Artificial intelligence at ANZ: Growing responsibility

All of us have had our lives transformed by technology. Whether we are at the beginning or the twilight of our careers, our working and personal lives are utterly different from just a few years ago.

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The differences we face in how we bank, how we work, how we find out about the world and how we decide are vastly changed from the two decades ago – or even last decade.

“We have a growth mindset; the technology is here now and it’s up to us to decide how best to use this to help shape a world where people and communities thrive.”

Banking from anywhere in the world; paying with our wrist or iris; talking to a hundred people anywhere in the world on high quality video; more than 30 devices in our house connected to the internet; the world’s books on an e-reader in our pocket; any video ever made available in a second on any device; zooming to work on a bike or in a car powered by laptop batteries. None of these were mainstream more than five years ago; all of them are now.

Most of our lives have been transformed by lots of little innovations stemming from just a few major inventions. All the examples above anchor to just three things – consumer-based computing (1980s), the internet (1990s) and mobile computing (2000s).

Lots of apps are essentially extensions of these base elements of innovation. And many of us only experienced those technologies years or even decades after the original invention.

We are now on the cusp of another transformational wave. It’s not the metaverse, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), self-driving car technology, space exploration or quantum computing. It’s AI. Artificial Intelligence.

There’s an explosion of interest and applications in AI right now. It’s about time – the potential has been the subject of speculation for over 50 years and scaled practical applications emerged more than a decade ago. But after a series of recent breakthroughs, we are now seeing widespread interest, adoption and commercialisation of an astoundingly powerful set of technologies.

AI (and I hate the term, it’s really a set of layered machine learning techniques, but fine, we’ll go with the common lexicon), is the largest technical transformation of this era.

The power of AI has evolved quickly. From dramatically better image recognition (which led to better assistive driving, mapping technologies, handwriting recognition, voice recognition, photo identification checks and a raft of other inventions) through to entirely new fields around generative AI.

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Generative AI is one of the next leaps. Some of the applications are genuinely incredible – conversing with a pseudo human to discuss philosophy, generating documents, assisting with complex cognitive tasks like drafting a lesson plan, writing code, building an information collage, creating a digest of complex instructions and helping with translation into other languages.

And that’s just the generative text – generated images, music, video and animations are also exploding.

We are in a super exciting time. It’s also a little unsettling. With the kind of power AI has the potential to deploy, there will be mistakes and there will be malice. But that’s been true of every major innovation – including the emergence of the web where anyone can publish anything, mobile phones that track our location or our private data being used by a social network. Most of us use these every day, the net benefit far outweighing the risks.

AI is not brand new. At ANZ we’ve been using AI techniques for a long time – some of our machine-learning techniques have been used for many years.

Our voice identity protection for large payments, the solutions we use to filter/interpret market signals in our Institutional businesses, the use of commodity AI to help manage a sea of operational data and analytics we perform on fraud and cyber threat trends all use AI. We use AI because it is far superior at identifying patterns in data than traditional techniques.

Another great example: ANZ Plus uses a range of AI techniques to prove your identity by comparing your live selfie with a government photo ID. We couldn’t offer this marked improvement in customer protection without AI.

We will do more. At ANZ, we embrace new technology because we are excited by the opportunity it affords our customers and our employees to help to make banking better and safer. Much of this is behind the scenes. One example is how this will dramatically extend the power of our engineering teams.

We’re actively exploring the latest AI techniques. It is too early to give a definitive view on exactly where this will transform our business, so of course we’re doing this prudently. But it’s a daily conversation and our people are speaking up about the ways we can use this technology – and how we can protect our customers too.

We have a growth mindset. The technology is here now and it’s up to us to decide how best to use this to help shape a world where people and communities thrive. We’ve always been proud to help people achieve incredible things and that’s going to involve using incredible technology.

Tim Hogarth is Chief Technology Officer at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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