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The Future of AI: What 2021 Holds

It would be wonderful if 2021 held the promise of a thinking robot like Wall-E or Eva that could fix the car, replace the washing machine parts and sort out the bins. But it doesn’t. What it does hold, however, are incremental innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) that are set to make tweaks of change to the worlds of living and business. Inventive solutions and shifts in systems that will make life easier for the human beings that are now juggling a dramatically different world. 

Shamus Rae, Founder and CEO of Engine B believes that 2021 will see the intelligent chatbot finally emerge. “Chatbots are becoming better integrated with AI and natural language programming (NLP) in that they are providing a more realistic, human interaction with customers,” he adds. “2021 will see this trend accelerate with innovations including OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Google’s Duplex leading the way.” 

In the financial sector, Shawn Tan, CEO of AI Ecosystem Builder, Skymind, believes that AI will continue to shape the financial sector and demand will grow rapidly, although regulation may struggle to keep up. John DesJardins, CTO at Hazelcast adds, “AI-first will start becoming the gold standard for the personalisation of financial services in 2021. Integrating stream processing and in-memory computing solutions can accelerate AI to enable banks to support millions of customer calls simultaneously – processing the data underpinning those interactions in less than the time it takes to blink.” DesJardins also points out that chatbots will likely become increasingly intuitive so that’s another tick in the box for the skilled chatbot and another step towards a theme that’s emerging in 2021 – people, personalisation and customer. 

“We expect customers are going to look for hyper-personalised, cheaper, faster, safer and more transparent products and service offering to suit their preferences. We see that big techs are already offering such services to their customers leveraging AI, comprehensive and seamless automation, deep Learning and actionable real-time insights,” says Rajashekara Maiya, vice president, global head of business consulting and product strategy at Infosys Finacle. It’s a view shared by Andy Pardoe, Founder and Managing Director, Pardoe Ventures who believe that personalisation will extend into the finance sector in the form of the robo-advisor, the expert intelligence that can find the right types of financial product based on individual circumstances, preferences and risk profile. 

It’s an interesting thought and one shared by research undertaken by Deloitte that points to a lowering of the traditional barriers to entry in finance thanks to AI. The ubiquity of the technology and the access to high-level financial modelling and machinery means that anyone can get highly customised expertise without the high price tag. If anyone can access the brilliance of the algorithm to change their financial profile, the knock-on impact would be potentially extraordinary. 

“The increase in social distancing has driven a dramatic rise in on-line channels to manage and review finances, and this plays to the FinTechs who specialise in mobile delivery with easy to use interfaces and high levels of functionality, data visualisation and presentation that give customers the enhanced experiences they are increasingly seeking,” adds Angus Panton, Head of Banking and Financial Services at Expleo. Which does point to another area where AI will hopefully shine in 2021 – customer experiences. Richard Manthorpe, Product Director at Content Guru points out that the pandemic has had a massive impact on customer engagement and satisfaction. “Customer engagement and experience are also damaged by long queues and look-up times as a result of manual-handling processes. AI has the capability to automate low-skilled or repetitive tasks, enhancing human performance and improving agent experience by allowing employees to focus on more complex interactions,” he says.

Shifting into more of a technical gear, James Harvey, EMEA CTO, Cisco AppDynamics, believes that AIOps will become increasingly valuable to the organisation. This blend of AI and operations will help the business become more adept at dealing with huge volumes of data and provide teams with the right information, when it’s needed. “2021 will be a year to build back better, which for businesses should be about looking to technology to find new ways to work smarter. Leveraged effectively, artificial intelligence (AI) technology is starting to help businesses, large and small, to operate more efficiently and sustainably,” says Paul Christensen, CEO of Previse.

But as we edge towards the end of a long list of predictions there is one that stands out not because it is the fridge that will save the shopping or the car that can drive intelligently, but because it is the serious side of AI that will come to the fore in 2021 – regulation. As Hani Hagras, Chief Science Officer, Temenos concludes: “As AI becomes increasingly prevalent within the industry, regulation will catch up and we will certainly see further regulations in 2021.”


  • Tamsin Oxford is an experienced generalist who has written for finance and tech for more than 20 years. She's written for multiple publications and markets and continues to find the topics both fascinating and brilliant.

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