future requirements of our customers can we keep up with potential requirements.

Sanjay concludes: “By exploring these future scenarios with our personas, we can start a conversation around what our customers might want in the future as well as what we want for our business. We can then create a roadmap of the experiences we need to create to get us to the preferable future.

"We can make more strategic design decisions today and close the distance between the future and now.”

Picture of Artificial Intelligence CIBBVA