‘Why artificial intelligence, data remain critical to banking’

Globally, the banking industry is witnessing growing demands from customers who are being empowered by ongoing digital transformation.
The demands, according to experts, would continue, as the synergy between data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)/big data increases the level of digital revolution across sectors.

Reportedly, while AI creates intelligent machines that work and react like humans, the technology offers banks the opportunity to reinvent processes and gain unprecedented advantages, especially as extremely large data are being analysed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, which relate to human behaviour and interactions.

With the growing disruption, Chairman, First Bank Nigeria (FBN), Ibunkun Awosika and experts, who converged at the bank’s FINTECH summit, which focused on the future of banking, especially the roles of AI and big data, insisted that financial institutions had been reinvented, but need to create a future that would be sustainable.

Considering the level of connectivity across the world, which enables trades and transactions, with less barriers, over 700 financial technology players and key stakeholders at the event believed that banks in Nigeria need to prioritise data, primarily for its transformational purpose.

Unanimously, the Managing Director, FBN, Dr. Adeshola Adeduntan; Product Partnerships Lead, Paystack, Khadija Abu; Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Pan African University, Olayinka David-West; Managing Director, Nigeria for Mines, Adia Sowho; Country General Manager, Microsoft, Akin Banuso; among others, noted that initiative such as the FirstBank Digital Lab would imbue in developers the knowledge and skills needed to address the challenges in the financial industry through the use of AI and big data.

If rightly deployed, the experts expect the development to enable the banking industry to meet customer expectations, predict their customers, identify trend, address challenges of anti-money laundering, create identity analytics and provide insightful trading, as well as seamless fraud recognition.

Explaining the reasons why the gap must be bridged, Awosika, said: “There is the need to create a bridge that links what you know and what we know together, to create a new door for the future that we are building. It is about creating the right room where all these things are done by the right generation of people.

“Our digital lab is setup to be the bridge between the people and the knowledge that is emanating daily. The digital lab is the place we explore the things we know, with the things you are making up. Statistics globally show that the youthful population is the population right now. We should be concerned about how they live, what they do and how they think. We should foresee the future, before they see it.”
While Adeduntan believes that banks must make the most out of the disruptive change to remain competitive, he insisted that artificial intelligence and big data technologies must become part and parcel of business models across the board.

Adeduntan, whose company recently invested about N5.2 million in a coding Hackathon competition, cautioned players against channelling too much investment in old systems, at a time when some actors use the new technology so enthusiastically.

In line with its corporate strategy to drive transformation through its products, processes and services, the MD was optimistic that move would increase technological support and collaboration with the tech community whilst deepening the bank’s technological inclusion framework to improve its product offerings and services delivery experience.

While pursing technology remained a priority, he said the group is following up on the currency deal between Nigeria and China to drive business conversations and promotion of business and economic partnerships between Nigeria and China to further the move towards easing the burden of the liquidity issues faced by Nigerian business owners and Chinese manufacturers.

Adeduntan said; “The business relationship between China and Nigeria is of great importance to us hence the establishment of our Representative Office in Beijing, China in 2010, to cater to the growing needs of Sino-Nigeria businesses, and to provide support in channeling trade flows between the two countries. Our promise is that we will always deliver the ultimate gold standard of value and financial excellence as we put customers at the heart of our business.”

With the establishment of its representative office in China, FirstBank became the first Nigerian bank to record its presence in the Asian country and has since been a financial gateway in promoting business between China and Nigeria, a recognition that earned the Bank an invitation as a member of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to promote the strategic advancement of the China Belt and Road Initiative, the United Nations 2030 agenda and the African Union 2063 development strategies for African economies.

Adeduntan noted that the firm is equally working driving conversations and collaborations that promote sustainable businesses for Agropreneurs whilst creating avenues for growth and increased per capita income in the larger economy.

He stated that FirstBank has over the years, committed to nation building, whilst promoting agric-business and the development of the economy in Nigeria.”

To him, the move is equally an indicative of commitment to increasingly collaborate with public and private sector partners to fully restore the prime role of the agricultural sector as the mainstay of the Nigeria’s economy.

“Over 124 years ago, our Bank commenced operations with a major strategic focus on financing agriculture development as well as enabling farmers and agrobusinesses. I am pleased to note that agricultural financing across all value chains remains a core part of our business today,” Adeduntan stated.

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