With a background in banking, I can say it’s exciting to be close to, and understand, the potential for AI technology to transform the financial services industry.

The marketplace is rapidly changing and competition is fierce. And, since the financial crash of 2009, the UK is home to the world’s largest fintech sector. It’s a new way of banking, providing customers with increased choice as to how they access financial products and services.

AI is driving digital transformation across every industry – little wonder, then, that our recent report into the UK’s AI scene, ‘Accelerating competitive advantage with AI’, revealed that organisations using AI outperform competitors by more than 11%. From a sector perspective, 72% of financial services are using the technology; far higher than the UK average of 56%.


Key challenges

51% of financial services leaders want their organisations to pioneer AI use. It’s an ambition borne from the technology’s potential to touch every aspect of a financial services business – from improving cyber-security efficiency to prioritising workloads and deliver enhanced, intelligent, and personalised customer experiences.

But it’s a goal not without its challenges. As a highly regulated sector, and one concerned with the ever-present threat of cyber-security, deployment can be constrained. Fears over risk and compliance take hold. Moving from innovation to implementation can be slow.

As Abhijit Akerkhar of Lloyds Banking Group, explains, ‘The focus now for the financial sector is on scaling AI. How do we do that in the right, safe way while generating tangible value?’

This question is precisely explored in ‘Accelerating the competitive advantage with AI’. The report explores how organisations can become AI-enabled, and highlights three core requirements when undertaking this journey.

  • Scaling AImoving from experimentation to implementation
  • Creating a culture of participationempowering staff & supporting re-skilling
  • Making AI work for everyoneconsidering standards and operating principles for deployment from an ethical and unbiased standpoint


Key opportunities

Most financial services organisations agree: that for successful scaling and effective deployment of AI, culture, awareness, and skills must be aligned. In particular, we find that…

  • Adoption is highlighted as an area of focus. No-one wants to be left behind, yet 35% of leaders are concerned this isn’t accelerating fast enough.
  • Finding and preparing usable data ranks highly as a challenge across the sector, especially in terms of introduction of AI at scale. Data, built up over time, is siloed across business divisions and legacy systems. Access to this data is imperative.
  • 60% of staff in financial services are yet to complete training on AI; 93% are yet to even be consulted on its introduction into a business. The gap between ambition and awareness must be closed, helping employees embrace the technology’s potential to transform and augment their roles, rather than the fear that workers will be replaced by robots.

This serves as a timely reminder: deeper collaboration between business and technical divisions is needed. Or, as Chris Skinner, financial author and blogger, puts it: ‘Scaling AI is not a technology shift, it is a structure and a mindset shift. Banks cannot embrace AI and digital transformation if they are just doing it as a project.’


Find out more

Download the full AI report, ‘Accelerating competitive advantage with AI’

Develop your skills and AI understanding with the Microsoft AI business school



About the author

Janet Jones, Industry Executive – UK Financial ServicesJanet currently leads the Industry Strategy for Financial Services at Microsoft UK. She ensures that drivers of change and emerging technological trends across the sector are core to how Microsoft works with Financial Services organisations, supporting their digital transformation.  Before joining Microsoft in 2018 Janet held roles within commercial banking;  latterly at Lloyds Banking Group and prior to that, Barclays and RBS. She has a personal interest in cultural transformation and has also played an active role in supporting and driving the inclusion and diversity agenda during her career.